We have been to Tanque Verde Ranch 11 times since first discovering it's amazing charm in 2007. On a previous visit we were asked by the CEO why we keep coming back and to be honest there are so many reasons it's almost impossible to list them all, but here are a few:
The fantastic welcome you receive from staff who we now consider as friends including those on the front desk, in the restaurant and especially in the Dog House.
The wranglers and their expert horsemanship - some guests have reported they think they are stand offish, rude and can be patronising. We have not encountered any such behaviour at all and have to say that we trust them all implicitly to ensure we stay safe whilst riding in dangerous terrain as well as matching up with the right horse.
The horses are amazing too - we have ridden large and small horses including thoroughbreds, drafts, arabs, quarter horses and even mustangs. Tanque Verde has a reciprical arrangement with a ranch in California. The California horses spend the winter at Tanque Verde, which extends the choice of horses to ride even further. So for those of you who want to challenge your riding ability and ride a variety of horses this is place to go.
You do have to pass a lope check before you are considered "safe" enough to participate in faster rides in the Saguaro National Park. We have known this to cause some controversy with guests who fail, but it is important to point out that this is for the safety of all involved, the individual, other guests, the wrangler (who is responsible for you when you're on their ride) and the horse. The terrain is dangerous and horses can trip and fall so you need to know what to do in an emergency and be "ride aware" at all times. The only point I would raise in connection with this is that we have taken a lope check on every visit and I wonder whether this is necessay.
We have also met the owners of the ranch on numerous occasions and each time they genuinely appreciate our business and make us feel like members of their extended family. A number of repeat guests who we have met also feel like extended family and we all try to arrange our trips to coincide, so there is definitely a feeling of belonging which we haven't ever experienced anywhere else.
We spend most of our time at the ranch riding - up to four hours per day, which is made up of three hours loping and one hour walking in the summer and four hours loping in the winter when it's cooler. However, for the non rider or if you just fancy a change there is plenty of other activities to do - hiking, birding, fishing and even wine tasting. There is a nature centre and given the diverse flora and fauna of the region it's a paradise for nature lovers. We have seen a wide range of animals whilst out on the trail including rattle snakes, gila monsters, bob cats, coyotes, badgers, javelina, mule deer, grey desert fox and jack rabbits. There is also a wide variety of birds around the ranch such as red cardinals, cactus wrens, woodpeckers, quail, red tailed & coopers hawks, humming birds, heron, kingfishers, flycatchers and many more. The ranch also has it's own spa, jacuzzi, indoor and outdoor pools, gym and tennis courts which again appeals to those who don't ride or want to do something different.
If you decide to venture off the ranch, then again there is plenty to do including the Sonora Desert Museum, Pima Air & Space Museum, Tombstone and Mount Lemmon are also close by and all are well worth a visit.
We can't review the ranch without commenting on the food and accomodation, so here goes. The food has got better and better over the years with a huge variety of options at every meal time. There is a Western and Mexican feel to the menus and there are healthy options too for the figure conscious. Fruit, muffins, pastries, tea, coffee, water and juice are available 24 hours per day so you will never starve or go thirsty (provided you drink lots of water). The Dog House is the ranch saloon and is a great place to relax and watch the sun go down with a local beer or cocktail. Lisa and Julie Ann are great behind the bar and will even arrange to bring your food over from the restaurant on an evening if requested.
We have stayed in a variety of rooms over the years and can honestly say we have been happy with all of them - very spacious, some with lounge areas & a fireplace, all with a bath (very important after a day in the saddle) and all with spectacular views. They aren't modern, which we really approve of - afterall the ranch was established in 1868, so modern minimalistic would not work. Rooms are always clean with an abundance of fresh towels and linen, a small kitchen area and digital radio so that you can keep in touch with what is going on in the outside world if you need to.
All in all we love this place, take it from us, it is addictive and we will be back again later in the year.