Saddle Up at a Guest Ranch

If it’s an authentic experience you’re after, Southern Arizona guest ranches will not disappoint.

Horsemanship lessons and wrangler-guided trips (with trailside breakfast or picnic lunch) are available with well-maintained horses for riders of all experience levels. Spend as much or as little time as you like in the saddle exploring rolling hills, sandy riverbeds and rocky canyons.

Out of the saddle, there are many opportunities to sample cowboy life. You can choose from rodeos, hayrides, chuckwagon cookouts, horseshoe pitches, cowboy serenades and Western-style dances.

White Stallion Ranch, a family-owned and -operated 42-room guest ranch is also a working cattle ranch located on 3,000 acres on Tucson’s west side, adjacent to Saguaro National Park West in the Tucson Mountains. White Stallion is the site of numerous Western films and is noted for its excellent riding program.

Located on 640 acres on Tucson’s east side in the Rincon Mountain foothills, Tanque Verde Ranch Resort is bordered by both Saguaro National Park East and Coronado National Forest.

This 74-room family-owned and -operated guest-ranch resort was founded as a working cattle ranch in 1868 and was transformed into a dude ranch in the 1920s.

Situated just 65 miles from Tucson, Rancho de la Osa was established as a guest ranch in 1923.

Rancho de la Osa’s 300-year history has been preserved in the beautiful hacienda-style buildings that rest in the rolling Sonoran Desert grasslands of Southern Arizona.

On the outskirts of Tombstone, about 70 miles southeast of Tucson, sits Apache Spirit Ranch, a high-end resort property opened in 2010 for travelers seeking to experience the American Old West.

The ranch covers 272 acres on the site of a long-gone German-immigrant-owned homestead in Cochise County, homeland of the Chiricahua Apache Indians.

Originally built in 1879, Price Canyon Ranch  is a working cattle ranch located 150 miles southeast of Tucson in a box canyon surrounded by 500,000 acres of wilderness and national forest, including the towering Chiricahua Mountains. The ranch property is situated on nearly 15,000 acres and features authentic monthly cattle drives.

Western Entertainment: Rodeo, Movies and More

ESPN didn’t exist in the Old West, but sporting events did. The first Tucson Rodeo, or La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, was held in 1925. Prizes included a 750-pound block of ice, 100 pounds of potatoes and a “Big Cactus” ham.

The rodeo is Arizona’s celebration of the cowboy, and a great place to see some Western athletics and pageantry. The 2011 rodeo, February 19–27, will be the 86th edition of the event that organizers boast is one of North America’s top 20 professional rodeos.

The West was made famous on the silver screen, and Old Tucson Studios is where it happened.

Built to film the 1939 Western epic, Arizona, the working movie set is also part theme park, with live shows, thrilling stunts and saloon musicals that are fun for the whole family. Walk the same streets as John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and others who starred in so many classic Westerns.

Want more Old West entertainment? How about a shoot-out at the O.K. Corral?

Visit Tombstone and witness daily reenactments of the famous gun fight right where it happened, or visit the gun fighters’ graves at Boothill Graveyard.

Wet your whistle with a sarsaparilla – or something stronger – at long-time watering holes like the Crystal Palace Saloon, Big Nose Kate’s or the Bird Cage Theatre.

Whether you want a real ranching experience, to cheer on current cowboys or to witness the Western action you grew up watching on television, Tucson is still the best place to experience the Old West.

(Brought to you by the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau.)