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Hog Heaven Loop - McDowell Mountains, AZ

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Guide 27 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
4.4 of 5 by 11
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 4.35 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,814 feet
Elevation Gain 1,508 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.89
Interest Peak
Backpack No
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29  2019-05-27 Naferg323
15  2019-01-04 kingsnake
18  2018-12-29
Hog Heaven - East End - Toms Thumb
19  2018-12-29
Hog Heaven - East End - Toms Thumb
11  2018-12-29
Hog Heaven - East End - Tom's Thumb
9  2018-12-29
Hog Heaven - East End - Toms Thumb
7  2018-12-29
Hog Heaven-East End-Toms Thumb
4  2018-12-07
Tom's Thumb Loop
Page 1,  2,  3
Author cherieb
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 2
Photos 12
Trips 0 map ( 0 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location Mesa, AZ
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Preferred   Mar, Feb, Nov, Jan
Seasons   Late Summer to Late Spring
Sun  6:15am - 6:24pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
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Named place Nearby
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McDowells Prime Cut
by cherieb

Located in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the Hog Heaven Hikers Climbers Loop provides access to some remote rock climbing areas that are of interest to rock climbers and hikers alike. The route follows the official Climber Access Routes that were approved by the City of Scottsdale City Council in 2011 and are maintained by the local climbing community and volunteers from the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. This loop can be done either clockwise or counter-clockwise. but because of the beauty of the unfolding scenery many prefer the described clockwise movement. Primarily designed for rock climbers, only hikers with strong route finding skills should attempt this classic adventure.

Begin at the Tom’s Thumb Trail Head (WP 1). Hike along the Tom’s Thumb Trail a few hundred yards to the intersection with the Mesquite Canyon Trail (WP 2). Turn left and hike southeast to the intersection with the Feldspar Trail (WP 3). A further left turn on Feldspar for 100 feet and then a right along the Mesquite Canyon Climber Access Route (signed – WP 4) begins your hike up neat canyon. This Climber Access Route goes by climbing crags such as Girlie Man and Sven Towers and Hog Heaven.

At a climber trail sign, Emergency Trail Marker CR 23 (WP 6), take the right option and move uphill to the saddle south of Sven Towers III (WP 8). The views of the Verde Valley and Four Peaks to the east are incredible. Continue contouring southward with some ups and downs but basically maintaining elevation. At a shoulder the view across the Marcus Land Slide area to Hog Heaven unfolds (WP 9). The sharp rock spire on the skyline is the Thumbnail, and indicates where you will be shortly. Down below it on the hillside are the rock climbing crags known as Hog Heaven.

WP 10 is on the northern moraine of the Marcus Land Slide, which came down from the hill above. Cross the valley to WP 12, where you begin your upward ascent. There is a little scrambling involved making your way through the boulders but keep looking for cairns (Please leave them where you find them. They are sanctioned as part of the climber access routes by the City and help keep folks from developing “use trails” that would degrade the environment.)

The following set of waypoints (WP 13 through 16) mark various climber access points of interest. Generally you are going to hike up to the bottom of the 200 foot high Main Wall of Hog Heaven, and then contour a little further south until under the Upper Wall above you on the broad ridgeline. Scramble and zig zag uphill staying on the cairned trail until you take a final scramble up and over some boulders below the right hand end of the Upper Wall itself. The next phase of the ascent is to work right around the Upper Wall and then back to the south to pass on the east side of the Thumbnail (WP 16). Enjoy your ascent. The views are rewarding.

The trail climbs up the ridge above the Thumbnail until dipping a short distance on the south side of the ridge. It then ascends back to the ridgeline, moves through some boulders to the north side, and then switches back to the south through a notch with a slippery short slope beneath. Contour around the ridgeline crest again moving west ward, and generally follow the ridgeline, occasionally passing obstacles on the south. A final venture on the south flank of the ridge and ascent back to the weather station/radio facility takes you to the top of East End, the highest point in the McDowell Mountains. Multiple USGS markers have been placed by surveyors on the summit rocks. On the accompanying route map this area is indicated as WP 17.

To continue the loop, descend to the north directly from the weather station. Beware of the slippery decomposed granite over slick bedrock! WP 18 is the saddle just east of the main Tom’s Thumb trail. Descend the route to WP 21, which is on the main Tom’s Thumb Trail. If completing the loop, take a right and hike back to the Trail Head.

For a larger adventure it is possible also to take a left on the Tom’s Thumb trail past the East End Trail intersection, and then following the signed spur trail to Tom’s Thumb continue past Tom’s Thumb itself heading west along the ridgeline. A similar climber access route descends the west arm of the Tom’s Thumb cirque past climbing areas Lost Wall and Fort McDowell to reconnect with the Tom’s Thumb Trail at TT3 emergency marker.

The loop as described is about 4.35 miles. To add the west loop would take another couple of miles and accompanying route finding abilities.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2014-07-13 cherieb
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Hog Heaven Loop - McDowell Mountains
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Overnight at BF new house - chickens and monkeys - after sip & see house warming pool party yesterday.

    Woke up 4:30am. Oldest monkey Will packed up his mountain bike in the truck. He is on his school mountain bike competitive team. Got to TT TH at 5:25. Showed him map for Marcus Landslide. Made meet back plan. Tested cell phones.

    I went up part of Hog Heaven route so I could look down on Marcus Landslide trail. Got legs all scratched up without noticing it until I took a break. Saw 3!!!! Great Horned Owls and got some video too. They were sleeping same mesquite tree when I came down. I assume was not 3 must have been 4? Seems weird 3. But I have limited knowledge of owl behavior. They were just so massive. Same wash where I’ve seen Gil’s monster and deer and javalina on previous hikes at dawn.

    Humid today. I was completely in the shade except right at top where I took a break. Waiting for Will now . He sent me pics of a bleeding knee but without any call for rescue. He’s close to hitting Eagle Scout - self sufficient smart kid. He has an elk tag this Fall for walk in area. I told him he need to bulk up if he’s going to haul one out even quartered is heavy. He has friends ready to help. Has been two years of dating Christian. I’ve enjoyed getting to know his boys. My tender chickens love to spend time with them. Six of us in small time quantities is good. Then going back to our own home quarters just the three of us - is how I like it.
    Hog Heaven Loop - McDowell Mountains
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This is a cool little hike in the McDowells, and it is more difficult than the distance and AEG would suggest. There is one ascent where you go up past Hog Heaven to the Thumbnail that goes up 750 feet in 1/2 mile -- this section will remind you a little bit of going up Flatiron.

    We started at the Tom's Thumb TH and went up Mesquite Canyon on a hiker access route. I noticed from a triplog that KBKB had climbed up the Sven Tower I climber crag, so we did that, and I am glad that we did. There are some cool views of Marcus Landslide from that vantage point. After that we followed the Hog Heaven Loop up to the Thumbnail, and from there went across the ridgeline to East End. If you go hiking in the McDowell's, why not go to the high point in the range! From there we made a descent (first to the north, and then to the west) down to the Tom's Thumb Trail. From there we picked up the Lost Wall Loop and made our way over to Tom's Thumb, and continued the loop west of Tom's Thumb and eventually made our way down to the Tom's Thumb trail and back to the TH.

    This is probably my favorite little hike in the McDowells!
    Hog Heaven Loop - McDowell Mountains
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Hog Heaven / Lost Wall Loop
    For Friday's hike, Kay and I hiked a combination of the Hog Heaven Loop and the Lost Wall Loop.

    We started off by hiking Marcus Landslide and then turned right onto Feldspar. Just off the trail and to the left are some low angle (third class) slabs which lead to the top of Sven Tower I. We summited there and then continued on the climber's access trail leading past Sven Towers II and III. This soon joined the standard route for the Hog Heaven Loop. We hiked past Hog Heaven and the Thumbnail Pinnacle and the continued onto the East End (summit) where we also went to that summit.

    Continuing on, we descended the climber's access trail to Tom's Thumb Trail. From there, we hiked over to (and then on) the oft used climber's access trail going to Tom's Thumb. We continued past Tom's Thumb and then down past Lost Wall, Half & Half Wall and the Fort McDowell climbing areas. This eventually led us back to Tom's Thumb Trail and then back to the parking lot.

    The route is only about five miles, but it's (IMO) some quality hiking. I think this is my favorite route in the area.
    Hog Heaven Loop - McDowell Mountains
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Hog Heaven Loop plus a walk in the park
    On Friday, Jan 19, I led a group of seven (counting myself) on a hike of the Hog Heaven Loop in the McDowells. Starting at the Tom's Thumb Trailhead, we hiked a very short ways on Tom's Thumb Trail, turned left onto Mesquite Canyon, and then left again on Feldspar. We then turned onto the climber's access trail that goes through Mesquite Canyon. We followed this to and then past Hog Heaven and continued up to the Thumbnail Pinnacle. We continued on along the ridge leading to the East End (peak); several of us summitted there. We returned to the Tom's Thumb Trail via yet another climber's access trail.

    When we got back to the parking area, after saying our goodbyes, I headed out on Marcus Landslide, turned left onto Boulder, left onto Pemberton, and left onto Rock Knob. I then hiked Marcus Landslide until I got to the side trail leading to the prominent mushroom boulders near the Sven Slab climbing area. The trail continues on - sort of. I ended up hiking past the Energizer / Hawk boulder that I used to climb in my younger days. I followed the Sven Slab climber's access trail back to Marcus Landslide, turned left onto Feldspar, and then left again onto Tom's Thumb where I hiked up a short ways in order to reach my distance goal for the day.

    It was a great day - the highlight of the day was the Hog Heaven Loop. It's a really fun loop with awesome views along the way. Route finding went really well too - but, of course, I've done it a bunch of times.
    Hog Heaven Loop - McDowell Mountains
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Heather and Dave joined me for a hike of the Hog Heaven Loop in the McDowell Mountains.

    We hiked Tom's Thumb to the Mesquite Canyon Trail and then turned left on Feldspar for a short ways. We took the climber's access trail past the Girlie Man Wall, then past at least one of the Sven Towers on our way up to the pass at the top of Mesquite Canyon. From there, we proceeded on to Hog Heaven. When I had last done this route in April, I got slightly lost in the tall grass. That wasn't a problem on this hike. There was a clear trail through the now much shorter grass. You do still have to look for single stone cairns in the rocky sections, however.

    Anyway, we continued up to Hog Heaven and then past it to the Thumbnail Pinnacle. Dave and Heather rested in the shade of the pinnacle as I took a few photos. It was a warm day, so I took fewer than normal.

    We continued up past the Thumbnail Pinnacle to the ridge that leads to Hog Heaven. I know of two good ways to do this ridge. The first, which I don't like as well starts on the left (SSW) side of the ridge and then goes up to the NNE side of the ridge. The other way to start the ridge is to stay on the NNE side of the ridge. Although the trail is not obvious - since it goes over a number of granite boulders - it feels easier and more straightforward to me. There is less loose gravel and fewer bushes to push past. However, on my visit in February, I noticed a lot of bees on the NNE side of the ridge, so opted for the route with fewer bees. On this particular hike, I didn't see any bees at all.

    Regardless of which way you start, the route goes WNW along the NNE side of the ridge and then crosses over to a 20 foot (or so) loose and steep descent on the SSW side of the ridge. From there it traverses somewhat below the top of the ridge, eventually coming to the fenced in radio repeater just below the East End Summit.

    We summitted and then headed down to Tom's Thumb Trail. The day was warm enough that we chose not to do either of the other two (more fun) options for getting back to the trailhead.

    As we neared the trailhead, we met a fellow who was testing a prototype of a personal mister system. It seemed quite effective as I felt a bit of the evaporating mist from his gizmo has he passed me. Very cool! - Literally!
    Hog Heaven Loop - McDowell Mountains
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I hiked the beginning section of this loop by myself, but later met my wife who had hiked up Tom's Thumb Trail. We finished the loop together.

    I had last hiked this loop in February. At that time, recent rains had helped to make the trail feel more solid. The trail is very dry now, making the steep gravelly sections quite loose with uncertain footing. I had started the hike with just one pole in hand (and the other in my pack). When I got to the top of Mesquite Canyon, I got the other pole out and used two for the remainder of the hike.

    There is a low lying grassy area between Mesquite Canyon and Hog Heaven. Grass obscured the trail and an errant cairn led me off route. I eventually figured it out and moved that cairn so that someone else won't be led off path. I know this route fairly well, but I might bring along the GPS track when I next do it.

    While descending the steep and loose terrain on the climber's access trail from the ridge, I realized that this type of hiking is an acquired taste. While my wife did enjoy the scenery, she didn't much like the hiking - the footing was too uncertain.
    Hog Heaven Loop - McDowell Mountains
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Three of us (Bob, Nora, and I) hiked this route with an extension leading past Tom's Thumb and then NW along the ridgeline using the climber's access trail leading back to the Tom's Thumb trail.

    This is my favorite hiking route in the McDowells. It is steep and loose with sections of scrambling. The views are awesome and, aside from brief sections spent on the Tom's Thumb Trail, is largely devoid of traffic.

    Recent rain in the area made the trail a little less loose than normal.

    On this particular hike, we heard bees - possibly from a beehive - just after gaining the ridge that leads to the East End (summit). We backed off and found a way around the bees.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Tom's Thumb Trailhead
    1) 101 (Pima Freeway) to Frank Lloyd Wright
    2) East on Frank Lloyd Right to N Thompson Peak Parkway
    3) North on Thompson Peak Parkway to McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway Trailhead to drop off first vehicle
    4) Then North on Thompson Peak Parkway to Pima Rd
    5) North on Pima Rd to Happy Valley Rd
    6) East on Happy Valley Rd until it turns north and changes to 116th st.
    7) East on Ranch Gate Rd to 128th St
    8) South on 128th to Park Entrance

    From Exit 36 of AZ-101 Loop North, head northeast on North Pima Rd 4.7 miles to East Happy Valley Road. Turn right onto East Happy Valley Road and drive 4.3 miles to Ranch Gate Road. Turn right onto Ranch Gate Road and travel 1.3 miles and then turn right onto North 128th Street. After 1.0 mile on North 128th Street, you'll be at the trailhead gate. No water at the trailhead! Bathrooms are non-flush.

    If you just pop in the coordinates of the trailhead, it's very possible that your GPS unit will tell you to wrong turn from Happy Valley Road onto Alameda Road at ( 33.706667, -111.832396 ). Don't do it! Those GPS units don't know that there's a locked gate at (33.694441, -111.813335).

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 34.8 mi, 55 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 135 mi, 2 hours 24 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 149 mi, 2 hours 37 mins
    page created by cherieb on Jul 13 2014 7:27 pm
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