tom's thumb hike scottsdale, hikes near phoenix

One of the more popular hikes in Scottsdale is Tom’s Thumb Trail. This hike is located around 30 minutes from Scottsdale. In this area northeast, you can find many other hikes that scale in difficulty. These include Pinnacle Peak and Sunrise Peak. For all of the hikes in the Phoenix area, make sure you bring plenty of water. When hiking in the Summer and early fall months, the temperature will be high and there will be little shade.

This hike was named after the first person who climbed this area and his name was Tom Kreuser. He was part of the Arizona Mountaineering club. You see, a lot of these trails take you around the rocks after which the hikes are named after. If you’re up for it, these areas are big for rock climbers as well.

In this guide, I will go over the details you need to know when planning your day to hike Tom’s Thumb Trail in Scottsdale.

tom's thumb trail scottsdale

Where is Tom’s Thumb Trail Located?

Located slightly Northeast of downtown Scottsdale, the parking lot is only a 30-minute drive away. This makes it an easy day trip and something that will only take up part of your day. Hiking Tom’s Thumb Trail can be straightforward for some, but the heat can be a factor depending on what time of the year you do it.

How Long Does it Take to Hike Tom’s Thumb Trail?

This greatly depends on your level of fitness and the time of year you hike. The average time to complete this out & back tail is around 2 1/2 hours. The heat can play a huge factor in this as well. Hiking Tom’s Thumb Trail in the summer is not recommended.

tom's thumb trail

Phoenix to Tom’s Thumb Trail in Scottsdale

Downtown Phoenix has a lot to offer like plenty of restaurants and big events like watching an MLB game at the Arizona Diamondbacks stadium. If you are staying here then I will give the detailed directions to Tom’s Thumb trail below.

Directions to Tom’s Thumb Hike

From Phoenix, you will want to get on AZ-202 East and start making your way toward AZ-101 North. Stay on here for 15 miles until you see exit 36 for N Pima Rd.

Continue along here and you will then want to take the right on E Happy Valley Rd. From here you can then follow the signs toward the Tom’s Thumb trailhead parking lot.

Best Places to Stay in Scottsdale, Arizona

tom's thumb

Best Time of the Year to Visit Scottsdale, Arizona

The best time to visit Scottsdale and the surrounding areas of Phoenix in Arizona is either in the Spring or Fall months. This is when the temperatures are much cooler. If you were to go in the summer, then you could see temps get as high as 120 degrees.

If you want to enjoy your vacation then I suggest going in October. That has been my favorite month of my time living here.

tom's thumb trailhead

My Suggested Hiking Gear

Below is a list of some of my favorite hiking/travel gear I bring everywhere. Everything below is something I currently use and never leave my house without.

  • KEEN Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots: I finally upgraded my hiking boots in 2022 and these are fantastic. They have top-notch ankle support and are super durable.
  • Petzl Tikka Headlamp: A headlamp for hiking is a must if you’re like me and love sunrise hikes. This is a great price for a quality headlamp and also has a good red light to not disturb others in the morning.
  • Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks: I originally got these as a present but I had to buy more because these are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever tried on.
  • Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: You will never have to rebuy plastic water bottles. This is the best water filtering device on the market. It is excellent for hikers and travelers alike.

Tom’s Thumb Hike Details

  • Distance: This hike is around a 4-mile out & back trail. This varies slightly depending on if you do the entire hike or not.
  • Duration: On average it will take people 2.5 hours to finish. This depends on fitness level and the time of the year.
  • Difficulty: I’d rank this hike as moderate because of the length, slight elevation gain, and potential heat.
  • Incline: The elevation for this hike is around 1,236 feet.
  • Hiking Guide: A guide is not needed for this hike and is easily accessible by the public.

If you want to learn more about this hike as well as read reviews, then you can check it out on Alltrails.

My Experience Hiking Tom’s Thumb Trail

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Many people I had talked to recommended this hike and said it was their favorite. I had to see what all the hype was about. Hiking to a thumb in the middle of the desert seemed like a cool idea, so we jumped into the car and headed to the trailhead.

I did this hike and some others around Scottsdale before doing ones like Devil’s Bridge and Cathedral Rock in Sedona. I will say doing these earlier hikes helped a lot later down the line.

Arriving at Tom’s Thumb Trailhead Parking Lot

The route had us going deep back into a neighborhood area and through some winding streets. When we arrived there weren’t many people at all. Probably a car or two. There are some other trails around this area, so that didn’t mean we were going to see people on the trail.

At the trailhead are a nice shaded area and picnic spot where you can relax before or after your hike. Overall a great thing to add at any trailhead.

tom's thumb trail

How Difficult is Tom’s Thumb Trail?

This trail won’t be difficult for most. It was a lot easier than I thought. The hardest part is dealing with the heat as there is no shade until right at the end (if you’re lucky).

Bring plenty of water and start early in the day if possible. This is mainly directed to those going in the summer months. The weather in Phoenix/Scottsdale starts to get a lot cooler in October and November.

toms thumb trail
toms thumb hike

The Heat of the Desert

Hiking to Tom’s Thumb in Scottsdale made it seem like we were in the movie Holes. We were lost in the desert and stumbled upon “God’s Thumb” but instead in this case we call it Tom’s Thumb.

Thankfully we had plenty of water with us and of course some snacks. This hike has you walking in and around the whole area before seeing to the West and arriving at the thumb.

It was here that we found some shade and really enjoyed the unique nature we were around. Besides this bee that would not leave me alone.

tom's thumb

Other Activities to do in Scottsdale, AZ

Scottsdale has blown up in tourism over the last handful of years. It is currently ranked as a top destination in the country for bachelorette parties. With that being said, there is still something in the area for everyone. If I’m not hiking, then the hot air balloon flight with champagne would be a top choice of mine. Below are some highly ranked activities in the area of Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Tom’s Thumb Trail in Scottsdale

This was a great hike to start within the area. There isn’t much incline and there are plenty of good places to rest if need be. I wish we came when it was a bit cooler outside but it was still great to be out hiking. We didn’t get to see much nature during this one but I know there are plenty of animals out there. Overall I highly recommend this hike if you’re in the Phoenix or Scottsdale area.

Thank you for reading my guide to Tom’s Thumb trail in Scottsdale, Arizona. I hope this helps you plan your next trip to Arizona.