Forests of 200-year-old saguaro cactus stretch out across rolling hills as far as one can see. A low-lying desert realm is punctuated by islands of forested mountains rising to 9,000 feet above sea level.
History runs deep here. The first Spanish mission was built in 1776. This was the land of Geronimo and Cochise. In 1881, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clantons fought it out at the OK Corral.
This is southeastern Arizona. An abundance of riding opportunities await the traveler in this sun-filled country. Here, we give you a quick overview of eight destinations, plus a listing of four guest ranches, in this beautiful and varied land.
Arizona Horseback Experience
Located near Sonoita, this outfit offers day rides, rides to wineries, and multiday pack trips into southeast Arizona backcountry. Contact: (520) 455-5696; www.horsebackexperience.com.
Catalina State Park
Located just north of Tucson, this park offers miles of scenic trails and a well-organized horse camp. Contact: (520) 628-5798; www.azstateparks.com/parks/cata/index.html.
Ride to old historic Fort Bowie, established in 1862 and operated until 1894. Travel southeast of Willcox on Highway 186, and turn off on the gravel road to Fort Bowie. Ride from West Apache Pass, and you can follow the original Butterfield Stagecoach route, see ruins of a stage station, explore a cemetery, and wander through the remains of Fort Bowie. Contact: (520) 847-2500; www.nps.gov/fobo/index.htm.
Ride to a historic ghost town and former cattle ranch. Kentucky Camp was built in 1904 as the headquarters of the Santa Rita Water and Mining Company. Later, it became a cattle ranch. In 1989, it was acquired by the Coronado National Forest. Drive north of Sonoita on Highway 83, turn west on Gardner Canyon Rd., and follow the signs to the trailhead. Contact: (520) 281-2296; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado.
Drive west of Willcox for 30 miles on a generally good gravel road to this gem owned by The Nature Conservancy. Corrals are provided for your equine partners. Stay in cabins, soak in natural mineral water on the premises, and ride right out of the corrals. Contact: (520) 212-4295; www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/arizona/preserves/art22004html.
OK Corral, Inc.
Operated by Ron Feldman, this guide service is located just northeast of Apache Junction. It has corrals and recreational-vehicle spots for your rig. It offers hourly rides, as well as one- to five-day pack trips into the Superstition Mountains (below). Contact: (480) 982-4040; www.okcorrals.com.
The Superstition Mountains
A number of trails wind through this designated wilderness. With your own horse, try the First Water Trailhead northeast of Apache Junction. Ride into the nearby tourist ghost town of Goldfield. Tie your horse at the hitching rail, and savor a cold drink at the Mammoth Saloon.
Tombstone Livery Stable
Here's a great place to soak up history and stay with your own horse. The owners can give you tips on fun places to ride, including remains of an old Spanish mission, ghost towns, and river trails. Check out nearby Tombstone, site of Wyatt Earp's shoot out with the Clanton gang. Contact: (520) 457-3559; www.tombstonelivery.com.
Triangle T Guest Ranch
Situated near Dragoon, here you can camp with your trailer or stay in a charming cabin. Corrals are available. A number of old Western movies were filmed here. Trailer to nearby Cochise Stronghold for a unforgettable ride. Contact: (520) 586-7533; www.azretreatcenter.com.
Kent and Charlene Krone combine their interest in photojournalism with a passion for horses. They've sold photos to magazines, books, calendars, postcards, and video producers for more than 20 years.
If you want to ride, relax, and have all the frills, check out one of these southeast Arizona guest ranches. (Our personal favorite is Tanque Verde Ranch)
Grapevine Canyon Ranch
(520) 826-3185; www.gcranch.com
Kay Bar L
(520) 299-RIDE ; www.lazykbarranch.com
Tanque Verde Ranch
(800) 234-3833; www.tanqueverderanch.com
White Stallion Ranch
(888) 977-2624; www.wsranch.com