This rustic, all-inclusive resort is a quintessential Western dude ranch surrounded by miles of gorgeous mountains and desert. The property borders Saguaro National Park East, where guests can enjoy guided horseback rides, hiking, and mountain biking. There’s also swimming, communal ranch meals, and kids’ activities. Despite the resort's remote location, guests can stay plugged in with free Wi-Fi access. Guest rooms, however, lack TVs -- though for some, that only adds to the authenticity of the experience.
Historic ranch in a spectacular natural setting that allows for lots of outdoor activities, including horseback riding and fishing
Several miles east of Tucson, the Tanque Verde Ranch has one of the best locations in the West for guests who want to experience the rustic ranch life while enjoying a luxe resort. Horseback riding and the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert are Tanque Verde’s calling cards, along with upscale accommodations and top-notch service in everything from the riding lessons to the communal meals.
With the dramatic Rincon Mountains and Saguaro National Park East on one side, and the Coronado National Forest on the other, there’s room to stretch out and explore here. The ranch alone comprises some 60,000 acres, making it the largest in North America. With nature so near, it’s easy to experience its wonders all day long, which is what Tanque Verde is all about. Trails can be explored on horseback, with different rides available for beginners and more advanced riders. Wranglers also offer riding lessons for various skill levels.
Along with serene horseback rides into the desert, the ranch also offers guided hikes and mountain bike excursions. One of the highlights is a morning horseback ride to a remote breakfast camp, where a hot meal is served up outdoors. A barbecue cookout with bonfires and steak, beans, and all the fixings is also held weekly. Three meals a day are served communally in the vast dining room. Live country music and dancing are part of the scene at the lounge in the evenings.
Tanque Verde educates guests about the desert with a Nature Center that houses critters such as rattlesnakes, scorpions, and other venomous creatures. For those who want to laze about and enjoy the stunning surroundings, the rooms are quiet and private with patios facing the desert. An indoor pool, outdoor pool, several Jacuzzis, and tennis courts offer more ways to spend time. At the end of the day -- and the ranch makes the days full by scheduling activities from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily -- everyone comes together for dinner to share trail stories while watching a spectacular Arizona sunset.
East of Tucson, in a remote setting bordered by public lands
The Tanque Verde Ranch is located about a 50-minute drive from the Tucson International Airport, several miles east of the city in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains. Saguaro National Park East and the Coronado National Forest both border the ranch. The setting is remote. No shuttle service is offered.
Tucson is the second-biggest city in Arizona and perhaps its most culturally rich. Though officially founded in 1776, Tucson was first settled in the late 1600s by Spanish missionaries (most notably at the beautiful Mission San Xavier del Bac, the region's most iconic structure), and 4000 years earlier by Hohokam Indians. It is said to be one of the longest continuously-inhabited cities in the USA, known since its inception as the "Old Pueblo."
Sitting at 2,400 feet in a broad valley between five different mountain ranges, Tucson enjoys on average 350 sunny days per year and an arid climate that produces one of the most diverse desert environments in the world. The Sonoran Desert features the stately saguaro cactus, which is celebrated at Saguaro National Park on the city's outskirts, and many other varieties of cacti and unique wildlife including a few notable desert dwellers, such as rattlesnakes, Gila Monsters, and Giant Desert Hairy Scorpions. There was even a 2009 sighting of a rare jaguar. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has wildlife and flora on display, and is the best place to learn more.
With all that sunshine, Tucson is an outdoor lover's paradise. Scores of golf courses dot the city. Hiking possibilities are limitless and year-round in the Santa Catalina and Santa Rita Mountains nearby, with Sabino Canyon Recreation Area being a local favorite. Mountain bikers come to Tucson by the thousands for the miles of single-track trails in the desert. Bird-watchers can explore some of the richest avian populations in North America in nearby secluded canyons. And there's even a ski area among fir and pine trees atop Mt. Lemmon, which has an elevation of more than 9,000 feet.
Tucson's Hispanic community is woven into the fabric of everyday life in the city, and is reflected in the Mexican restaurants, the Spanish place names, and the arts and culture that play a large part in forming Tucson's identity. The arts abound in Tucson in dozens of galleries, such as the Etherton Gallery or DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun (celebrating the work of Tucson artist Ted DeGrazia). The University of Arizona houses the Creative Center for Photography, the nation's largest repository of photographs by notable artists such as Ansel Adams and W. Eugene Smith.
As a desert city, Tucson gets hot in the summertime with temps ranging in the 100s from May to mid-September. Winter is the busy season, when many visitors succumb to the temptations of 75-degree days and pleasant evenings around a fireplace. Summers can be enjoyable too, by sticking close to a pool or indulging in shopping -- just remember to pack extra water and avoid exertion in the midday sun. Locals might suggest taking a siesta -- "nap" in Spanish -- during midday hours.
It's important to realize that freeways are nonexistent in Tucson, save for I-10. Driving times can vary depending on time of day, as rush hour creates a twice-daily snarl on surface streets.
50-minute drive to Tucson International Airport
5-minute drive to Saguaro National Park East
35-minute drive to Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
40-minute drive to the The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona
40-minute drive to Reid Park Zoo
40-minute drive to the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
40-minute drive to Pima Air and Space Museum
45-minute drive to La Encantada shopping area
60-minute drive to Mission San Xavier del Bac
60-minute drive to Old Tucson Studios
60-minute drive to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum
Big rooms with Southwestern decor and private patios with great views, but no TVs
With 70 rooms scattered across its large property, the Tanque Verde Ranch offers privacy and quiet amidst the natural desert surroundings. Several rooms are housed in the original ranch bunkhouse, while others are newer stand-alone units called casitas. Decor is ranch-like, with brick walls, wrought iron headboards, and rough-hewn wood furniture. Bathrooms include decorative Mexican tiles and red tile floors. There is free Wi-Fi, but no TVs -- though the lack of TVs may help enhance guests' connection to the great outdoors.
No in-room safes
Some standard rooms feature lovely views of the mountains.
All-inclusive meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the dining room, or outdoors at select times
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner served up daily in the dining room. Meals are communal and included in the hotel rate. Food is served buffet-style and includes American fare with a Southwestern twist.
Weekly indoor and outdoor events include the Old Homestead Breakfast Ride (a hot meal is served up in a remote camp reached via horseback), Mexican Fiesta Night, and the Cottonwood Grove Ranch Barbecue with live entertainment and bonfires.
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