by Carrie Calzaretta
Tanque Verde Ranch is an upscale, all-inclusive dude ranch, located just east of Tucson, Arizona, and adjacent to the Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest. It encompasses 60,000 acres, caters to families, and is well-known as a family favorite.
Our Editor Loves
- Riding lessons for all ages
- Children's program for ages 4 to 11
- 180 horses
- All Inclusive Rates
- Children Programs
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
The Ranch has 74 Southwestern-style rooms and suites. Rooms have views of the desert and mountains, and some have patios and fireplaces. Most large deluxe rooms have two queen beds or a king, fireplaces and private patios, and some have sitting areas with sofa sleepers. Most rooms will accommodate up to four but some can accommodate eight comfortably. All rooms have a telephone, XM Radio, coffee pot, hair dryer, air conditioning, heat, and full private bathrooms. There are no televisions in the guestrooms. Rollaway beds and cribs are available, and should be requested when you make your reservation.
Just beautiful in the high desert. The rooms were western, Road Runner recently remodeled, clean, well appointed. New bathrooms. The food was excellent at every meal, except the steak served on Valentines day was not as good quality as the rest of the meals. The staff at the stables were excellent teachers for the complete range of riders who were there. Don't miss the breakfast ride where the food was amazing. Tennis was good, warm enough for the pool in February. Loved the evening they brought vendors in and bought a beautiful rug. We want to go back and next time take a nature walk with a guide and make some jewelry.
Overall, we enjoyed our stay at Tanque Verde Ranch. The setting is beautiful, and the chance to ride horses and swim were great for a family trying to get (if only briefly) away from winter up north.
The ranch is a spacious, large compound right at the edge of Saguaro Nat'l Park East. It has both an indoor and outdoor pool (both heated), a tennis court, lots of horses, a restaurant and bar, and an outdoor eating area somewhat removed from the main hotel area (for the "Cowboy Cookout").
The building our room was in was clearly older -- the internal brick, etc. reminded me of some of the '50s era hotels I stayed in with my parents when I was a kid in the '80s. But the furnishings were more modern and nice. We also had a nice porch with lovely views west, and a firepit outside. My only real complaint with the room was the lack of lighting -- basically two lamps for a room with two queen beds.
The morning ride to breakfast was lovely, once we finally got on the horses and out of the corral. The food was good, and the setting was spectactular.
Dinner at the Cowboy Cookout, however, was less impressive. It was lovely to eat outside at night, and the band was good. My kid had fun making s'mores. However, due to a delayed incoming flight we weren't able to get to dinner until 7 (it opens at 6, closes at 8, and there are no other options at the ranch if they're doing the Cowboy Cookout). By the time we got there, the buffet was almost completely depleted. What was left was cold. The food was not replenished in the last hour for latecomers -- so if you're doing the Cowboy Cookout, get there as soon as it opens.
My one main issue with what otherwise would have been a lovely experience was the chaotic service. When I booked the room a few months in advance, I wanted to book the horseback ride to breakfast, but there was no way to do so on the hotel booking site. I emailed the hotel, and it took a week for them to respond, asking for more details (kid's age, horseback experience, etc.). I responded right away, and then never received any response from the ranch. I followed up a week or two later, and again, radio silence. Finally I had time to phone the ranch, and was told that they couldn't help me and I'd have to book online on a different site. I went there and booked, and confirmed at check-in, but when we went to the stable the next morning, no one had us listed. (It also turned out that they'd booked a couple of other people for a ride under our room number, because they were checking in that day, so there was a ton of confusion.) Eventually, after some uncertainty when the staff said they didn't have horses for us, they were able to accommodate us.
At checkout, again, things were chaotic and it seemed they were understaffed. The manager was working the front desk and was trying to deal with a van that was supposed to be leaving to take guests somewhere, missing lunches for half the van that no one had any record of, another guest who wanted a last-minute airport ride that they couldn't accommodate, and me, who just wanted to hand in the keys and go (but then had to correct a number of issues with my bill).
Another thing to keep in mind is with the horseback lessons for kids. My child has had a couple of weeks of riding camp over the past two summers. She can trot / post but has not yet learned to canter or gallop. I wanted to book her a lesson, but there was no obvious option for her -- either she had to do a lesson for rank beginners, or she had to prove that she could lope already. We needed something in the middle, and so went elsewhere for her lesson.
Overall, we did enjoy our stay at Tanque Verde Ranch. It was great to have heated pools (especially in light of recent weather in Tucson), and the setting was beautiful and relaxing. It would have been better, however, if there hadn't been the running undercurrent of uncertainty and chaos.
Naturally, horseback riding tops the list of outdoor activities at Tanque Verde; the resort has miles of trails for families with riders of every skill level. There are over 180 Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Appaloosas, Paints, and Mustangs to choose from; riding and lessons are offered every day of the week, and are included in your daily rate. There are walking rides for the less-experienced, and loping rides for intermediate riders. You'll also get the chance to take specialty rides, including breakfast rides up to the Old Homestead for a cowboy breakfast, six-hour rides with lunch out on the trail in the mountains, and shorter picnic rides which stop in nearby Cottonwood Grove.
There is a children's program for kids ages 4 to 11. Buckaroo Kids is for children ages 4 to 6, and their day might include crafts, breakfast, hikes, and swimming. Wrangler Kids is for children ages 7 to 11 and they'll be offered riding lessons, breakfast, swimming, trail hiking, crafts, and fun throughout the day. These programs are included in the cost of your stay.
In addition to horseback riding, the resort offers excellent hiking and biking trails. The guided hiking program offers miles of trails for varying experience levels, and treks for the whole family. There are over 600 acres of Sonoran desert to explore, and an experienced guide can outfit you with a bike, helmet and gloves. Rides vary from beginning trail riding to more advanced technical riding. There are also weekly off-site rides in a variety of elevation and landscapes.
For those not keen on riding anything during their stay, there are Horse Whisperer sessions, lectures and other outdoor activities. The ranch has five tennis courts, three of which are turf and one of which is lighted for nighttime play. There are both and outdoor pools, as well as a separate wading pool for the little ones, and a nature center where the whole family can learn about the unique desert habitat and the animals that live in surrounding areas. And in the event you have some energy left after taking in the outdoors, there is a fitness center with men's and women's saunas.
Three meals a day and snacks are included in the cost of your stay. With the exception of family cookouts and breakfast rides, all meals are served in the main dining room at the ranch; and there is something for the kids at every meal. For breakfast families can choose something from the menu, or head to the breakfast buffet with its fresh fruit, yogurt, and an assortment of cereals and other breakfast items. Lunch is served between noon and 1:30 pm and is buffet-style. Choose from entrees including pasta, seafood, chicken, beef, salads, soups and sandwiches. Dinner at the ranch is served between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. with your choice of beef, poultry, fish or a vegetarian entrÃ©e, served with soup or salad. Mexican Fiesta night comes complete with a Mariachi Band and buffet with a variety of Southwestern specialties featuring beef, chicken, or pork.