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Tom's Thumb Via North Side Loop Trail

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McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Tom's Thumb Via North Side Loop Trail is a 3.9 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Scottsdale, Arizona that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 3.9 mi Elevation gain 1,236 ft Route type Loop

Dogs on leash

Hiking

Nature trips

Walking

Bird watching

Running

Forest

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Description
Waypoints (4)
Contact
Tips

Tom's Thumb is the prominent granite bump in the McDowell Mountain preserve. Easily visible from the Scottsdale area, Tom's Thumb Trail from the north side provides some great views of Phoenix as well as looking out toward Four Peaks and Weavers Needle. The trail is very well manicured and is a great hike except for some steep elevation gains.

DesertLife360 http://desertlife360.com/hiking/phoenix-tracks/

Check out the Ogre's Den off below and west of the Thumb. Made from the rocks at the top shifting and cracking over the years and now has created a shallow natural cave that many people have found and used. There's art on the walls and lots of trinkets people have left that are kind of cool to look at.

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Reviews (53)
Photos (1657)
Recordings (27)
Completed (193)
Joey Taylor
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Apr 13 2020
HikingOff trailRockyScramble

First off, there is nothing that actually marks this as a hiking loop. The West side of this “loop” is actually the rock climbing access trail. You must pay close attention to the trail and minimal signs to stay on track. That being said, WHAT AN ABSOLUTE TREAT. If you don’t mind some basic scrambling, I would highly recommend for a unique hike.

Matt Bates
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Jan 27 2020
HikingScramble

Not sure about the last 2 reviews but I highly recommend the north loop to Tom's Thumb! Definitely not recommended for first timers to start any trail close to sunset and this is not different. The trail is easy to follow but it does get steep and there's a bit of scrambling over boulders but well worth it. The wear marks which mark the trail are not there when you get close the the Thumb as you are climbing over boulders but it is pretty easy to see where you are and where you need to go.

dana d
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Nov 17 2019
Hiking

Agree with the warning to not do the loop! I should’ve paid more attention to reviews before venturing solo. Thank goodness for the map which i consulted every 10 ft at times trying to find my way down the northwest return descent before sunset. Stick with the out & back hike to Tom’s Thumb and enjoy this absolutely pristine portion of the mcdowells. and please mind your voice levels - everything carries and amplifies which interrupts the peace for those of us who appreciate quiet nature.

Rich Monreal
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Oct 20 2019
Hiking

I loved the trail once I got onto the right one. DO NOT take Tom's Thumb Via North Side Loop. The west side of the circle is not maintained and you will be in the weeds for a bit. The East side of the trail is fine and well maintained. It was long ways to get out, heavily trafficked, but a great hike. Will be going back to tackle that mountain again. Another user mentioned that the hike was easier on the feet than other hiking trails. It was not as rocky which really helps with your feet. The elevation gain was good but not impossible. You just work on a little at a time and before you know it you are at the top.

Laura Watson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarThu Mar 21 2019

great hike. loved all the flowers. a little tougher than I thought it would be, one of my kids doesnt like to hike so she complained about the climb up. it is not a loop trail though, need to turn around once you get to the thumb.

Mark Chambers
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Mar 11 2019

A wonderful way to spend a March weekend. Flowers in bloom and scenic views for miles. If your in shape a healthy walk if not, just go slow. A few tight passes but the real work is the first 1.5 miles with steeper inclines and switchbacks as you climb. Worth the effort!

Freddyb Iam
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Mar 10 2019
HikingOff trail
View Freddyb's Recording
Scott Southee
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Mar 05 2019
Hiking

Probably the BEST hike I’ve taken in Arizona, and I’ve done quite a few in this region and Sedona. The weather was perfect today and the flowers in bloom made it extra impressive. The elevation gain was challenging, but not daunting. The path was clearly marked and not as rocky as most other hikes in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Views were unbelievably beautiful, mystical, and majestic!

Brian D.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarThu Feb 28 2019
Hiking

Today was the first day it was open after last week’s snow (Yes, you read that right! Apparently 7 inches at the bottom and 18 at the top.) This map shows as a loop - but the steward turned us around at Tom’s Thumb as the other side is not maintained. It took us just over 2 hours there and back. Amazing views and gorgeous flowers.

Douglas Eggleston
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Feb 12 2019
Hiking

Well maintained trail of mostly decomposed granite. Relatively smooth and one of my favorite running trails. Tough uphill but the rewards are great and a pretty short trail. Scrambling over the boulders is fun but easy to lose your way. That was the original trail I did back in the 90s and as many times as I did it, sometimes I still slip off trail.

Erin Lee
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Nov 17 2018
Hiking

Beautiful hike, STAY ON WELL MARKED TRAIL, there is no formal loop. The right (north) side of this ‘loop’ is just a climbing access trail. It is NOT MARKED, and is a hand over hand scramble. If you stick to the well marked trails you will be fine.

Nadine Rippon
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Nov 13 2018

This is actually an out and back hike. You are required to stay on the trails within the Preserve and the trail only takes you out and back. The views on the return are still stunning and new, despite being along the same trail.

Steve F.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Oct 25 2018
Hiking

Great hike, starts w a heavy dose of ascension with great views all along the way. We also did the Lookout 0.5 mile trail and that offered great views of the McDowell mountains and the valley.

Laura H.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarWed Jul 25 2018
Hiking

Good hike with lovely views both up and down the mountain. Be sure to keep going, because, at the top, the first large rock outcropping you approach is not Tom's Thumb. You'll need to walk around that to get to Tom's Thumb. I hiked this trail on one of Phoenix's first over 80-degree days, thus got lucky to see a Diamondback on trail. It made the hike that much more meaningful. This trail is well maintained, wide enough to accommodate people passing each other.

Mike D.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarTue Jan 02 2018

Once we reached Tom's Thumb we could not find the trail around the backside, not marked at all. Had to return the same way we came up.

Jim Vrtis
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Jan 01 2018

Nice trail for family. Be careful to stay on the loop, and not go on East End extension.

Gina Thomas
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Dec 19 2017

The first half of the trail up to Tom’s Thumb had high elevation gains and was fairly steep and intense. Behind the thumb and down the other side was not marked and very difficult and involved climbing over many rocks with very steep down grades. The GPS was great to use and worked well. It was really neat but should be considered difficult as often times I had to use my hands and sit on my butt to get down.

Suzy Killebrew
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Dec 04 2017

Great hike..trail is a bit hard to find and navigate on the backside of Toms thumb- but it is totally worth it!

Gregg Espin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFri Nov 24 2017

Quite difficult on the return as you move pass Tom’s Thumb. Hard to find the trail at times but you will very likely be by yourself on this second half of the loop. Many people on the first half who basically go to thumb and then return back the same way. Some beautiful views along the way.

Ryan McFadden
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Nov 11 2017
Hiking

Toms Thumb is a moderate to difficult trail in the McDowell Preserve. Though it is a bit of a hike (no pun intended) to get out there it is well worth the drive. Once you arrive at the shared trail head you will find ample parking and no-flush restroom facilities. The hike itself is absolutley beautiful and offers rare unimpeded views of beautiful desert landscapes from within the city limits. The first mile or so does include switch-backs of various difficulty so boots are recommended but 3+ liters of water is mandatory. The terrain flattens out, eventually winding down into a small gulley and then back up to the actual Thumb. To get to the Thumb itself you must follow a relatively primitive but very obvious "Climbing Access Trail" for about a quarter if a mile. I highly reccommend this added bit to see the thumb up close. On cool winter days one can often sit and watch trad climbers scale the 60ft summit block.

Jonathan D.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue May 02 2017
Hiking

Nice hike up to the top and back. Many, many different wildflowers were in full bloom. Beautiful views from the top. I would rate the hike as difficult!

Pete White
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Apr 16 2017
Hiking

Great morning challenge!! Lots of up and down! Trail gets a little hard to follow near the top because so many people have walk off the trail. They do have volunteers at the top and bottom and even in between to ask questions! Lovely scenery and huge rocks! There is a breeding pair of Prairie Falcons up at the top please be respectful of their space!

Eric Padilla
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Feb 12 2017
Hiking

This is a good, but rough, hike. Completely worth it, but get ready to work for the reward. It starts out flat, but then you quickly start to ascend to the top. A series of switch-backs and uphill steps that don't really let up until you get to the top. But once you get there it suddenly seems worth it. The views are stunning, and the natural formation of the rocks is amazing. We did the hike mid-week and only saw about 15 people the whole hike. The parking lot is big and there are large restrooms at the information center. Be sure to bring plenty of water!

Sean Charlton
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Jan 29 2017

Tough incline, never lets up until close to the top. Heavily traveled so early is better, view form the top is well worth it. Once you get to the top many don't know but there is a small hole where rocks have fallen, crawl inside and you will pop out on a cliff with an amazing view and have sitting room for two to three, i

Jonny Herd
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarThu Jan 05 2017

fun ramble. good views from the top.

Courtney Sanderson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Dec 28 2016
Hiking

Starts easy but u are sure in for a climb. Thank you to the Dc boys that helped me on the way back.

Clifton Orson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Feb 27 2012

A good strong ascent to the top of a very recognizable landmark in the Phoenix valley.

Mar S.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSat Jun 06 2020
Hiking
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