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Hikes In Arizona: The Thumb Butte Trail

Basic Information

  • Name: Thumb Butte Trail
  • Where: Prescott, Arizona
  • Elevation: 6,514 feet (Hike goes to 6,325 ft)
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 541 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • More Information: Prescott National Forest website

Topographic Map of Thumb Butte Trail

Thumb Butte Trail Map

Thumb Butte Elevation Map

Thumb Butte Elevation Map

Narrative

Prescott, Arizona has many historical and cultural attractions to check out, but another great aspect of the city are the surrounding mountains and the extensive trail system that accesses these various peaks.  The mountain most iconic and associated with Prescott is without a doubt Thumb Butte:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

Thumb Butte rises up a thousand feet over Prescott like a sentinel over-watching the city from the West:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

Its prominence and proximity to Prescott also make it a popular hiking destination.  It is estimated that 3,000 people hike up the trail every month.  The trailhead can be accessed by following Gurley Street from downtown Prescott for approximately 10 minutes and just follow the signs to the trailhead:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

At the trailhead there is a picnic area on one side of the street where the parking lot is located and across the street is where the hike up Thumb Butte begins:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

The trail up Thumb Butte is paved for most of the way up the mountain:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

This was a dirt trail the last time I hiked up here many years ago so the fact it has been paved means that people with mobility problems may be able to hike up this trail.  Of course the trail was dominated with nice views of Thumb Butte:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

Besides Thumb Butte the trail also provided some nice distant views of the 7,626 foot Granite Mountain rising up in the distance:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

As hiked higher up the trail I noticed that an early morning moon was still visible over Thumb Butte’s summit rock outcropping:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

Near the top of Thumb Butte there is a bench for people to take a break on and enjoy the views:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

Of course from the upper reaches of Thumb Butte there are great views looking back over the beautiful city of Prescott which is ringed by the adjacent Bradshaw Mountains:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

Unfortunately from the bench hikers cannot continue to the summit of Thumb Butte because it has been blocked off to protect peregrine falcon nests in the rocks:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

According to the SedonaEye website the closure of the summits of Thumb Butte and nearby Granite Mountain extends for six months every year and this has been going on for 11 years so far.  It has been over 10 years since I last hiked up Thumb Butte so I was unaware of these closures.  The below picture is as close as I was able to get during the closure period to the actual summit of the mountain:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

From the top of the ridgeline it was just a nice pleasant walk through the woods back to the trailhead.  There was a sign along the trail  that explained how most of the trees around Thumb Butte had been logged during the early years of Prescott.  That is why many of the trees around the mountain are smaller ponderosa pines:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

However, occasionally a larger ponderosa pine could be seen towering over the smaller ones because it is one of the trees on Thumb Butte that survived being logged:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

There was also the occasional dead tree that another signboard stated were important to the forest because they provided nesting areas for birds and small critters:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

Here is the largest dead tree I saw along the trail:

Picture from Thumb Butte, Arizona

Conclusion

Overall the hike on Thumb Butte trail is a pleasant two mile walk that should be doable for just about anyone.  Now that most of the trail is paved even people with mobility issues should be able to get to the upper bench with little assistance.  This really is a great trail to get some morning exercise and enjoy the outdoors and views of Prescott.

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