Visions of the Old West abound in Arizona: Saguaro cacti, as far as the eye can see, mountains to climb, and the feeling that a certain cowboy will ride up over the crest, hunting buffalo any minute seem to be everywhere.
But don’t wait for the cowboy! You can be a cowgal at any of these ranches in Arizona. This information is to help you plan your winter vacations — as you want to be sure to take your trip during those months due the summer’s extreme heat.
Bumble Bee Ranch
The Bumble Bee Ranch is located north of Phoenix, in the little town of Bumble Bee. To get there, you drive down a tiny road paved only part of the way and is a dirt road for the rest. Be careful, cattle might block the entrance to the ranch; honk if you need them to move.
The ranch has so many activities to choose from you might want to stay for longer than a day. They have the “Big House” that sleeps 8 people in beds. If you really want to rough it, have a tent adventure! Tents can also sleep 8 people, they’re near bathroom facilities and a fire pit.
For the traveler who has never been on a horse, a trail ride is a great way to break in the old saddle. For guests six years and older, the tour guide leads the group through the Sonoran Desert for an hour and a half. If you’re feeling particularly cowgal-ish, you might want to extend your ride to two hours, a half day, or even a full day, which includes lunch. The prices for this vary from $38 per person up to $115 per person for the full day rides. Give a call to the ranch to check on prices, though, they might change.
For the city slicker who wants the full cowboy experience, there are cattle drives. Yes, you are taught how to rustle cattle, and then put your new knowledge to the test, driving the cattle across the desert for an hour and a half. This fun will usually cost you $85 per person.
Perhaps trail riding isn’t your style. Well, don’t despair, the ranch has got this covered as well. For the nature lovers who don’t want to ride a horse, there are hummer tours, helicopter tours, nature hikes, and even target shooting.
Cave Creek Trial Rides
Here, one can add to the real feeling of being a cowboy by dressing up in chaps, a hat and boots! Then hop on your horse for a ride through Cave Creek recreational park. There are a number of rides to choose from, one-, two-, three-hour rides, and sunset rides. What better way to watch the sun set than from on a horse? The prices vary, starting at $35 per person all the way to $85 per person.
Spur Cross Stables
This stable is also located in Cave Creek. Immediately on arrival, you’ll notice the gynormous pig roaming around the premises.
Guides at the Spur Cross Stables, who share their knowledge of many parts of the area, including the indigenous plants that make their home in the desert, lead trail rides lasting from one hour up to full day rides.
There’s also a trail ride where the guides take you to look at Petroglyphs. For those of you who are rusty on your history, it means you’ll be gazing upon the drawings made by prehistoric people. If you have kids, it’s a great way to incorporate learning into the adventure. These trips usually last for five to six hours. You’ll want to check with the stables for a firm price.
Get in with a good group and you’re sure to have a blast! At the end of the ride you get to give your horse a carrot as a special treat, and as a “thank you” for hauling you across the desert.
OK Corral Horseback Riding Stables
This stable is located in the Superstitious Mountains. Trail rides are offered, but this one also offers one to three day horseback camping trips in the mountains. It’s your chance to shed your city slickness and become a true cow gal.
For the experienced riders, there is a Reavis Ranch trip. The idea of this trip is that you are really living life like they did back in the day. There will be no hot dinner waiting for you at the campsite; you’ll bring your own food, and cook it in the middle of the Superstitious Mountains. The cool thing for this trip is you can submit a proposed route, the ranch approves it, and gives you a guide who takes care of the horses, guides through the mountain, and gives history of the areas. However, the guide is not there to coddle you, and make things easy.
In addition to this, there is a Lost Dutchman Trip. The history of the Lost Dutchman Mine starts with the Perlatas. They were a Spanish family who originally found a mine teeming with gold, but were attacked by Indians in 1848 who killed most of the family. The survivors closed up the mine and took off. Lore has it a man, Jacob Waltz, discovered the Perlata family mine. Waltz, nicknamed the Dutchman because he was originally from Germany, wouldn’t tell anyone the location. When Waltz finally decided to tell the location of the mine, it was too late, he died October 25, 1891. And the hunt for the Lost Dutchman mine began.
There are many thoughts about the mine. One is the Perlata lore. There is another, established by the book, “Shadow of the Sentinel” by Warren Getler and Bob Brewer. Gelter and Brewer propose that the mine was actually a confederate holding area, “A Confederate Fort Knox in Arizona.” It goes so far to say that Jesse James was a high-ranking officer of the Knights of the Golden Circle, and the money he stole actually was stored at that mine for the KGC’s use.
No matter what you believe, the money is still there somewhere in the mountain. And, OK Corral Stables will take you hunting for the treasure. The Dutchman trip is three days on horseback, searching for the lost mine. The trip includes five “Dutchman” books, and a field guide. It runs about $1,200 per person, but make sure to check the price with the ranch. Authors of the books will be speakers on the trail. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the mine!
These are only a few of the many ranches in Arizona. There are myriad of choices, be it a one-hour trip all the way to a full day, or even three days! For the people who have never ridden before, start out easy. One hour, or one and a half, is a great beginning. Then you will be able to ascertain if you actually enjoy riding. In addition, the first ride is rough on the body. It’s amazing how keeping your legs on the side of the horse, and keeping your feet in the stirrups, actually hurts! It can wreak havoc on the knees, thighs and butt. However, there is nothing that can beat riding a horse through the desert, taking in the Saguaro cacti up close and personal, along with all the wildlife that you can only find in the Sonoran Desert. It’s all worth it.