The Tom’s Thumb East End Loop is an extremely challenging, 11-mile loop that includes East End, Windgate Pass, and Tom’s Thumb trails with many very steep and loose sections and three major climbs. Provides exceptional views of dramatic rock formations in the McDowell Mountain range throughout the hike. Also, seldom-used sections of the hike offer great solitude, and the route crosses one of the few springs in the Preserve. Overall, you will experience about a 2500 foot elevation gain in this northern area of the McDowell Mountains, a section of Preserve that is slightly cooler and receives more rainfall. This climate difference leads to the establishment of a different variety of wildflowers, unique plant selection and more wildlife. Travelling uphill through a field of granite boulders, to a rolling upland nearly 4,000’ above sea level, you’ll find canyon wrens, white-throated swifts, and perhaps peregrine falcons.
Follow the well-marked Tom’s Thumb trail south out of the Tom’s Thumb trailhead pavilion. Stay on the Tom’s Thumb trail as it climbs past various junctions on the right and left to a marked junction with the East End trail at a high saddle. Go straight on the Tom’s Thumb trail at the junction. Continue on the Tom’s Thumb trail first west and then south past various side trails until it ends at the Windgate Pass trail. Turn left onto the Windgate Pass trail. Follow it east over the pass to the junction with the Bell Pass trail. At this point the Windgate Pass trail ends, but continue straight east on the Windmill trail a short distance to the junction with the East End trail. Turn left onto the East End trail and climb it northward to its end at the Tom’s Thumb trail back at the high saddle. From there, continue north on the Tom’s Thumb trail back to the trailhead.