Hike | Tom's Thumb | McDowell Mountains


  • Length: 4.4 miles round trip
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Trailhead Elevation:  2,800 ft.
  • Gain/Loss:  +1,100 ft.
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Rating: 7/10
  • Solitude: Low
  • Season: Winter/Spring/Fall
  • Kid Friendly: Not really
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Trail Description

Tom's Thumb is the reward at the end of 2.2 miles of switchbacks and sweat! Enjoy fantastic views of the southern Mcdowell Mountains, the urban Phoenix sprawl, and take in the beauty of these massive granite boulders. 

The Hike:

There are two trailheads that will get you to Tom's Thumb and there seems to be some confusion about them so let me differentiate here. This is the shorter and much more popular hike to Tom's Thumb.  This description of the hike is from Tom's Thumb Trailhead, the northernmost trailhead in the Mcdowell Mountains.  This is not to be confused with the longer, nearly 10 mile round trip hike from the Gateway Trailhead.  Both trails are named Tom's Thumb Trail as this trail connects Tom's Thumb TH.  with Gateway TH via the Windgate Pass trail.

Now that we have that sorted out let me tell you about the hike.  The TH is huge with plenty of parking to support the hundreds of cars that visit each weekend.  There are bathrooms as well but NO WATER so make sure to fill up and be ready before you start your hike.  From the TH you will begin heading south toward the mountain (obviously).   After 0.1 miles of flat hiking you will see a trail marked Mesquite Canyon Trail. Stay right.  From this point you will begin your elevation gain which will basically not end until you reach the thumb.  After another 0.4 miles you will junction with Feldspar Trail but again, stay right.

After another 1.2 miles of switchbacks and huffing and puffing you will reach the junction with East End Trail.  At this point the trail will curl west towards the thumb.  Along the trail, which is very well worn and marked, you will see signs for "climbing access" but stay on the main trail.  As you begin heading west, your final destination comes into view and you will see the massive Spur called Tom's Thumb.  The views are just incredible.  There are plenty of places to explore, rest, and find shade under the giant granite boulders.

Once you have enjoyed your visit, begin heading back the way you came.  Remember to always use good judgement and to live the Leave No Trace way.


  1. The Views
  2. Massive granite spire
  3. Beautifully maintained trail system

Map to Trailhead


Tom's Thumb Gallery


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PhoenixCameron Jarman