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“Best horse riding vacation I have ever experienced in my life!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Elkhorn Ranch

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Elkhorn Ranch
27000 W Elkhorn Ranch Road, Tucson, AZ 85736   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #2 of 34 Specialty lodging in Tucson
Harrodsburg, Kentucky
1 review
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
“Best horse riding vacation I have ever experienced in my life!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 23, 2011

I give this place an excellent rating! Beautiful, quite setting & landscape~ Rooms were great, food was excellent..beyond belief, staff and wranglers gave us full service, we could feed the birds on our patio...they provided the seed..saw many of the wildlife close up. Best horses and tack around....the trails whether in the mountains, or in the dessert were breath taking~ Lord willing, I want our riding group to go back again next year~
Donna Hayslett
Kentucky

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (2)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Wilmore, Kentucky
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 22, 2011

As others have said there is little to do at the ranch other than ride and ride we did. We were a group of gals some of which were long time friends and others joined in just for this trip. We are all trail riders who are accustomed to hours in the saddle over tough terrain. My main concern is that we would be stuck with horses that knew nothing more than nose to tail plodding along. I was surprised to find that the horses are not only safe and careful but full of pep. They can plug along if necessary for beginners but get a real rider on them and they perked right up.
The riding was over rough mountains and sharp descents. Of course, we always chose the hardest trails. There seemed to be easy trails as well.
I found it colder at night than I thought with temperatures dropping soon after 5 pm when the afternoon ride returned. I used my one jacket a lot as the temperatures dropped during the day as well toward the end of our trip.
After dinner there was little to do but honestly I was tired and ready to curl up with a good book. If you don't want to carry one, there are plenty there to borrow.
Elkhorn can arrange for a trip to the Dessert Museum but you have to arrange it before you get there and will probably have to miss the morning ride that day. Thursday is a good day for this because they rest the horses that afternoon anyway. Otherwise, you learn about the flora and fauna by asking questions of your wrangler during the ride.
Most folks had been coming for years so we were the new kids on the block. Sometimes this caused problems because little was explained to you about the schedule and the schedule was strictly adhered to. There was some information in your room. I would advise a visitor to sit down immediately upon arrival and read that notebook start to finish.
You have no shopping options except the small store. Ask your driver from the airport (unless you drive yourself) to stop and let you pick up any liquor you may want. The store carries some candies/snacks, post cards, soda, wine, beer, water bottles and a few Elkhorn Ranch items. There is an extensive loaner area with everything from cowboy outfits for kids to rain gear, jackets, boots and hats. Whatever wasn't there that you might need could be borrowed from the office or from another guest. I took and wore my riding helmet. None available there. One gentleman fell off due to a freak accident when we were there and he too was wearing a helmet and was VERY happy he was. They strictly enforce the slick-soled, slip off boots rule for safety reasons.
The cabins were great but not air conditioned. You were rarely in them anyway except at night when the wall mounted heaters were perfect to warm up the area. We had a couple of folks that were terrified by an occasional spider but it is the desert. Our cabin had a cooler (ice available for free), a boot jack, plenty of plugs, a flashlight, a writing desk with stationery and a great bathroom as well as the bedroom and front sitting room with fireplace.
I would suggest anyone interested in going to "friend" Elkhorn Ranch on Facebook. You will get to see pictures and get familiar with the routine.
The food was one choice and served as a buffet. We did have a couple of folks with us that eat gluten-free and they were accomodating by buying special bread and fixing special brownies. Also we had a couple that didn't like beef so they requested AHEAD of time for chicken on those nights. That is the key if you have any special likes and dislikes then call them ahead of time and tell them. They don't go to town often so if they have to buy something for you they need a couple of week warning.
Must brings- sunscreen, eye drops, sun glasses, vaseline (saddles do rub), comfortable jeans (you do ride through the desert with many prickly plants - jeans save your legs), water bottle that you can drink from on a horse. Might like to have - loose long sleeved light colored T-shirts to wear riding in the desert, vest for warmth, and windbreaker jacket.

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ottawa, Canada
1 review
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 10, 2011

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.

  • Stayed January 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 10, 2011

My children are 3rd generation returnees to the Elkhorn Ranch. I cannot say enough how much I and my kids love that place!

Since others have said so much already, I'll try to say something new. It's located about a 90 minute drive from the Tucson airport, right by the Mexican border. It rests on about 10,000 acres, used to be a working cattle ranch, but is now just a guest ranch. It's surrounded by other ranches and a Native American reservation, so silence and remoteness are your companions there.

I'll be honest.... this place isn't for everyone. My husband, for one, didn't like it. He actually didn't like the LACK of choice...which is what most people DO like. It helps, too, if you're into horses...even if just as a curiosity. If not, there's very little to do. There's a tennis court, outdoor shuffle board, ping pong table, good walking/hiking, a small pool and lots of books. That's it.

The Millers are wonderful people. Charley's laugh and smile are infectious, and he's an excellent trail guide. Mary is so very good with the kids, arranging get-to-know-you scavenger hunts and stuff like that. They do their best to get the same wranglers back every year, so that when you return the place is full of familiar faces and characters. If you come back year after year, it's not uncommon to forge life-long friendships among the other guests, the Millers and the crew.

The other comments are totally correct that little-to-nothing has changed there in decades. Even better, today's kids like it as much as the kids did back then. My 3 boys ask every year to return. (They've been twice now -- once when they were 11, 9 and 7 and then two years later.) Unfortunately, I now live in the U.K., so getting back there is just too difficult. I miss it; they miss it. Terribly.

Although I've only ever been with family, I can totally see this as a great place for a girls' get-together or as a solo trip. I know they also have had men's groups there, doing "manly" desert stuff. It could fit many different types of groups.

(note: I actually was last there in April of 2009, but TripAdvisor didn't give me that option to choose.)

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Birmingham
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 4, 2011

We use Elkhorn Ranch as our family reunion each holiday season. Our 3 kids love the freedom of the secluded ranch setting as well as the twice a day horseback trail rides. We love the fact that we have all of our meals together (usually with about 10-15 other extended family members), but also have our own cabin for some quiet time. Where else can you wake up in the morning with only one decision to make? (Do I want to ride a horse or snuggle by the fireplace and read a book?) Meals are outstanding! The great home cooked meals are 15 minute ventures for the kids, who then run off to play, and 1-2 hour social sessions for the adults! Except for saddlesores, this will be the most relaxing vacation you have had in years!

  • Stayed December 2010, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, California
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 3, 2011

My husband and I go to Elkhorn for a week every year, with a couple of other family members because none of us have ever found a better place to recharge our batteries. Being at this ranch is like living in a time warp - getting to play cowboy in a completely unpretentious down to earth place staffed by a family who, after just a day there the first time you visit, will feel like the warmest branch your own extended family.

The place is 100% geared for riding horses and simple relaxation. There are no phones, internet, tvs, radios in cabins (hip hip hooray - may they never ever change that!). We put away our suits, high heels and cocktail outfits & don our jeans, cowboy boots and sneakers for the week. We say goodbye to spa, ethnic, fusion & nouvelle cuisine and sit down to hearty home-cooked back-to-basic lunch/dinner buffets (steaks, ribs, stews, salads, mac-n-cheese, sandwiches, killer-delicious cookies, etc ) in a Southwestern mess hall. Breakfasts are custom-ordered abundant plates full of any kind of egg you'd like or pancakes, huevos rancheros, french toast (on home-made bread) etc. Every cabin has a comfy living room for reading (or hosting a little cocktail hour...), a fireplace and an outside patio area with well-stocked bird-feeders. No fancy spas or hot tubs - but they do have a masseuse who comes all the way out to help with our saddle-sore selves if we want.

Riding is what you go to Elkhorn for -- and it can be however easy or challenging as you'd like. Every morning the husband of the couple who own/run the ranch, comes in to breakfast and asks what kind of ride you'd like: mountains, hills, desert - walking or loping - short or up to three hours... A couple of days a week they offer all-day rides with a cookout at mountain-peak destinations. They welcome first-time riders on up to people who have been riding all their lives.

My husband had never been on a horse before and so they gave him a gentle horse who was used to novices. The very first morning our cowboy/wrangler guide for saddled my sweetie up, taught him about the reins, stirrups, how to sit and cue your horse to start/stop and off we went on an hour and a half mountain ride. By the end of the week my husband was loping across the desert with the rest of us life-long riders.

They are great at matching riders with horses - and you'll usually have the same horse for your whole stay. And, they keep track of the horses you've ridden so when you return the next year you may have the same one from the previous year or another similar one.

Kids can start riding at age 6: my brother is waiting for his youngest (now four) to be old enough and then he'll be bringing his family every year as their annual escape. We watched one of the wranglers teach a 6 and 8 year old how to ride this year & within two days they were loping across the desert like pros. Super fun to see a little pink cowboy hat leaving a cloud of dust behind her.

I found out this year that over 85% of Elkhorn's guests are returnees, like us. My grandmother and grandfather discovered Elkhorn in the 1950s, when it was run by the current owner's grandparents & parents. They used to visit for a few weeks every spring through the 1970s and I went for the first time as a little kid in the 1970s. The coolest thing about coming back as an adult - first in the late 1980s and then again regularly in the past bunch of years - is that virtually nothing changes. The daily routine is the same as it was when my grandparents came; ranch bells are still the only clock you need for wake-up and meals; and they still operate their little store on an honor system. Only difference has been a few new cabins and the addition of a computer room with one lonely internet-connected computer and a land-line phone (calls also tracked on the honor system by guests). And the new cabins mimic the older ones - bedroom, living area & bath. They've also preserved how small it is: I think they can only take about 30-40 guests and the guest/staff ratio is close to 1:1. Arriving at Elkhorn is like breathing a deep "ahhhhhhh."

If you like high-end living, tons of amenities, nightlife or action-packed holidays, avoid Elkhorn. But, if you're like us and enjoy down-to-earth living where the only decisions you make during a day are a) what to order for breakfast and b) whether or not you want to go riding - Elkhorn is for you. And, if its for you, you'll discover that you'll enjoy getting to know the other people who go there because they share valuing simplicity, honesty and nature.

  • Stayed December 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Williamsburg VA
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 12, 2010

The Elkhorn Ranch, south of Tucson, is outstanding by any measure if you like great riding in magnificent mountains of loping on the desert. My wife and I have benn going ther for over 20 November vacations. There are only about 35 guests, with well-trained horses, fabulous staff, excellent food and clean, comfotable cabins.

If you enjoy riding, hiking and ranch life, you cannot do better than the Elkhorn Ranch south of Tucson.

  • Stayed November 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Elkhorn Ranch

Address: 27000 W Elkhorn Ranch Road, Tucson, AZ 85736
Location: United States > Arizona > Tucson
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 34 Specialty lodging in Tucson
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Elkhorn Ranch lies 51 miles southwest of Tucson, in a valley where mountains and desert meet. Since 1945, the Miller family has owned and operated the ranch, offering exceptional riding and living for thirty-two guests. Riding is the main interest with gentle or loping rides through the desert and vigorous trips up through the mountains. With seventy head of horses, the right horse can be yours throughout your visit. Come enjoy the Arizona sunshine! ... more   less 

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