Tom’s Thumb We adventure off the beaten trail to visit the Ogre’s Den and Miners Cave!

The Proper Function

The Miner & Ogre

Tom’s Thumb Trail is one of the many wonderful hikes within the Scottsdale McDowell Preserve. The range is composed of miocene deposits left nearly five million years ago. At 4,069 feet, the East End is the highest peak. This range also served as a sacred marker for the Yavapai’s.  Along with Pinnacle Peak, Tom’s Thumb is one of the more recognizable landmarks in Scottsdale. This is a wonderful hike, but with The Proper Function you get so much more. We are going to guide you towards two unique cave structures: The Miner’s Cave and Ogre’s Den. Both of these caves are difficult to find as they’re off the trail and require some minor bouldering. When I contacted the McDowell Conservancy to get information about these caves, I was told there were no details and I was encouraged to tell followers of this blog to abide by the rules and to stay on the trail.  So, let’s call this post an Improper Function, shall we?break_line_mtn
Miner's Cave at Tom's Thumb

Tom Thumb’s Up

Tom’s Thumb Trail opened in October 2012 and provides a gateway to the McDowell Preserve. If you’re into geology, this will also provide you access to the Marcus Landslide Trail, the second largest landslide in Arizona. From the beginning of Tom’s Thumb Trail, you will start into a casual ascent. Follow the Tom’s Thumb Trail signs and approximately .10 miles you will come across an emergency marker (TT1) which leads you towards the Mesquite Canyon Trail. Further up, you will come across TT2 that leads towards Feldspar Trail. TT2 marks the beginning of the moderate grade to ascend to Tom’s Thumb, which is now visible on the mountain in front of you. As you hike past TT3, you will be presented with a scenic view of the trailhead, pinnacle peak and Brown’s Mountain in the distance. You will then have a persistent final push as you ascend a steady 20% grade.break_line_mtn

Tom's Thumb Trail

As you continue, you will start to notice the granite spire of Tom’s Thumb as it becomes larger with each switchback. The granite is dramatically round and light in color. For those who have visited Joshua Tree, this experience will remind you of that adventure as you hike through this beautiful garden of rock. For those who haven’t visited Joshua Tree, then it will feel like Bedrock from the Flintstones!  Before you reach the Ogre’s Head (33.683633, -111.804002), you will come across a trail called East End Trail. Turn left on this trail and you will notice a narrow, unmarked trail on  your left which leads up to an area of boulders. You will know that you are on the right path when you are forced to leap across a 2′ ravine. You will continue for approximately 50 yards, scale a few boulders and look for the opening to the Miner’s Cave (33.678484, -111.802635).break_line_mtn

Tom's Thumb Trail

As I mentioned, my contacting the McDowell Preserve to learn more about the contents of this cave was anything but useful. While I can’t confirm this information, I have read on a few personal blogs that the cave was formed by a fallen boulder. The contents were placed as a tribute to the mining industry and not for any individual miner. It contains an oil stove, table, kerosene lanterns, miners tools, sand bag bed and other trinkets. I hiked to this cave on Christmas Day and left a present for the next hiker, anyone claim it?break_line_mtn


As you retrace your steps, return back to Tom Thumb’s trail and continue west towards the 150 foot granite structure. On your right, keep a lookout for a rock structure that looks like an Ogre’s Head (33.683633, -111.804002). Once you reach Tom’s Thumb, the Ogre’s Den is located northwest of the thumb. A few hundred feet down the narrow path you will notice some boulders leaning against one another. This is the old Hiker’s Hangout which has several trinkets, a log book and rock painting. This is where the Ogre lives!

Well, actually, that would be a giant. Now, ogres – oh, they’re much worse! They’ll make a suit from your freshly peeled skin! They’ll shave your liver, squeeze the jelly from your eyes! Actually, it’s quite good on toast!” – Shrek

Ogre's Den

Function Details

From Highway 101, take the Pima Road Exit (#36) and head 4.7 miles east on Pima Road to Happy Valley Road. Turn right on Happy Valley Road and travel 4.5 miles to McDowell Mountain Ranch Road. Follow the signs for Tom’s Thumb Trail.



This Proper Function
(Approximate Data)
Party Cloudy
2,315ftElevation 13.7hrsDistance From You
State, RegionArizona,Central
Coordinates33.694265°, -111.801706°
DirectionsView on Google Maps
Time3.5 Hours RT


Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.