It’s hard to put your finger on just one of its many attractions. But if you’re looking for a quick get-away from the city, the easy choice is Tom’s Thumb trail. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a family on a weekend adventure, it offers a must-see look at the wonders of the Arizona desert. Start with this introduction to the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy’s Tom’s Thumb trail.

This is the Conservancy’s first trailhead on the north side of the McDowell Mountains. You’ll recognize it by the unique butte that points like a finger toward the sky. The surface of the trail is smooth so you can spend your time looking at the view rather than where to step next.

It got its name nearly 45 years ago from the Arizona Mountaineering Club. They dubbed it after Tom Kreuser who was the first club member to climb it. Ever since then, the Tom’s Thumb name stuck and is commonly used today.

Something For Everyone

A wide variety of people use the Tom’s Thumb Trailhead as their gateway to adventure. Experienced explorers like the cardio workout they get from ascending over 1,300 feet in just 2.5 miles. At the top, they’re rewarded with panoramic city views that deliver well-deserved bragging rights for months afterward.

If you’re a rock climber, you’ll find smooth granite rock formations like Gardener’s Wall or Sven Slab, perfect for repelling or just hanging while you survey the valley below. Some outdoor recreation stores offer guided climbing tours.

For those who want something a little more tame, you can spur off Tom’s Thumb to the flatter Mesquite Canyon or Marcus Landside where you’ll find an interpretive trail with educational placards. Each are perfect for families looking for a fun, educational outing. The family dog can tag along too (just be sure Spot is on leash and you clean up after him).

The Sites You’ll See

Besides the unique mushroom rock formations and stunning city views, Tom’s Thumb is the key to unlocking even more amazing wonders.

During nesting season, you’ll see roosting areas for big birds of prey. Watch them swirl around the summit. Many other bird species can be observed throughout the trail.

In the flatter areas of Marcus Landslide, it’s common to see herds of mule deer grazing or even an occasional coyote.

3 Tips for Visitors

Think you might like to explore Tom’s Thumb? Here are three tips to help you get the most from your experience:

  • Tip 1: Make friends with the sun – Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Tip 2: Follow the halfway rule – Time to turn back when half of your water supply is gone. There’s no water on this trail.
  • Tip 3: Mind the maps – Tuck the trail map into your pocket. The trails are well marked with signs that correspond to the map.

Ready to be transported to a place with no cars, no houses, just pure Arizona desert? Tom’s Thumb Trailhead is just the spot. The gate is open from sunrise to sunset. Conservancy Pathfinders are available to answer your questions. Or sign up for a guided tour event. Put your thumbprint on adventure!