Tom Thumb Trailhead
The starting point for the Marcus Landslide Trail is the Tom Thumb Trailhead which is part of the Sonoran Conservancy. The trailhead is the starting point for many other great trails in the McDowell mountains which I will cover in more blog posts. There are two big parking lots, horse trailer parking and restrooms. There is no water so bring plenty with you.
History Of The Marcus Landslide
The McDowell Mountains are about 20 miles northwest of Phoenix and the site of a large-scale landslide which happened about 500,000 years ago. A portion of the east-central summit collapse into the valley covering a large section.
The landslide consisted of about 7.2 million cubic yards that flowed eastward for about a mile. The debris field is 1,650 feet wide, 4,000 feet long, and 100 feet above the valley floor. What we see today are the huge boulders that flowed out from the mountain.
Marcus Landslide Trail
The trail is 4.1 miles out and back trail that begins at the Tom Thumb Trailhead. It is an interpretive trail with many places to stop and read signs along the way that describe the Marcus Landslide and the geology of the region.
The trail is mostly easy with a few parts where you have some elevation gain. Where it loops around the end section has the steepest elevation gain. There are many places to view the valley below so bring your camera. You can see the town of Fountain Hills in the distance.