by Julie Bielenberg
If your family wants an authentic Western experience, complete with Hollywood-esque desert moonscapes, rolling hills of cacti with Southwest accommodations, cuisine and atmosphere, then this is the ultimate choice located in southern Arizona. Open late October through early May each year, the current family has been in ownership since 1976; however, this ranch is the oldest continually operating guest ranch in all of the state. Originally a sheep ranch, it was developed into a dude ranch in the 1920s. Numerous generations of families connect with this dude ranch as grandparents bring their grandchildren to share similar memories and experiences of the Wild, Wild West, with little change.
For movie buffs, study up on Broken Lance with Spencer Tracy, Monte Walsh with Lee Marvin, El Dorado, with John Wayne, and the final episode of Gunsmoke—all filmed on ranch property. Legendary stars require legendary accommodations, and there is not shortage at Circle Z Ranch.
There are cottages on property with individually controlled heat and air-conditioning, a mini fridge, iron and board, and a blow dryer. Each cottage has a lovely outdoor patio for cowboy relaxation. Each cottage has also been newly remodeled with tile bathrooms, carpeted floors, and comfortable beds.
The adjoining-rooms options are suited for friends traveling together looking for value, yet wanting separate bedrooms, or for small families with youngsters or teens. There are also two and three bedroom cottages.
The ranch also provides daily housekeeping service, plush towels and complimentary toiletries. Onsite there is a complimentary guest laundry room that is stocked with laundry detergent and fabric softeners. Note the area is in the middle of the desert; don’t expect to stream any movies while on ranch property. Head to the cantina if you need to use social media or internet.
The colorful cantina is a centerpiece of the historic property. Adults enjoy the BYOB cocktail hour, snacks are always and pre-dinner appetizers are served with stories of the day. The fridge is well stocked with soft drinks and mixers and there is plenty of space to store your drinks of choice. Children enjoy the large, outdoor porch with inside seating. The cantina also has two game tables, an assortment of books, as well as a computer and printer.
When it comes to riding, Circle Z is a standout for its landscape. One moment you are traversing desert and cacti, the next you are ambling up a mountain in alpine greenery. The variety of horseback riding trails is impressive and there are also riding lessons, horsemanship clinics and a herd of more than 100 horses to get you acquainted with the real West.
There is also swimming pool, tennis court and game room at the ranch with a pool table, a foosball table, board games, outdoor covered Ping-Pong and an outdoor basketball court. Just enough to keep the family busy, but not too scattered.
Our Editor Loves
- Authentic dude ranch experiences
- Variety of family activity
- Kids program
- All Inclusive Rates
- Horse Back Riding
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Dude Ranch
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Game Room
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Everyone makes this vacation so easy and fun, from staff to the other guests. Even though I'm retired this is our go to spot to relax. Great food, exciting rides, and gorgeous scenery--the way the West is in my minds eye!
Do you love horses? Do you love to eat? Do you like attentive, knowledgable staff? Do you like beautiful scenery? If you answered yes to any of those questions... the Circle Z is the place to be! The riding is trail riding. There are different groups to ride with depending on your desire of the day and your ability. All trail rides are executed with guest and horse safety in mind. The horses are very nice and they have about 100 in their herd so no horse gets overworked. You can keep the same horse for your complete stay.
The food is hearty and plentiful. Good quality and served buffet style so you can pick and choose. They do cater to vegetarians .
If horses are not your thing they have plenty of activities such as hiking, a pool, game room for kids. Sorry... no golf!
To experience the best of the Circle Z I would recommend the full week stay. Everyday is a different itinerary.
Cant wait to go back next year!