There is something incredibly peaceful about the Sonoran Desert in Arizona; the vast solitude of turquoise skies, painted by occasionally drifting, white, puffy clouds, and the quirky presence of dozens of towering Saguaro cacti blanketing the gently sloping hillsides.
Nestled in Wickenburg, only an hour’s drive west of Phoenix in the heart of this amazing beauty, is a wonderful family ranch resort destination, Rancho de los Caballeros. Since 1948, this has been a truly special place to unplug and experience a wide array of memory-making activities, first class service and the coveted feeling of a time when life was unhurried. Families come here year after year to bond, relax and absorb the desert’s magic.
What better way to enjoy the best of Arizona than a dude ranch vacation? Savor the real western lifestyle, where the world moves at a more relaxed pace, and where horseback riding is an everyday treat. Whether you’re looking for a family adventure, a solitary retreat, or a romantic getaway, you’ll find what you’ve always dreamed of in the warmth of the Arizona sun! All of the resort members of the Arizona Dude Ranch Association are committed to preserving the tradition of Western hospitality. Ranches are as diverse as Arizona, ranging from the more traditional smaller, remote ranches, where horseback riding and ranching are the primary focus, to larger resort-style guest ranches, with all the amenities.
The resort itself is quaint and classy, reminiscent of a southwestern gathering place where cowboys connected around a warm firepit, shared stories and gazed at twinkling stars. Along with the welcoming main building which has a small library, board games, the dining rooms, a pool table and plenty of seating areas around the main fireplace, this home-like feel permeates the entire ranch.
Lodging consists of 79 spacious, free-standing casitas (tiny houses) nicely spread throughout the property and ranging in size from 300-700 square feet. Some have kitchenettes, fireplaces and spa tubs. The comfort and coziness of the casita is great to come back to after a full day of exploration with all there is to do at Rancho de los Caballeros. The variety of ranch experiences is what makes this destination so flexible and desirable for families with kids of all ages.
Rancho de los Caballeros translates as “Ranch of the Gentlemen on Horseback” and this dude ranch is a fantastic opportunity to savor a glimpse of cowboy life and the majesty of horses. Kids especially love the interaction with the wranglers and horses. Each day, the ranch offers several rides for family members ages 8 and up — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — to accommodate every level of riding experience. With skilled wranglers as your guides, for several hours you and your kids can explore the nature and tranquility of the desert scenery with a beautiful warm sun to greet you. Learn about the history of the land and the complexity of the fragile ecology, see birds and wildlife and feel the soft breeze on your face.
Each night at dinner a head wrangler walks around to check in with guests to see what their riding needs will be for the next day. A nifty benefit is that since the wranglers get to know each guest individually, guests can ride the same horse each day and become familiar with their horse. The wranglers then have each guest’s special horse and saddle ready to go just the way guests like and need it before the ride. This very personal touch is integral to the overall Rancho de los Caballeros service and goes a long way in creating a unique horseback experience.
After you’ve been captivated by the vast open space of the desert via horseback, the afternoon can be spent at the Rancho de los Caballersos golf club on the greens of one of Golf Digest magazine’s top five rated courses in the Phoenix area, and one of the top 100 courses in the country. Surrounded by views of the Bradshaw Mountains and Vulture Peak, this traditional championship course design plays 7,014 yards with a challenging slope rating of 135. Constructed in 1979 by Greg Nash and Jeff Hardin, the course features rolling terrain, two beautiful lakes and numerous elevation changes. A nearly guaranteed sunny day doesn’t hurt the opportunity for a fantastic and leisurely afternoon.
Rancho de los Caballeros is indeed a resort perfectly suited for outdoor-loving and adventuring families. Guided desert hikes can be arranged up to Vulture Peak, trap and skeet lessons and shooting are available on-site, and open-jeep and ATV tours of the Sonoran Desert are available. Adventures of a Lifetime ATV offers tours within Wickenburg of abandoned gold and turquoise mines, and custom tailors the trails and tours to each riding group’s level of ability. Trek up peaks with breathtaking views of the immense desert floor and surrounding mountain ranges, or scoot through Box Canyon, a gorgeous interior part of the desert only accessible by ATV or foot, and capture this photo-opp mecca of desert cactus, flowers, plants and rock formations.
If you prefer something a little more low-key, mosey over to the ranch spa for an invigorating massage incorporating Native American traditions using essential oils of juniper, sage, cypress, lavender and cedar wood. Or indulge in an exhilarating facial with real crushed pearl powder, lemon, mulberry and licorice. Or soak in the Home Sweet Home Tranquility Bath as you recline in a claw-foot tub with soothing natural aromatic extracts of grape and orange, rose and vanilla oils. Other services include healing foot scrubs utilizing eucalyptus, grapefruit, mint, exfoliating desert wraps, reflexology, massage, manicure and relaxing hand therapies.
Though Rancho de los Caballeros is full of resort amenities, nowhere is the 5-star treatment more apparent than in the dining room and at meal times. Delicious is an understatement. The breakfast buffet includes made-to-order omelets, homemade country biscuits and gravy, waffles, French toast, thick-cut bacon, fresh berries and fruit. Lunches are a delectable selection of homemade soups, pastas, sandwiches and an endless dessert assortment of baked pies, cakes, cookies and treats.
Dinner is where the chef’s talents truly shine. The menu changes daily, and you’ll have a difficult time choosing between the many mouth-watering choices, which could include lamb stroganoff, prime rib, pumpkin risotto, lamb meatballs, chicken and dumplings, mushroom cassoulet or spaghetti squash pasta. The dishes are sophisticated and flavorful yet highly accessible, fresh and perfectly balanced with spice and delicacy. You will be both impressed and surprised at the depth and scope of the menu’s daily offerings. The exquisite food is a highlight of Rancho de los Caballeros.
One other valuable aspect to note is that Rancho de los Caballeros has a full children’s program available for guests 5 to 12 years of age, at no charge. If your kids are younger than 5, the staff makes every effort to assist with finding on-site babysitting. The Caballeros Kid’s Program has been around since the ranch first opened in 1948 and generations of families have taken part in the program. This option allows parents to enjoy some of the adult activities such as golf, the spa or horseback rides, while kids partake in activities geared especially for their age group.
Counselors begin their day at 8 a.m. and meet kids for breakfast. After a hearty meal, the group heads to the corral where children 8 and older can share in a guided trail ride, and guests age 7 and under can ring ride in the corral where basic horsemanship skills are covered. Kids will then have the opportunity to either swim, play tennis, hike or do arts and crafts. Lunch is spent with counselors as well. From 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. camp is on break so that kids can spend time with their families. If parents so choose, at 6 p.m. kids can return to their counselors and camp again for dinner and to share in more engaging, wholesome activities such as games, marshmallow roasting around the campfire or line dancing until 9 p.m. This is a great asset and feature of Rancho de los Caballeros, because you can create a day of family time, relaxing time or alone time all within the same vacation.
There is no substitute for the genuine hospitality each and every staff person extends to guests while you’re here. Rancho de los Caballeros is a family-owned and operated establishment and they go out of their way to ensure that you feel welcomed, provided for, and part of the authentic ranch resort experience. From the beautiful horses, breathtaking desert tranquility, diverse flowers, stunning sunrises and sunsets and peaceful trail rides on horseback, to the awe-inspiring vistas, turquoise sky, warm sunshine, genuine hospitality, gourmet meals and family-togetherness, this is a must-do vacation destination. It’s rare to find all of these in one place, in a way that reminds you to slow down and immerse yourself in a forever place and time.