Wildflower Hikes Tom's Thumb

Look for wildflowers hidden among the rocks

Wildflowers on the way to The Lookout 

Wildflower Hikes Tom's Thumb

Tom’s Thumb East End Loop

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.  The benefit of all this work? 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 and rock wrens, white-throated swifts, and perhaps peregrine falcons or prairie falcons.  The round granite boulders with sheer walls found in this area provide an excellent rock-climbing experience.

Hike Directions: 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. 

Lookout Viewpoint

A challenging 5.7-mile out-and-back hike with many very steep and loose sections and a total elevation gain of 1100 feet. The spur trail to the viewpoint is narrow and rocky but totally worth the effort for those hiking in Scottsdale! This is the best viewpoint in the McDowell Mountains, with extensive views east and west from the top of a cliff. The hike crosses the boundary between granite and metamorphic rock, with obvious differences in trail composition and nearby rock and spectacular rock formations all along the way.  You will also see unusual vegetation and flowers you can see only at this higher elevation.

Hike Directions: Follow the 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 to the marked junction with the Lookout trail. Turn left onto the Lookout trail and follow it to the viewpoint at the end. Return the way you came.

Marcus Landslide Trail

A gentle 3-mile out-and-back hike with optional .7-mile small loop, this interpretive geology trail starts at the trailhead and ends beside or on top of the 2nd largest landslide in Arizona! This hike takes you through a remote area of the Preserve with many beautiful rock formations and excellent wildflowers in the spring.

Hike Directions: At the south end of the parking area go east on the main trail. Stay straight on the Marcus Landslide trail past various junctions on the right and left. Past the last junction the Marcus Landslide trail will head south to the edge of the landslide near the gated entrance to McDowell Mountain Regional Park. If you stop here, return to the parking area the way you came. You also can continue on the Marcus Landslide trail west toward the mountain and then climb up onto the landslide itself. The trail makes a small loop on top of the landslide. When you have completed the loop, follow the trail down off the landslide and back to the parking area.


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