I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The truth is, I’m not very adventurous person, I don’t think. I don’t think that I would ever jump out of an airplane, camping is just about the last thing that I would ever want to do, and even though I’m dying to ride a Harley, it still scares me. That said, when it comes to vacations, I’m not that adventurous either. I’m a total creature of habit. Palm Springs, Newport Beach and Big Bear are pretty much my staples. So when our family made plans to spend three nights at Tanque Verde Ranch, I didn’t know what I was getting us into. All I knew was that we needed flannel shirts, jeans and cowboy boots. Tanque Verde has been welcoming guests since the 1950’s and have over an 85% return rate! What could be better?
As our vacation neared, I started talking to people about where we were going and some had actually visited it before. Everybody spoke highly of it. I grew very excited for the trip. We embarked on the longest road trip our family had ever done. Eight hours total to Tucson from where we lived. With such a large family, it was cheaper than flying. We decided to leave a day earlier, stay outside of Phoenix for the night and continue to our destination the following morning.
We arrived at Tanque Verde Ranch two hours after leaving Phoenix. The ranch is located down a very long narrow road with 1 Adobe home spotted maybe every other block. We arrived to the sprawling grounds driving up to the office to check in, passing many many horses. When we checked in, one of the ladies that worked in the front, sat down with me and explained everything that is going on at the ranch and then gave us the keys to our Hacienda.
The room could not have been more perfect for us. There was a private room that had a king size bed and then a common bathroom that was extremely large with a jacuzzi tub and separate shower along with an extraordinarily large living room area, a fireplace, a couch, two chairs, coffee table plus a little sitting area with four chairs and a table. It also had a sink and a refrigerator. The fun part was that two queen size bed’s came out of the wall, Murphy beds. It felt very authentic for Arizona ranch , tastefully decorated in rich southwestern style. They offer a variety of lodging options that provide guests with spectacular scenic views of the desert and mountains. Traditional adobe walls and Santa Fe style architecture perfectly complement the beauty of the natural surroundings.
The first thing we did when we arrived is had lunch in a very very large dining room with a really nice buffet. I’m not talking hometown buffet. I’m talking a gorgeous salad bar with large shrimp and clams, bagels lox and cream cheese, and a carving station with many other hot entrées as well cooked to perfection by their master chef and his team of talented Ranch Cooks.
After lunch we decided that we were going to go fishing. Lake Corchran is a great place for family bonding, with the 1.5 acre catch-and-release fishing lake that provides a relaxing, close-to-nature experience. Bluegill sunfish, largemouth bass, and channel catfish provide plenty of action and sport for both experienced and novice anglers. With tackle and bait provided, you’ll have everything you need to enjoy an afternoon on a refreshing desert lake. For those who want to learn a little more about the sport, fishing instruction is also available several days a week.
From there we went to their cookout. Twice a week at the Cottonwood Grove, they have a down-home ranch barbeque experience. Live music, and a barbecue with ribs, chicken, steak, hamburgers and hot dogs, fire pits for everybody, s’mores, and hot apple cider. Great food, authentic entertainment, good company and incredible scenery.
The next day we woke up early in the morning to get ready for the breakfast ride, an enjoyable activity for everyone…regardless of skill level. This leisurely horseback riding adventure presents the perfect opportunity to experience desert vegetation and wildlife up-close and personal. Saguaro and prickly pear cacti line the mountain trails and blanket the rest of the natural desert landscape. They have 150-plus well-cared-for horses with a variety for riders of different ages and abilities. Everybody is given a horse and we enjoyed the leisurely ride while the morning sun came up. After about an hour, we made it to the top of the mountain where they have a breakfast cook out. Everything made in the outdoors. Blueberry pancakes, ranch eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, hot chocolate, coffee & orange juice – everything you could want, while eating on picnic benches in the middle of the Arizona desert, with horses in the background. Remember, all of this is just in a span of 20 hours (with sleep included in that number!)
The rest of the vacation went on to include more breakfast rides, horseback riding lessons, trail rides, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, yoga, a terrific magic show, a rattlesnake demo, an indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi and more buffets.
We even participated in team penning! The object of this friendly, timed competition is to maneuver a herd of cattle through a series of obstacles and into a pen. Teams are made up of three to six riders who must convince a herd of eight cattle to cooperate. After weaving through obstacles, each team must coax the cattle into one of three available pens. Team Penning is done at a walk or trot, so riders of all skill levels may participate. The activity requires strategy and communication with your horse and teammates. It was so much fun and a great way to meet lots of new people too!
They have a wonderful kids club for children ages 4 to 12. It’s full of fun and activities and is complimentary to all guests in an all-inclusive package. Kids join a group based on age – Buckaroos (4-6), Wranglers (7-9), and Outlaws (10-12) – Riders will learn the basics through a variety of horse activities and will be advanced based on ability. During the day, kids will also participate in many more fun-filled activities.
They also have a saloon, which offers a full bar, local craft beers and their famous prickly pear margaritas. Catch-up on the latest news and sports on one of their satellite TVs, or reminisce with family and friends about your adventures of the day. Fresh popcorn is constantly being made & children are allowed in from 4-7pm nightly.
They do have a spa which I’ve heard is amazing however I didn’t partake in any massages or facials while I was there. There was really too many other things that I would rather be doing.
This is not your average resort. You will not be sleeping in. There is no pool boy spritzing you with water. You will get dirty and dusty and your boots may get muddy. This is adventure to remember forever with your family. It’s for the adventurous, those that love the outdoors, and those that want a memorable trip to last a lifetime. Leave your plugged-in life behind (there are only a couple tv’s in common areas and very spotty wifi) for the quiet of Arizona’s wide-open spaces and warm, laid-back Western hospitality. Whether you’re a seasoned horseback rider, a fresh cowpoke or someone who prefers just watching horses, you’ll find a memorable vacation at this Arizona dude ranch.
Although they offer B&B rates, most families opt for the All-Inclusive program, where activities and meals are wrapped into the pricing. You don’t have to think about bills or signing checks, you just enjoy all the ranch has to offer and know what it will cost at the end of the stay. Unlike other dude ranches that require a Sunday-to-Sunday or a Saturday-to-Saturday weeklong stay, Tanque Verde does not have a weekly minimum. Families can come for two or three days. There really is a feeling of being taken care of at the ranch. The Ranch Manager, Jim Bankson, frequently checks in with guests. The front desk staff is exceptional. Everyone’s aim is make sure guests are happy. The way it should be!
We were all sad to leave. None of us wanted to come back to reality. The ranch really was an magnificent place. We had the best time, being together, experiencing new things, and creating memories as a family. We cannot wait to go back, and the boys are already planning the next trip to Tucson, hoping they can talk some of their friends parents into joining us as well.