Trail Run Project Logo

A stiff climb on desert singletrack leading to fantastic views of Tom's Thumb and the surrounding area.

Your Rating: Rating Rating Rating Rating Rating      Clear Rating
Your Difficulty:
Your Favorites: Add To-Do · Your List
Zoom in to see details
Map Key







3,769' 1,149 m


2,803' 854 m


1,084' 330 m


1,084' 330 m



Avg Grade (5°)


Max Grade (29°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife


Tom's Thumb is one of the best runs in Scottsdale, notable for its smooth trail surface, great signage, and interesting rock features. King of all the rock features along this run is the run's namesake and turn-around point: Tom's Thumb. At 1.4 billion years old, the towering granite slabs of Tom's Thumb have stood the test of time and are truly a sight to see.

Need to Know

There is absolutely no water at the trailhead, so be sure to bring enough with you to succeed on your run. Conventional wisdom for the area dictates each member of your party should bring at least 2-3 liters of water during the summer and 1-2 liters in spring, fall, or winter. Improper hydration coupled with the steep gradients along this run can spell trouble for even the most seasoned desert runner.


Access this awesome run from the new Tom's Thumb Trailhead off North 128th Street, complete with sun shades, restrooms, and informational kiosks detailing the local flora, fauna, and geology. From the parking area, head through the bathroom and sunshade facility to reach the Tom's Thumb Trail on the opposite side.

For the first portion of the trail, enjoy relatively mellow grades and a manicured surface as you meander through abundant varieties of scrubby desert flora with ancient saguaros towering above and spiny, yellow-tinted cholla hiding below.

After about a half-mile, the trail increases in grade dramatically as it gains the ridgeline in haste. At this point, be sure to take frequent breaks and drink water, as forgetting to do so will leave you "seeing stars" as a result of dehydration. Plus, you might as well enjoy the scenic views of the McDowells and the surrounding area, as they will only build your excitement for the climactic viewpoint atop Tom's Thumb.

Even though your heart and legs may be talking back at you at this point, keep your wits about you as best you can, as the combination of blind, switchbacking corners and the occasional mountain biker whizzing downhill at high speed can spell disaster if you are not alert. If in doubt, keep your ears attuned to the high-pitched whirring sound of a biker's rear wheel to preemptively alert you to an oncoming cyclist.

Once you have finally gained the ridge, the trail becomes much easier, continuing on a smooth tread as it contours the hillside. Turn right at the first junction you encounter, following the Tom's Thumb Trail as it weaves through large granitic boulders to a second junction that can be easy to miss if you are running with gusto. Look for a small sign marking a right turn onto a small path. Follow the path as it navigates large boulders on its way to the summit of Tom's Thumb. If you haven't taken pictures already, the large boulders along this section make great backdrops for portraits of your friends or family.

After passing the boulders, you'll come to the mid-point and climax of the run: Tom's Thumb. Named after a prolific and loved local rock climber, Tom Kreuser, Tom's Thumb houses some of the most excellent traditional-style climbing in the Valley of the Sun. As a result, don't be surprised to hear the jingling sound of metal protection dangling from climber's harnesses as they move on the rocks above.

From the thumb, find your way onto a boulder, break out a snack and some water, and enjoy the fantastic panoramic views of the mountains and valleys before you. Luckily, the views from Tom's Thumb are to the east, showcasing a relatively untouched piece of the Phoenix area and providing viewers with a stronger sense of seclusion compared to what you can find on other local trails.

After enjoying yourself at the summit, simply retrace your steps back to the main trail and down to your car.

Flora & Fauna

Numerous small lizards, traces of wildlife, and species of flowering desert flora can be seen along the trail.


Land Manager: City of Scottsdale

Shared By:

Hunter R

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 60 votes


  4.6 from 60 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Recommended Route Rankings


in Arizona


227 Views Last Month
32,086 Since Mar 23, 2015
Difficult Difficult



View from the trail.
Nov 16, 2021 near Rio Verde, AZ
View from the trail.
Nov 16, 2021 near Fountai…, AZ
View north from near summit of Tom's Thumb.
Dec 22, 2019 near Fountai…, AZ
Surrounding mountains from Tom's Thumb Trail
Jul 24, 2019 near Fountai…, AZ
View from the trail.
Nov 16, 2021 near Fountai…, AZ
Trail view approaching summit of Tom's Thumb.
Dec 22, 2019 near Fountai…, AZ



Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Apr 16, 2021
Ryan Anderson
Difficult, but gorgeous scenery! 4.4mi — 1h 04m
Oct 6, 2018
Scott Arno
Jan 15, 2017
Andrew Blauvelt
Tom's Thumb Trailhead to Tom's Thumb. Would not want to bike. Great hike up and run down, even with very little visibility due to low clouds/fog. 4.3mi

Join the Community

Create your FREE account today!
Already have an account? Login to close this notice.

Get Started