McDowell Mountains is the closest mountain range to the greater Phoenix area. In fact, they are just neighboring the town of Scottsdale and this hike best illustrates that, with its trailhead located just at the edge of town. Tom's Thumb trail takes the hiker about 1000 feet (~300m) above the valley floor to some great views of the Phoenix area.
The climb starts shortly after departing the parking lot, but not before taking in the many spring wildflowers dotting the landscape.
Flora and fauna are just as diverse...
A Gila Monster, the only venomous lizard native to the United States, basks in the afternoon sun
The final destination of the trail is Tom's Thumb, a rock outcrop favored by many rock climbers. Today though, there's nobody there, which is a bit strange for a Sunday afternoon. The posted sign explains it all -- several falcons are nesting on the northern side of the rock and they need their space!
Resting in one of the many pseudo-caves that dot the area: a jumble of huge boulders create the illusion of a cave.
A "garden of boulders" can be found at the top of this hike
Another thumb-like rock near Tom's Thumb glows in the last light of the day. The Weaver's Needle, a landmark of the nearby Superstition Mountains, can be seen in the distance (upper-right corner).