BY KIRSTEN ALMQUIST | PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY EACH DUDE RANCH
With warm Western hospitality, well-trained horses, great food and wonderful accommodations, these four dude ranches allow everyone to play cowboy and cowgirl.
Tanque Verde Ranch
Spanish for “green pool,” Tanque Verde designates an expanse of land east of Tucson ascending into the Rincon Mountains. It’s here that this old-time cattle and guest ranch is located.
After a colorful history dating back to the late 1800s, the ranch was acquired by Brownie Cote in 1957. It has remained in the Cote family ever since. Today, Tanque Verde Ranch has 640 acres, leasing an additional 60,000 acres from the U.S. Forest Service for its cattle operation.
Guests can travel back through time and experience the dramatic days of yore in luxury. The ranch offers a variety of lodging options that combine the spirit of the Old West with today’s modern amenities. With an abundance of activities for all ages, there is never a dull moment. Whether a guest seeks to explore the desert and mountains, relax and unwind, satisfy a creative craving, or burn up some energy with a challenging game of tennis or volleyball, there’s something for everyone. Opportunities include spending the morning on miles of exciting horse trails, then winding down at La Sonora Spa. Afterward, guests are invited to head down to Cottonwood Grove for a down-home ranch barbecue experience, and even top off the evening with a cowboy cocktail at The Dog House Saloon.
14301 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ, (520) 296-6275, tanqueverderanch.com
Fifty miles southwest of Tucson sits Elkhorn Ranch, at an altitude of 3,700 feet. The picturesque Baboquivari Mountains and the open Sonoran Desert terrain of Altar Valley encompass the ranch.
A classic winter season dude ranch experience is provided by the third generation of the Miller Family and their crew. From November to April guests participate in exemplary horseback riding and comfortable living. Most guests stay for a least a week, but many winter visitors settle in for longer stays.
Whether traveling solo, as a couple, or with family, vacationers will find camaraderie, relaxation and adventure around the ranch and on miles of mountain and desert trails.
The Elkhorn Ranch’s herd of around 120 saddle horses, along with breeding stock and colts, graze in large pastures surrounding the ranch headquarters. They are raised on the property or brought to the ranch as young horses. Having learned to live in the rough country, Elkhorn horses are sure-footed and strong — the perfect companions on the trail.
Home-cooked meals are served buffet-style at the Long House three times a day. For a healthy start, guests can order a hot breakfast of their choice. A picnic lunch cooked over an open fire is a weekly treat. Other options include all-day rides with sack lunches or camp cooking. Evening entertainment is casual, with beer, wine and soft drinks available at the ranch office store for guests to enjoy at their own cabins.
27000 W. Elkhorn Ranch Rd., Tucson, AZ, (520) 822-1040, elkhornranch.com
Circle Z Ranch
The crackle of a campfire, the creak of a leather saddle and rugged vistas without end transport vacationers to a time when days were spent on horseback and nights under the stars. Corralled in Southern Arizona’s Sky Islands, Circle Z Ranch is the oldest, continually operating guest ranch in Arizona. The ranch, located in Patagonia, started as a sheep-herding operation in the 1880s and developed into a dude ranch in the 1920s.
After changing hands several times, Circle Z has been owned and operated by the Nash family since 1976. Mrs. Nash’s many visits to the ranch as a child launched her interest in the facility. The family’s avowed aim has been to run a traditional- style ranch with an emphasis on recreational riding, good food and congenial guests.
Guided by expert wranglers, visitors can explore trails across thousands of scenic acres that have been the backdrops for many Western movies. Back at the ranch, there is the option to partake in other outdoor activities like yoga and hiking, or join fellow guests fireside at the ranch’s rustic lodge.
In true cowboy fashion, meals are cooked from scratch using locally grown ingredients. Circle Z Ranch offers three cookouts each week in addition to their regular buffet-style spread: Monday Steak Cookout, Wednesday Picnic Cookout, and Saturday Chuck-Wagon. After dinner, families can go their separate ways — kids to the game room and parents to the BYOB Cantina where stories from the day are shared and friendships are forged.
1476 AZ Highway 82, Patagonia, AZ, (520) 394-2525, circlez.com
White Stallion Ranch
What began as a cattle ranch in the 1930s now represents more than 50 years of mindful stewardship of the land and exceptional guest services provided by the third-generation True family. In 1965, Allen and Cynthia True, with two kids in tow, came from Colorado to make the ranch their home. Back then the ranch consisted
of 17 rooms, 17 horses and 200 acres. The Trues didn’t waste any time and soon began purchasing adjacent land as it became available, increasing the ranch to 3,000 acres. Today, the property features 43 guest rooms and a five-bedroom hacienda.
Located at the base of the Tucson Mountains, the ranch has spacious and charming accommodations with spectacular views of the cactus gardens, mountains and corrals. Nightly rates include lodging, all meals and most activities.
There is no shortage of activities to enjoy, including tennis, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, hayrides and shooting. However, the real adventure — the one for which most people visit the ranch
— requires a sturdy pair of jeans and some boots. White Stallion Ranch owns one of the largest private herds of horses in Arizona. Guests can choose from slow rides, fast rides, hayrides and all-day rides. The experienced horse owner, the “first-time” rider and everyone in between can find an equestrian experience to fit their interests and abilities. One unique feature of this dude ranch is WSR’s weekly rodeo, where wranglers, family and friends practice skills with team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping and more. At the end of a long day, guests can enjoy dinner that’s been grilled over an outdoor fire, accompanied by home-style side dishes and a delectable dessert. Evening entertainment can be everything from art classes, to campfire songs, to line dancing.
9251 W. Twin Peaks Rd., Tucson, AZ, (520) 297-0252, whitestallion.com