Elkhorn Ranch in Arizona was a wonderful warm January getaway from the cold and snow of Canada. As we drove down the long unpaved approach to the ranch, my partner and I could not stop marveling at the clear blue skies stretching from the desert horizon to the craggy mountain tops.
More than an escape from winter and the chance to revel in the scenery, the ranch afforded us an opportunity to escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life to a place where we could live in rhythm with the natural world. No beeping electronics here – just bird song, horses whinnying, and the always welcome clang of the metal triangle calling us to yet another fabulous meal.
The ranch boasts a large herd of sure-footed horses who have been raised at Elkhorn and turned out each night to wander its steep hills. The horses are familiar with all the surprises that could spook less well-trained equines but which gladden the hearts of dudes and dudettes: quail exploding from the underbrush, jack rabbits and deer bounding across the trails, javelina sightings. Not even the rare overflight of a Border Services helicopter causes a quiver.
The experienced wranglers lead rides on the flat or up and down the mountains. Walking, jogging and loping are all possible. Photo ops abound. You should not miss the horses’ early morning return from the hills. Hooves thunder, manes fly and wranglers whoop as the remuda (herd) gallops back to the home corral.
Based on a brief but probing chat, Charley Miller, the ranch’s owner and head wrangler, has an uncanny ability to match horse to rider. It could be because he trains each animal using the natural horsemanship techniques practiced by such training luminaries as Buck Brannaman, Tom Hunt and the Dorrance brothers. He also reads people pretty well!
Rustic but serviceable, the guest casitas are comfortable and well-maintained. They are scattered around the property, affording a sense of privacy when sitting outside enjoying a post ride beer while watching the cardinals, jays, sparrows and other birds as well as bunnies stop by for bird seed and water. At night, one can sit in those same chairs and watch millions of stars wheel overhead in all their glory.
The mesquite-fueled grill is put to good use on Sunday and Thursday evenings in barbequing great cuts of tender, juicy beef. On Saturdays, guests ride to a communal picnic area on the ranch, where they can enjoy beef or veggie burgers, salads, homemade breads and buns, as well as yummy desserts.
Aside from the picnic, meals are served in the long house by attentive, personable and friendly service staff. The food is fresh, tasty and plentiful. Meals are consistently delicious, probably because they are made from scratch. Vegetarians eat well at the ranch too, and special dietary needs can be accommodated. Did I mention the desserts? They are to die for!
Having been in business since 1946, the ranch has hosted generations of guests who come to enjoy the great hospitality, service, horses, food and scenery. Repeat visitors are the best recommendation a tourist destination can have, and Elkhorn can boast a large, faithful group of guests who come back year after year.
We were lucky enough to be able to stay for three extra days at Elkhorn. Our original intent had been to do a bit of exploring in the southwest before returning to Canada. We decided instead to spend that time enjoying life on the ranch, and enjoy it we did.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.