East End from the south
East End is the highest point of the McDowell Mountains, an impressive range located in eastern Maricopa County, within the city of Scottsdale. Over the past 20-plus, years, the city of Scottsdale has incorporated much of the range into the city boundaries, creating the McDowell Mountains Preserve with the express intent to protect the mountains from development. The range is crossed by an extensive trail network with two several main trailheads that allow for a variety of options, including out-and-back, loop and shuttle hikes. The trails are well-maintained and the area is one of the most popular hiking areas in the Phoenix metropolitan area. On the north end, the range becomes very rocky, with cliffs, spires and pinnacles, offering fine rock-climbing routes.Looking at the McDowells from the west side, you won’t see the East End. The big pointed peak with the towers on it is Thompson Peak, elevation 3,982'. People often mistake Thompson Peak as the highest point in the range, but in fact it isn't even close. To its north is McDowell Peak, elevation 4,034'. Hence, East End hides in plain sight, and is only visible from points along Dynamite Road on the north side, or from the town of Fountain Hills to the southeast. Even then, the rocky summit doesn’t stand out visually, and most people would probably not be aware of it without a detailed map. There is a very faint trail to the top.
Despite the popularity of the McDowells, only a tiny percentage go to the top of East End. The log book averages out to about 10 visitors a month in the cooler seasons, and only a handful in the hotter summer months. Nevertheless, the hike to the top is short, steep with some minor scrambling, and quite fun. The views are outstanding.
Southeast view from summit, looking at the fountain in Fountain Hills.
The trailhead for East End is the very popular Tom's Thumb Trailhead located at 23015 N 128th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85255. It is located off of Pima Road via Happy Valley Road which swings to the north where you take Ranch Gate Road eastbound to 128th Street.
Northeast view: Tom's Thumb (left) and Pinnacle Peak
Route to top
From the parking area, take the Tom's Thumb Trail. Go west about 0.3 mile to a junction, then left, and left again about 0.5 mile later, always going up. The trail gains steeply but is an easy hike overall.In time, the trail levels a little, traverses across the rocky west-face of the East End massif. Keep going until you descend about 60 feet, directly below the summit itself.Leave the main trail at the lowpoint and follow a rougher trail and small cairns up a steep, rocky slope. You gain about 200 feet to come to a saddle. Keep an eye out for the cairns.At the saddle, follow the trail through the big boulders another 200 feet. It ends at a small saddle and a solar-panel collector. The summit is an easy walk on your left. The USGS benchmarks are set in some lower rocks. The map says 4,057 feet elevation, assuming these to be the BM. If so, the real summit is about 10 feet higher, or 4,067 feet elevation.The views are great in all directions: McDowell and Thompson Peaks to the southwest, Tom's Thumb spire and Pinnacle Peak to the northwest, the New River Mountains to the north, Mount Ord and Browns Peak are to the east, and the Superstitions, Goldfield and Usery Mountains are to the southeast. The fountain in Fountain Hills may be jetting if you catch it at the right time.The one-way distance is 1.5 miles, with about 1,100 feet of gain. Summer gets hot, but people still hike it. Go early and watch for snakes. Wear long pants and beware the usual desert obstacles. You can easily combine this hike with a trip to Tom's Thumb, The Lookout, or The Lookout Trail high point.
Tom's Thumb, across the way from the summit.
None. The park is open sun-up to sun-down only. No overnight parking or camping allowed.
Looking up at the top.
Thompson Peak and McDowell Mountain, southwest view.
Scottsdale City Highpoint?
Although it seems like it would be, East End is not the highest point in Scottsdale. A peak way north called Butte Peak, el. 4,890 feet, is the Scottsdale city highpoint, by a technicality since the city limits go all the way north into the New River Mountains to the national forest boundary. Butte Peak itself has a great trail, but is located in a neighborhood trail system which has signs that try and dissuade most hikers from visiting - although one or two people hiking Butte Peak is generally considered okay by locals.