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So, how was your weekend?
The 'Tom's Thumb Trailhead to Sunrise Trailhead' hike is one of the longest trailhead to trailhead shuttle hikes within Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
Because much of the route described herein is far from civilization and some segments are out of range of cell towers, due care must be exercised while enjoying this hike. If you hurt yourself and require professional/trained assistance, unless they helicopter in, professional/trained help could be at minimum 30 to 60 minutes away. The silver lining is that many (but not all) parts of this trail are reasonably well-traveled so, at least, there may be passersby that may or may not be able/willing to provide aid.
If you pop in the coordinates of the trailhead, your GPS unit may 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). If you take this wrong turn, after driving in a few miles, you'll have to turn around and backtrack to Happy Valley Road.
See the Tom's Thumb Trail description for more information on getting to the trailhead.
The Tom's Thumb Trailhead has restrooms and information about the flora, fauna, rock climbing, and other activities accessible from therefrom, but NO WATER. The "NO WATER" situation will persist for an indeterminate amount of time because there is no municipal service to the area and (presumably) no wells available to the facility.
This 16.80 mile hike includes portions of thirteen trails:
While not mentioned in the Guide, if they were mentioned, East End Peak Trail would probably be classified as 'extremely difficult,' and Peak Spur Trail would likely be classified as 'difficult.'
This hike is relatively difficult when traveling from the Tom's Thumb Trailhead to Sunrise Trailhead (AEG of 3,906 feet). The trek becomes more difficult if you reverse it and travel from Sunrise Trailhead to Tom's Thumb Trailhead (AEG of 4,707). Be sure to take lots of water (I took seven liters with me, to be safe, and used six liters) and food (I took ten double granola bars packs, five cuties, and half a pound of turkey jerky with me and ate more than two-thirds of my stash).
Tom's Thumb Trail constitutes the first 1.4 miles of this hike. At (33.680219 -111.803547), look closely, and you'll see the East End Peak Trail take off to the left. Use your GPS unit as guidance and look for informal cairns as you largely bushwhack your way 0.29 mile up to the top of East End Peak, the highest point of the McDowell Mountains. Take a picture of the weather station and sign the logbook in the ammo box wedged in the 'buttcrack at the top of the world.' The 0.29 mile back to Tom's Thumb Trail is comparatively easy. Nine hundredths (0.09) mile later, turn left onto East End Trail. The views as you head down this relatively steep path are quite spectacular. East End Trail is one of three trails that you'll trek end-to-end (1.38 miles).
Take a right at the end of East End Trail and quickly traverse the short 0.11-mile segment of Windmill Trail. At the terminus of Bell Pass Trail, take a left head on up to Bell Pass, 1.33 miles yonder. Bell Pass is a popular spot to take a break and take stock of where you came from and where you're going to. After that, it's 1.84 miles down to the other terminus of Bell Pass Trail, the second full trail on this hike. This hike only utilizes a very short segment of Gateway Loop Trail. From Bell Pass trail, hook left onto Gateway Loop Trail and 0.21 mile later take another left onto Paradise Trail. Paradise Trail takes you back into civilization, and about 0.51 mile in, you'll come to an escape path that will take you to Verbena Lane. Approximately 0.97 miles later, after walking behind houses in McDowell Mountain Ranch, you'll reach Quartz Trail.
Head straight (as opposed to turning right) onto Quartz Trail, and you'll be on a very gradual upward grade and still walking behind McDowell Mountain Ranch houses. After 1.38 miles from where you hooked up with Quartz Trail, you'll come to a dog-leg that heads off to the left: don't go left. Look ahead about 30 meters, and you'll see a terminus for Lost Dog Wash Trail. Hop over to Lost Dog Wash Trail and head on up. Thirty-nine hundredths mile later, turn right take a quick 0.05 mile to the Taliesin Overlook. Head back 0.05 mile to Lost Dog Wash Trail, turn right, and 0.46 mile later, you'll be at a terminus of Old Jeep Trail. Old Jeep Trail is the third trail you'll traverse from end-to-end, a distance of 1.38 miles. Continue forward onto Old Jeep Trail (don't follow Lost Dog Wash Trail to the right), and 0.77 miles later, you'll be at the turn-off for what I'm calling the Old Jeep Overlook. Gingerly step to the right 0.015 miles, sit down on some rocks, and take in the view of Scottsdale and the Native American community beyond. Step back to the trail, turn to the right, and 0.61 miles later, you'll meet up with Ringtail Trail.
This relatively short, 0.47-mile segment of Ringtail Trail takes you up from the third trough of this hike and takes you to Sunrise Trail. Turn to the left and head on up to the ridge in the distance. Almost a mile (0.99 miles) later, you'll be at the base of a set of switchbacks that will take you 0.23 mile to the top of the ridge. Swing around the bowl to the left, and 0.81 miles later, you'll be at the base of the Peak Spur Trail. Follow the zig-zagging trail up, and 0.20 mile later, you'll be at the summit of Sunrise Peak. Head down the summit and to the east .28 mile to rejoin Sunrise Trail. Follow Sunrise Trail a total of 1.65 miles, past the upper overlook, 0.50 mile later, and the Scenic Overlook, 0.05 mile beyond the first overlook, to the Sunrise Trailhead.
None at the beginning of or during the hike. The Sunrise Trailhead has a refrigerated drinking fountain.
Camping is not allowed in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.