Tom’s Thumb (Scottsdale, Arizona) 25-Jan-2023

For our last hike during this winter-warmth getaway trip, we picked Tom’s Thumb in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve on the east side of Scottsdale. The Thumb is a big granite outcrop on a ridge – an outcrop which doesn’t necessarily look like a thumb. We tossed around alternate names like Tom’s Bulge or Tom’s Protuberance or Tom’s… – but stopped to keep this blog minimally family-friendly. 😏

Anyway, we worked our way through construction on the ever expanding east side of Scottsdale to the large parking lots and handy toilets at the Tom’s Thumb Trailhead. We’d gotten an early start and were able to park in the main lot close to the trailhead.

Leaving the trailhead for Tom’s Thumb (arrow)

From the parking lot, the Tom’s Thumb Trail took us steeply up the mountain and directly out to the base of the Thumb. There are three viewpoints looking northward on the way up and one looking southward at the junction with the East End Trail. From these, we could look out and see new construction creeping toward the Preserve.

New construction from the Harris’ Hawk Vista
Continuing up and up and up…
Tom’s Thumb from the Raven Roost Scenic Viewpoint
Sunshine reaches the Vulture View Scenic Point
Saguaro in the sun
Tom’s Thumb framed by two rocks
Smog over Phoenix as seen from the Prairie Falcon Overlook
Between two boulders
The south side of Tom’s Thumb comes into view

There were already a few folks at the Thumb when we arrived and more and more started arriving after that. There are over 30 established rock climbing routes (from 5.2 and above) to the Thumb’s summit, but we contented ourselves with just staring up at it from below.

Tom’s Thumb
A rare group photo (taken by someone else)

After a few (more) photos, we headed back – passing even more folks coming up as we descended. It’s always interesting to see how folks equip themselves for a walk in the desert. Gear ranged from shorts, sweatshirt, and a can of Pepsi to a daypack, trekking poles, sun hat, etc., etc. Well, there are seven emergency markers along the Tom’s Thumb Trail and cell service, so what could go wrong? πŸ™„

Good-bye to Tom’s Thumb
Tom’s Thumb from the trail

Back at the trailhead, the two main parking lots were near to full and cars were beginning to appear in the overflow lots. Yes, another very popular trail.

Our out-and-back to Tom’s Thumb was a scenic and interesting end to this year’s round of Arizona hikes – all of which, despite the scratches, we thoroughly enjoyed. 😁😁 So we’ll undoubtedly do more visits to friends and winter hikes in Arizona in the future.

But, as we worked our way through Phoenix traffic jams and around Scottsdale construction sites, we had trouble seeing the Valley of the Sun as a sustainable proposition.

To paraphrase Ed Abbey, Phoenix and environs seem to be embracing the ideology of a cancer cell: Grow without restraint until you kill your host. This area will likely come to have too little water, too much heat, and insufficient electricity for the number of people it’s actively attracting. We suspect a day of reckoning lies ahead. πŸ˜•


2 thoughts on “Tom’s Thumb (Scottsdale, Arizona) 25-Jan-2023

  1. I note an article in the January 27th NY Times about how “The Interior Department […] asked the states to voluntarily come up with a plan by Jan. 31 to collectively cut the amount of water they draw from the Colorado…” To date, the states haven’t come up with this plan, so Interior may have to impose cuts – soon (or at least after the inevitable lawsuits).


  2. I agree with what you say at the end. Some of the fastest growing cities are out in the desert and I think they are going to have a problem sooner or later.


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