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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy has officially completed the new Tom's Thumb trail opening this great area up to west slope users. I hiked it this past Saturday and scoped it out for an epic climb/descent. I plan to try it on the bike this Sunday, 3/22. I will start from the Village health club at Thompson Peak/Union Hills with a 7 AM meet, 7:15 FIP. Anyone adventurous to join me (and with a little bit left after AZSF) is free to come. I'm shooting for about 3 to 3.5 hours.

First of all, it is an amazing trail, and kudos to all of those that planned and built it. It is incredibly scenic, and the area up around the Thumb is very cool. Here are some rough stats:

Dist: 12 mi (out and back)
Elev (Start and top): 1700/3800
Avg Grad: 7.1% (entire climb)
Avg Grad: 12.2% (new trail section, 2.2 mi)
View more: http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/invitation/dashboard.mb?episodePk.pkValue=7813739

Trail Description: The new trail is accessed by either cutting over from the Windgate Pass trail in the vicinity of Inspiration Point, or by taking the Desert Parks trail and continuing straight at the point you normally turn right to ride towards Windgate Pass trail. All of the new trail sections were built by professional trail crews using mechanized equipment. There is no real gnar/chunk/exposure to up the technical challenge--it is just a 3-4 foot wide dirt sidewalk that snakes its way up countless switchbacks. The closest comparison in the MSP is the Bell Pass trail, but the new trail will ride different. It isn't quite as steep as the last half mile of Bell, and right now it isn't loose with rocks like you'll find on Bell. It does, however, climb higher than Bell, and with over 2 miles at 12.2%, it is going to be a challenge. Once you top out, you're actually south of Tom's Thumb by a quarter mile or so. There are numerous climber access trails up and around the Thumb, which I didn't explore. The Windmill trail, which will connect from the Thumb back to the Windgate Pass trail (on the Fountain Hills side) isn't complete yet and is blocked with a prominent sign. There appears to be a good trail descending out of the area to the north trailhead (Troon area), but I didn't explore. The descent should be a lot of fun and test your forearm pump. With the lack of rocks on the trail right now, it will ride real fast, but the switchbacks and gradient will keep you on the brakes.

Post up if you're interested. I'm not sure if we'll actually be the first bike ascents, but it's quite possible.
 

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My wife and I stumbled upon this trail and road a pre-production version.

The climbs up and descents down are pretty darned challenging. For a singlespeeder there is much walking going up. Less walking for gearies, but it would be quite a feat to clean the climb. Going down is a real sphincter clencher with the numerous tight switchbacks, steep pitch, and loose soil on hard ground and going down. Not for beginners.

That being said, the views from the top are spectacular. This is definitely a trail worth visiting (on foot or by bike). May even be able to incorporate it into an even more challenging quadruple bypass.

We'd come out with you, but we'll be at BCT for the AZSF extravaganza.

--Jeff



 

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BTW, you can find a map of the new trails (I don't think the East End trail is open yet) at the end of this document. http://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/AssetFactory.aspx?vid=25531

For a nice long loop:
From the nort part of the trail you can take Paraiso (dirt road) east. There is a dirt trail at the end of the road that links to the Pemberton. That'll take you to Dixie Mine, then to Windmill and over Windgate pass and then back to the start.
 

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The trail itsself is very nice. About 2 feet wide and flat - no rocks. In that way it is way easier than Windgate. However, it is steeper overall, with some pitches that are difficult to walk - much less ride. Lots of switchbacks.

The trail builders did a really nice job on the trail. It is just going to be challenging for bikes due to the fact that it gains quite a bit of elevation rather quickly.

--Jeff
 

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Here are the pics I took when we found this in late February. At that time the trail did not connect all the way to Windgate - so we had to do some bushwhacking. They had ribbons for where the trail was to go so I'm guessing that has been completed now.

We rode this north to south (since we live up north) and came back via Windgate/Windmill/Dixie Mine/Pemberton/etc.

http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2546973960101986607oJFudK
 

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Combining Old and Bold
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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
dtownmtb said:
BTW, you can find a map of the new trails (I don't think the East End trail is open yet) at the end of this document. http://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/AssetFactory.aspx?vid=25531
Jeff,

Thanks--I had not seen that map yet. I was hoping that the depicted East End trail would be more climbable than Tom's Thumb trail, but looking at the contour lines, it looks like 1 to 1.5 miles of climbing with 13-15% gradient--no easy stretch! It does looks like the north climb from Paraiso offers the "easiest" way up, but getting to it is going to involve a lot of riding from my house. How difficult was this climb when you guys did it?

I saw your pics and they tell a nice story. Shot #11 is a very sobering look at the toughest switchback section. Yes, the connector trail to Windgate is complete, and will be a fun little section, though short. I think I recognize your wife from the Double Bypass on 12/14? Didn't you guys bail from Sunrise to go do schoolwork?
 

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DrHog said:
Jeff,

Thanks--I had not seen that map yet. I was hoping that the depicted East End trail would be more climbable than Tom's Thumb trail, but looking at the contour lines, it looks like 1 to 1.5 miles of climbing with 13-15% gradient--no easy stretch!
I took a walk down the East End trail last week and they were still working on it. I only went a little ways down, but it did look like it got pretty darned steep.

--Jeff
 

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Just Road it

Your post got me fired up so I threw my bike in the truck and headed up to the trailhead. WOW! That is a brutal climb. This will be my first trail recap so be patient. I started at the DC Ranch Gym parking lot and headed up Windgate Trail. I have ridden this section several times and the trail is in great shape. I thought I missed my turn towards Tom's Thumb since I hadn't brought a map. About when I figured I would just ride Windgate, I came across a new looking trail heading left. Two guys working in area confirmed I was heading towards the thumb. (Remember, currently no signage at the turn). The trail is awesome. Great traction and almost entirely dirt. After a short downhill, the fun begins. The climbing is non-stop. None of it was too steep to ride but you better bring your A game for some of it. Just like the original post predicted, the switchbacks are super tight. This is the only area I had to get off the bike. I would ride to the turn, get off, swing my rear tire around and the take off riding again. I am guessing I had to do this 8-9 times. I hit the top in 1 hour 10 minutes. This was steady riding with no breaks. I enjoy challenges, but I was very happy to be at the top!
On the way down, I worked on technique and tried to make each switchback. Again, some were too sharp and I didn't want to go over the side. I also stopped to check-out the natural spring coming out of the mountain. My buddy told me stories of how his dad would take his horses up in this area and let them drink. It is pretty cool to see. Shortly after the spring, you come to a "T". You have the choice of climbing back up to the Windgate Trail or going straight. I decided to go straight and see what this trail was like. MISTAKE! It sucked. It was the remnants of an old jeep trail that was rocky. After some time, it turned into single track that worked its way through DC Ranch and then dumped you near the Gym. I wont be riding it again. I hit the parking lot in 1 hour and 50 minutes. This is a great workout.
 

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Combining Old and Bold
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Way to scoop me out of the first ascent! :D Nice job, though. 1+10 seems to be a great time for this trail. Your description sounds about like how I thought it would go.

Wasn't it amazing how a trail that goes through so much rocky terrain could be so smooth and free of rocks? I wonder if it will stay that way.
 

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Interested in checking this out

Sounds like yet another Conservancy hiking trail us bikers can us for a hard and scenic workout climb and little more. Still, I may get out there in my backyard and join the SF group.

Such a shame to not be able to have technically challenging trails, b/c there's soooo much opportunity in the McDowells.

Will watch this thread for SF plans.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
DrHog's AZSF Sunday Ride--McDowell Mtns--Tom's Thumb

Here are some more specifics for Sunday's ride:

What:12 mile Out & Back ascending McDowell's to Tom's Thumb on newly opened trail.
When: 7 AM meetup, 7:15 FIP, planned ride time around 3 hours
Level: This is an A or B level ride due to elevation gain. Tech challenge is minimal, though switchbacks are pretty tight.
Where: Ride starts from the DC Ranch Village Health Club and Spa, SE corner of parking lot near the trailhead (farthest from the gym). See map for details.
Recommended Equipment: Your lightweight bike--long travel not required, HT is OK. Singlespeed discouraged due to 12% gradients. Lots of water, some food, and a camera. Body armor unnecessary (unless you go flying off the trail).
Trail: We'll depart from the Village, proceed Horseshoe to Gateway Loop to Windgate Pass to Tom's Thumb connector and then Tom's Thumb to the summit. Return along same route. See previous posts for description and some photos.

Blue Yellow Green Text White


Neighbourhood Landscape Urban area Residential area Urban design
 

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Dr. Hog,

Nice Map... the rest of AZSB should do the same for us out of towners, post up a map of the parking area for every ride, so that we can orient and familiarize ourselves with directions of streets. Keep in mind, if you are from out of town and new to the area, street names mean nothing without the direction you need to drive on it.

Thanks, sounds like a tough ride!, at least the climb. I started up Windgate about 3 weeks ago, and got spanked bad on the climb. Riding up rocks on top of rocks, with no dirt anywhere, took it's toll on this first timer, it's unlike anything I've ever climbed here in CA, it flat out sucks the energy out of your legs, it is brutal climbing that little rocky chunk if you are used to graded fire roads.
 

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Not for the climbing challenged.

Four of us rode to the "thumb" this morning and all I can say is no mountain bikers (or horse riders) were asked for input. With the machinery used to cut the new section one would think the builders would have put more thought into the layout. Come the first good rain most of the switchbacks will be eroded to such a mess that they'll be nearly unwalkable let alone rideable.

Granted I'm not the greatest technical rider but I can climb fairly well and the three guys I was with a far better than I and no one said anything good about the dismal, steep sharp switchbacks that, with a few exceptions, were walked.

Bring your "A" game for the climb and descent.

JMO of course

On a positive note the view was awesome. From the false summit a small section of Bartlett Lake was visible this morning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I thought the same thing about erosion on those steep switchbacks. I asked one of the trail maintainers about it, and she replied, "we'll be doing a lot of maintenance on that section." I don't doubt it.

I don't have a clue if anyone is coming tomorrow AM, so if you are, post up.
 

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So is it safe to assume nobody cleared the ride to the top? I found it hard to believe it was gong to be done. But, there are some incredible riders out there and was not sure they were going to prove me wrong. Congrats on the the ride, wish I could have been there.
 
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