6 Miles

1125 feet


A++++ Views

Hike to the Lookout Overview

On the south side of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve snuggled up on Fountain Hills, you will find the Sunrise Trail Hike. This hike has some elevation, so expect to get a bit of a workout. As you climb, the views get better and better.

Photo Gallery to Inspire you to Hike to The Lookout

Map & Elevation Profile

Total distance: 6.03 mi
Max elevation: 3896 ft
Min elevation: 2771 ft
Total time: 02:41:24

Map for The Hike to The Lookout

The trail is well marked but you never know when you might want to look at a map! And this map is excellent.

mcdowell mountains green trails map get outdoors get happy

McDowell Mountains Greentrails map

You definitely won’t regret having this map for your McDowell Sonoran Preserve hikes (affiliate link)!


Plug “Tom’s Thumb Trailhead” into your GPS or maps app. You will want to make the first right turn when you get close to the trailhead. This technically isn’t the main parking but works as well! There is plenty of parking here.

Hike to the Lookout Notes

On one of the AZ hiking Facebook groups, someone mentioned visiting the Lookout from the Tom’s Thumb trail. It made me think, hmmmm, what’s this? I better check it out.

I am so glad I did! Why is Tom’s Thumb so popular when the Lookout is just right around the corner? In my opinion, visiting the Lookout is way more awesome than visiting Tom’s Thumb! Here’s why:

1) The views are better! And mind you, the view’s from Tom’s Thumb are pretty great. But from the Lookout trail, you get to see all the glorious mountains to the East and the Fountain Hills fountain. Plus you get great views of Tom’s Thumb (look at the photos in the above gallery). 

2) The trail on the top is sweet. It is like an alpine meadow but with awesome desert plants.

3) There is a great spot to hang out. It is flatter/more open and just beautiful. You will want to spend all day there. Whereas at Tom’s Thumb it just feels more confined.

4) There are less people. So if you want to get your solitude fix, try this out.

If you are not convinced that you should forego Tom’s Thumb for the Lookout, you can hike to both and figure it out for yourself. That’s what I did (see map above).

At the end of the day, both are great (but the Lookout is better) and you won’t regret hiking up there. You will feel magnificent afterward 😀. Happy hiking!

So, should you do this hike?

Um, yes. In my opinion, this is one of the best hikes in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It’s so scenic! Being on top of the McDowell’s is where it’s at. You can always pop over to Tom’s Thumb if you want to mark that off your list.

Other hikes close by

This area is awesome for hiking. You can go over to the Granite Mountain trailhead and hike the Granite Mountain Loop or the 136th St Express/Cow Poke Loop. Or go to the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead and checkout the Latigo/Chuckwagon Loop (the best hike from this trailhead!) or check out Brown’s Ranch. All are solid choices!

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