Tanque Verde Ranch Review in Tucson, Arizona

Are you interested in a dude ranch vacation in Tucson, Arizona? While there are plenty of guest ranches in Arizona, Tanque Verde Ranch is both easily accessible and a step back in time. Why trust my Tanque Verde Ranch review? I’m an equestrian travel expert. I’ve ridden at this Tucson, Arizona guest ranch and I am able to compare it to horseback riding vacations around the world.

Canvas covered wagon on the grounds of Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. The canvas wagon cover bears the logo Tanque Verde Ranch, established 1868, with a trio of 3 saguaro cactus on the beige fabric. An evening sunset lights up the sky with clouds of pink and grey. Two scraggly trees flank the wagon with the stables building partially blocked, behind the antique chuck wagon.

What to except at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona

Whether you are flying into Tucson International Airport or driving a car to the Arizona ranch, you’ll want to spend at least five days at Tanque Verde Dude Ranch. My stay was too short. I did not have time to visit La Sonora Spa or check all of the family-friendly activities off my list.

This Arizona dude ranch vacation will work for young families, multi-generational travel, girl-friend getaways or romantic escapes. Tanque Verde is an all-inclusive guest ranch that was established in 1868 as a working cattle ranch. Currently owned and operated by the Cote family, and located on the east side of Tucson, by the Rincon Mountains, Tanque Verde is a laid back ranch with a can-do staff.

What to pack on a horseback riding vacation in Tucson

This was my first time to this Tucson dude ranch, but not my first rodeo. I knew to wear my leather boots and cowboy hat on the airplane. When I arrived in Arizona in December, I felt ready for my Sonoran desert holiday. Don’t worry if you are not sure what to pack for a horseback riding vacation. You can pick up a pair of cowboy boots in downtown Tucson or you can purchase a cowboy hat, t-shirt, vest or branded leather gloves in the Tanque Verde gift shop. They also have riding helmets to borrow (required for minors 17 and younger) if you would like to protect your head.

Serious equestrians, or those wishing to avoid saguaro cactus needles in your pants, might want to bring 1/2 chaps with you. Some ranches offer leather chaps to borrow, but Tanque Verde did have tweezers for me to use. My wrangler was great at stopping our horses for pictures, as well as assisting in the removal of the few needles I managed to come in contact with on my trail ride. My horse was smart enough to avoid contact with any cactus.

Finally, don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle and a stampede string for your hat. The ranch offers saddle bags for carrying incidentals. As always, turn your cell phone off, or leave your telephone in the room.

Ramada sala room with queen bed and 3 white pillows. Small wood nightstand on either side of bed. Small lamp mounted on wall, above each night stand. Wood beamed logs on ceiling with mustard-colored adobe painted walls. A large window is partially shown to right of bed. Southwestern blanket and matching area rug on wood-planked floor of hotel room.

Rooms and casitas in Tucson, Arizona

There are many different lodging options for this 4 star hotel. I rode with two riding friends from Canada who had been returning to Tanque Verde Ranch for years. While staying in separate salas, they have tried most every room on the 60,000 acre property in Tucson’s Sonoran desert.

Families will want to look at casitas as they are more spacious than salas (hotel rooms with southwestern decor.) Some of the casitas have a fireplace and small patio.

I stayed in ramada sala #4 with a queen bed, separate bathroom and large walk-in shower. I was there for the horseback riding and was fine with my simple room. It was conveniently located off the front lawn and main walkway to the dining room, gift shop and directly across from the horse corrals. All rooms include a mini fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer.

Tanque Verde Ranch is ada compliant, offering wheelchair ramps and reduced mobility rooms. Full disclosure, I’m advanced at horseback riding, having owned three Quarter Horses in my youth. I experienced the loping rides and was not aware of any riders who were physically disabled during my dude ranch holiday. I always recommend calling ahead of your vacation to discuss any questions or concerns with ranch staff.

Wooden benches and rustic wooden adirondack chairs line the walkway at Tanque Verde Ranch. Brick-paved walkway holds large ceramic planter in front of one of four hotel room doors. Antique metal wagon wheels lean against the brick and adode terracotta-colored walls.

Restaurants and cookouts at Tanque Verde Ranch

I repeatedly recommend all-inclusive vacations because I don’t enjoy cooking. I excel at dining out. Tanque Verde Ranch has my back, from the Carrillo Dining Room to the Cowboy Cookout. There are several ways to experience this Arizona dude ranch vacation. I experienced the all-inclusive option, but there is also three squares and a bed or the Rise and Dine package.

Amble over to the Dog House saloon for light bites, beer, wine, cocktails or a friendly game of billiards.

Two ladies sit at the horseshoe-shaped wood counter at Dog House saloon. Two antique metal wagon wheels are suspended from the wooden rafters by chain link. Tito's Handmade Vodka sign is next to a flat screen tv over the bar. Western bucking bronco framed pictures are on the adobe walls, above the wall of liquor bottles on three shelves. A female bartended prepares a drink behind the bar.

As mentioned previously, my visit was too short. I was able to experience the Cowboy Cookout, but I lament that I did not have time to try the walking or loping breakfast horseback ride.

The Cowboy Cookout is included in the all-inclusive dude ranch vacation. Ranch hands, driving electric golf carts, will whisk you to Cottonwood Grove, by Lake Corchran. Here you’ll be greeted by friendly staff and offered non-alcoholic drinks or belly up to the no-host bar.

Soon the dinner bell will clang and you’ll make your way to the buffet tables. Dinner options on our visit included beef brisket, barbeque ribs, fish, cornbread, baked potatoes, baked beans, potato salad, fresh fruit and salad.

Entertainment included live music with the Johnny and Jack Ranch Band, line dancing and sitting around one of several blazing fire pits. Of course, dessert was involved. Make your own s’mores at the wood-fired pizza oven, or chow down on fresh baked cobbler, double chocolate brownies or cookies. Be sure to try a prickly pear margarita or a non-alcoholic prickly pear lemonade.

Equestrian travel writer Nancy D. Brown on a silver buckskin Quarter Horse. Nancy is wear a straw cowboy hat, black leather vest with black fringe and long, blue-gray pants with black riding boots. She is seated in a Western saddle. Her left, leather-clad hand holds the leather reins on the horse's bridle. Behind Nancy are five saguaro cactus, the Saguaro National Park and the start of a yellow and blue sunset in the Tucson, Arizona sky.

Tanque Verde equestrian activities

Come to Tucson, Arizona for the old west dude ranch experience and the horseback riding. Tanque Verde Ranch takes on all levels of riders, from beginners to experienced equestrians. My favorite part of this dude ranch holiday was the possibility of loping rides.

I’ve ridden on the wide open range near Helena, Montana and I’ve galloped horses on the beach in Oregon. Nothing will prepare you for horseback riding by Saguaro National Park. With it’s never-ending sunsets and Gumby-inspired saguaro cactus, riding in the Sonoran desert is a trip.

On this horseback riding holiday, I was joined by a first time rider. She confessed that she was nervous to get up on such a large animal. I suggested that she take the horsemanship lesson offered by the experienced wranglers. It takes a skilled wrangler to match horse with rider. Tanque Verde’s head wrangler did an excellent job of fitting each rider to their mount.

I particularly liked the lope check – required to evaluate one’s equestrian riding skills. There’s nothing worse than getting out on the trail and realizing that your fellow rider has over-sold his or her riding abilities. Demonstrating that they have no control in their ability to transition from a walk and trot to a lope, they are risking the safety of everyone on the trail ride.

Walk rides are designed for a leisurely, scenic ride for all levels. Intermediate rides are designed for dude ranch guests with one lesson under their belt, or comfortable trotting horses. Lope rides are fast paced and cater to the experienced equestrian. If your goal is a lope ride, take some lessons, have an open mind and listen to your wrangler – they have your best interest at heart.

The outdoor swimming pool at Tanque Verde Ranch. Rectangular shaped pool with blue bottom and concrete patio. Backed against La Sonora Spa, the walls to the spa building show five windows into the adobe building. a rock waterfall to the right of the pool features an arch for guest to walk through. Two round patio tables with closed umbrellas are to the left of the pool.

Dude ranch activities for the outdoor enthusiast

Whether you are coming to Tanque Verde Ranch for a relaxing holiday or a change of scenery, you will not be bored. You do not need to like horses to enjoy Tanque Verde guest ranch. You do not need to go horseback riding to enjoy a Sonoran desert vacation in Tucson, Arizona. I get that not everyone is as horse-crazy as I am.

For those who like to enjoy outdoor activities while on vacation, there’s mountain bike riding, archery, axe throwing, guided fishing, hiking and tennis. There is an indoor and outdoor swimming pool for laps or lounging. There’s La Sonora Spa for those who wish to be pampered. (Did I mention that I will be returning to the ranch to try the spa after a morning of team penning on horseback?) The nature center is for the curious who might enjoy a venom presentation about snakes.

When to visit Tanque Verde Ranch

October – April is high season at Tanque Verde dude ranch. May to September is low season due to the heat of the Sonoran desert. I should mention that rides and activities typically happen in the morning during the summer season. Plenty of pool time is involved for both kid’s programs and adulting. Full disclosure, my children are now grown adults. My insider tip is to visit Tanque Verde right after the Thanksgiving holiday if you want few people and virtually no children on property.

The guest ranch is not pet-friendly. Staff are happy to make suggestions for dog boarding if you are traveling with your furry friend. Silversmith, leather and pine needle workshops involve an additional fee. Gratuities are not included. If you enjoyed your ride, remember to tip your guide. The same tipping guidelines apply for other ranch staff.

Why trust Nancy D. Brown and the Writing Horseback blog? Nancy D. Brown is an equestrian travel expert and avid traveler. She has visited dude ranches around the world. She rides in the American West and Sonoran desert often. Her personal experience riding at a Western dude ranch and extensive research resulted in this in-depth Tanque Verde Ranch review.

Tanque Verde Ranch review, YouTube video and all photography by Pacific Northwest travel writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Tanque Verde Ranch for review purposes. All opinions are my own.