The low ranch house built in 1868 stretches out beside an emerald lawn shaded by ancient trees. But first there are the horses. You cannot miss the rich aroma of the crowd milling around in the corral across from the parking lot. Many of the 180 horses belonging to the ranch will be hanging out here waiting to go to work on trail rides for horseback riding vacations.
Once there were more than a dozen dude ranches circling Tucson, Arizona. The winter sun drew visitors to the lush Sonoran desert, where a proliferation of mesquite and palo verde trees shade patches of ground near washes and prickly pear, spiky ocotillo and stately Giant Saguaro cactuses fill in the dry stretches. Today only two of the old time ranches still offer horseback riding vacations. The oldest, Tanque Verde Ranch (pronounced TANK-uh VER-dee) presents the classic dude ranch experience, with some extras that Tucson pioneers never dreamed of.
The dude ranch takes up a corner of an even older honest-to-goodness working ranch at the foot of the Rincons and surrounded by Saguaro National Park. They still run cattle here.
Nearly 80 rooms in a variety of styles house horseback riding vacation guests. When you visit the ranch, peek into the library to the right of the front door. Look up at the heavy beamed ceiling. That’s where some bad guys hung the rancher (yes, by the neck) in an attempt to get him to tell where he had hidden his money. He claimed he didn’t have any and they cut him down before he expired.
While adults are going on desert horseback riding vacations or participating in team roping, the kids get basic riding instruction in a penned obstacle course. Here the buckaroos are prepared to ride in the open desert, and their own arena where they can learn trickier maneuvers. Parents like the fact that all the kids’ activities—and the adults, too, are part of the all-inclusive rate.
With hundreds of miles of trails surrounding the property, separate corrals for adult activities, and all day trail rides into the surrounding Saguaro National Monument’s beautiful foothills country, adults can totally surrender to their inner cowboy. Or they can never set foot in a stirrup. Opting instead to walk a little, spy some wildlife, read a book by the outdoor pool, stay indoors at La Sonora spa or exercise and swim at the indoor pool. Lasso or luxuriate, at Tanque Verde, its up to you.
Tanque Verde Ranch Resort (800) 234-DUDE(3883) or (520) 296-6275
14301 E. Speedway, Tucson, AZ 85748
Guest post and photos by Vera Marie Badertscher all rights reserved.