register help

Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP, AZ

no permit
132 32 0
Guide 32 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3.3 of 5 by 6
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 0.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 1.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,682 feet
Accumulated Gain 5 feet
Avg Time One Way 0.5 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 1.12
Backpack No
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
8  2019-03-20
Gooseneck Trail - MSPC
7  2019-03-17
Marcus Landslide Trail - MSP
10  2019-03-16
Granite Trail - MMRP
6  2019-03-03
Gooseneck Trail - MSPC
24  2019-02-12
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
13  2019-02-08
Wash Day plus Marcus Landslide - MMRP/MSP
11  2019-01-18
McDowell Meander
9  2018-11-16
Wagner-Delsie-Gooseneck-Rock Knob-Bluff - MMRP
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author Crzy4AZ
author avatar Guides 31
Routes 96
Photos 2,588
Trips 589 map ( 2,119 miles )
Age 46 Female Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Mar, Feb, Nov, Jan
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:12am - 6:31pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Photogenic granite outcrop
by Crzy4AZ

This trail segment is split between the McDowell Sonoran Preserve (0.5 miles) and the McDowell Mountain Regional Park (0.6 miles) and is a picturesque short trail that allows scenic loops between the two multi-use areas.

The GPS route and this description will start from the closer access point in the MSP (McDowell Sonoran Preserve). From Tom's Thumb Trailhead (23015 N 128th Street) where there is equestrian parking and regular parking but no water, you take Marcus Landslide trail 0.4 miles to junction with Rock Knob trail.

The 0.5 miles of Rock Knob trail that are in MSP are lined with thick chain-fruit cholla and have a winding view of the beautiful Rock Knob granite outcrop. Sunrise and sunset cast spectacular light on Rock Knob formation and will get you many "likes" on social media posts of your pics. At 0.2 miles you intersect with Gooseneck Trail which links you to miles of Central and Northern trails all the way north to Granite Mountain.

At 0.3 miles you will see ranching artifacts under an old mesquite tree. You cross into the McDowell Mountain Regional Park (MMRP) at 0.5 miles and there are paths for approved rock climbing routes. In some older rock climbing documents and books, the Rock Knob area is referred to as "Knob Hill" but the adopted MSP Rock Climbing Plan in 2011 made the official name change to Rock Knob.

If you want to read the official rock climbing guidelines for the MSP approved in 2011 - read here.

Continue on Rock Knob trail within MMRP to the intersection with Pemberton Trail. You can connect to backside of Windgate Pass by taking Pemberton to Coachwhip to Windmill Trail. Or you could take Pemberton Trail to Boulder Trail and make a little loop to Marcus Landslide trail. Many great options by foot, bike, or horse in this area.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2015-01-08 Crzy4AZ
  • overview map competitive tracks hunting zone campgrounds
    area related
  • MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 1
    area related
    MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 1
  • MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 2
    area related
    MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 2
  • MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 3
    area related
    MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 3
  • MSP - Approved Climbing Areas 2011
    area related
    MSP - Approved Climbing Areas 2011
  • overview map
    area related

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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
Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Marcus Landslide Clover Loop
My Monday hike got cancelled so I texted Kathy to see if she was up to anything. Yep, "Karl has to run. We were going to go to the 128th street Toms Thumb Trailhead. He was going to run and I was going to do Toms Thumb-Windgate-Coachwhip-Marcus Landslide Loop. Then...drum roll...Tacos and Tequila!" Well she got me with the Tacos and Tequila. Altho I revised the loop since we had to meet Karl at the end and I didn't know if I could get 'er done in time.

After taking the dirt road 128th St from Dynamite to the TH, we met Scott from Tucson. It was definitely cool and I kept my vest on the whole time. We headed out to the Marcus Landslide Trail which I think is a pretty trail. You get to see cool big boulders and of course the landslide, Submarine Rocks, the fountain and in the distance the Superstitions and Four Peaks. It was an overcast day and there was also a haze above the river.

We hooked up with the Boulder Trail to take us over to the Pemberton Trail. We did encounter a few bike riders on these two trails but very few hikers. Next up was the Rock Knob Trail and it was a beauty. You go through a cholla forest and reach an old pay station. We enjoyed the views in this area all around. From there we hooked up with the Caballo Trail (.4 mile) which I had planned as an out and back but as it turned out, it takes you up to the Tom's Thumb TH so we took that route.

We took a quick restroom break and continued up the Tom's Thumb Trail looking for what my route called the East End Trail (not the one on the south side) that becomes Mesquite Canyon Trail but it is actually called Feldspar Trail. Of course there was much more traffic on Tom's Thumb Trail but once we turned off on to Feldspar, we were back on our own again. Feldspar was a pretty trail too with nice views to your right and ahead. We did encounter an REI class instructor as they would be having a class today. There are several climbing route access points from this trail. I always enjoy the Sven Slabs area. It just looks like it would be fun to climb up there.

We were about back at the TH when Karl called to ask where we were and when we looked toward the parking area we could see him. So it was good timing. Karl had left the lights on in his vehicle so Tonto gave it a jump and then we were off for "Tacos and Tequila" :D ! at Juan Jaime's. We sat out in the sun as we experienced very little of that this morning on our hike.

[ youtube video ]

Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
After trailhead host duties at Tom's Thumb this morning I walked a short distance to photo the paystation at the point the trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve meets the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. We've been having discussions on whether folks need to pay when they pass into the Regional Park from the Preserve. To me, the answer is yes, but it's complicated by the fact that this station does not seem to be directions or explanation on what the fee is. The pay envelopes, while provided, do not state the fee ($2). Would you pay at this station? See photoset.
Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP
rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
First time on this trail and today was the perfect time to do it. I never seen another hiker on this trail and just three bike riders. I wasn't sure I would enjoy this hike but the weather made all the difference today nice and cool with a very nice breeze.
I did see a small red snake early on but it was to quick for me to get a picture of it. Later on I was surprised by two mule deer and of course not fast enough to get a picture of them either. But I will say they appeared very healthy.
This was really a nice quite little hike with some great views and being in no hurry made it that much nicer.
Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Date hike on a Saturday night. Marcus Landslide :next: Rock Knob trail :next: Gooseneck trail :next: then back.
Beautiful light at sunset. Climbed around a little. Then dinner at Isabella's Kitchen.
Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Fan and I did a loop with the Gateway TH and the Tom's Thumb TH.

We started at the Gateway TH and took:
- Saguaro trail
- Gateway Loop trail
- Bell pass trail
- Prospector trail
- Dixia Mine trail
- Pemberton trail

Fan And took a break and split up for a bit. Fan would do a shorter loop by continuing down the Pemberton to the Rock Knob intersection.

I did a longer loop by taking:
- Pemberton trail
- Granite trail
- Delsie trail
- County Park Connector
- Saguaro Nest trail
- Gooseneck trail
- Rock Knob trail (meet up with Fan)
- Marcus Trail
- Tom's Thumb Trail
- Windgate Pass Trail
- Gateway Loop trail
- Saguaro trail

Things of interest
- We saw a guy on a unicycle about 2 miles in. He only rode the unicycle on the smooth sections.
- I saw a deer in one of canyons on the south side of the McDowell’s.

It rained on us twice during the day.

I like the new Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve trails. I'll be back to check out more of them.
Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Thumb Windmill Rock Knob loop
Got back in town after visiting both sides of the family the previous week. Fun but a lot of unhealthy delicious Southern food. Wanted to get out and feel sun on my skin after clouds for 7 days in GA/AL. Although I was kind of devastated to miss the snow in Scottsdale! There was still enough snow on Tom's Thumb trail that I felt like I did get to experience just a little bit of it.

For the ATC Challenge (All Trails Club) I'm at 104.5 out of 133 miles now that I've knocked out Windmill. Not sure why I chose to do 9 miles to get that 1 off the list, but it was nice to see how all the MMRP trails connect around Marcus Landslide.

I jogged part of Pemberton and Coachwhip out of boredom and wanting to get home for nap. Those trails meant for bikes.
Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Brad took a day off work to have an in-town all day hike just the two of us. No babysitter since kids both in school. Had parent teacher conference before setting out with two cars for a shuttle hike. Parked one at Tom's Thumb TH and then up to Fraesfield TH to start the hike.

This is a great connector trail for bikers - kind of boring for hikers - but is beautiful desert once you get past the part parallel to the road at the start.

I was impressed with the height of the creosote along the first few miles. Saw a pack rat midden nest - massive! The old ranching water tank is a startling oasis. So many animal tracks around it. The section close to Rock Knob/Marcus Landslide is prettier with more granite formations and little up/down of trail.

Kind of cool to walk from one TH to the other. Soon the Tonto National Forest will be linked with MSP and other trails for the giant Maricopa Trail. Gooseneck trail signs have the logo for Maricopa Trail.
Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Kids were "camping out" at The Boulders with visiting grandparents - free babysitting! I had water and backpacks ready to go - Brad got home from work and we got out as fast as we could. Normally we don't hike on Fridays b/c it's a great night for kids to have friends over and Brad is too tired after a long day of work. But free babysitting will get us out-the-door swiftly!

Only one other car in the parking lot - a Dad and daughter so sweet she was carrying an Elsa doll.

When we hike together Brad and I don't talk at all. He listens to music and I hike in front listening to the sounds of the desert and keeping mental notes of changes to flora. I always hope to encounter some type of animal/reptile and tonight did not disappoint! Just at the intersection with the landslide, I spotted a desert tortoise and we stood quietly for a while just watching him/her blink. I know better than to touch or pick them up - learned from @ezpixels that if you lift them they sometimes empty their bladder of stored water and can die from dehydration. ( tortoise encounter)

Sunset was lovely from atop the landslide. Rock Knob just begs to be photographed from every angle. After the hike went to dinner at Pita Jungle and then ate THREE scoops of ice cream from my newest addiction "Cream City Cafe" in our neighborhood (shopping center at 105th St/McDowell Mountain Ranch Road).

Best ice cream flavor combo: Cookie Monster + Chocolate Galaxy (and only $5 for medium)
They also serve coffee, kids' snack food, salads, paninis, and coffee. They have a little kids table and kids library. fb/CreamcitycafeAZ

bursts of yellow Desert Senna everywhere! grassy layer from all the rain too
Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Date hike - kids with babysitter. I had lofty plans for a big hike, but got hit big time with sinus infection. This hike is in the shade mostly in late afternoon and mostly flat. So was good one for feeling little sickly. Decent patches of chuparosa and brittle bush but everything else in very small scattered quantities (fairy duster, poppies, scorpion weed). Then had a way over priced dinner (but good drinks and cheese plate) at Market Street Kitchen.
Rock Knob Trail - MSP / MMRP
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Date hike! :budrose: Got a babysitter so we could hike faster to do the whole trail before sunset but while in the shade. Got to trailhead 5:10pm and finished 7:00. Went past barbed wire fence up the landslide edge -- amazing views. Not a person in sight for miles and miles. Spooky quiet with scenery like a science-fiction movie from the 1960's. Unbelievable the size of some of the boulders that fell in the rock avalanche. Many have names - I only know the submarine rock one. You can easily see the breakaway scar edge below East End peak if you know what you're looking for. Hard to photograph the dimensionality of the edge and scar with a sea of boulders!

I am fascinated that so many geologists missed this very large landslide in previous accounts of the area (1946, 1978, 1983, 1996, and 2000). A description of why the area is tricky and proof of landslide can be found in the paper by Douglass, Dorn, and Gootee (Geomorphology Vol 65. pages 321-336). It's available full text free online. I'm not a geomorphologist, but now I want to be one when I grow up! :lol:

We took the spur to Rock Knob (added a little more than a mile) to see another view of landslide and sunset. Thought trail would take us higher but it stays low to the Knob. Climbing routes get you up higher but we didn't have time or skill for that.

Temperature at 7:00pm was 78 degrees! (back at our house on other side of McDowells near Bell/104th trailhead at 8:30pm was 85 degrees). Went to dinner straight from hike at Greasewood Flats. Our sweaty dirty attire blended in just fine! Those hamburgers are something else - and good prices too.

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 Crzy4AZ on Jan 08 2015 7:18 am
$17 3L Hydration Bladder
help comment issue

end of page marker