Best Tough Hike - 2012
Built in 2009, the trail from the Gateway Access trailhead to the base of Tom's Thumb in the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale is truly upscale. We're not just talking about the multimillion-dollar trailhead facility off Thompson Peak Parkway, a resort-worthy piece of architecture with shaded breezeways and a neat, rusted-steel low bridge that leads to several trails. "Up" is the essence of this long, steep hike. You'll have gone about six miles and gained about 2,100 feet of elevation if you take the "Rock Climbing Access Route" to the base of the Thumb, a 150-foot-tall, somewhat cylinder-shaped granite prominence. We didn't dawdle, but the trip still took about four hours. You can also turn around at the top of the Tom's Thumb trail, making it a nine-mile round trip. Either, way, make sure you bring enough water and a snack to sustain you. One bonus in the summer: The steep slopes of the mountain's west side enjoy shade well after dawn, making at least half the hike pleasant even when the afternoon is slated for 115 degrees.