Tanque Verde Guest Ranch

Tanque Verde Guest Ranch

A large, luxury guest ranch. Excellent for first-timers and children, with enough personality to entice returnees.


Tanque Verde is just off one end of Speedway, the main drag in Tucson, although that still places it twenty miles outside the centre of town, in enough Arizonan desert to keep anyone happy.

I chose to visit Tanque Verde for several reasons: I wanted to take my 10 year old son, who is a reasonably experienced rider for his age. Checking out web sites and brochures with him, it became very clear that that anywhere that would even consider taking him was going to be a boring, "rides are mainly at a walk", sort of affair; very definitely a Groucho Marx kind of problem. Given that restriction, Tanque Verde had several thing to recommend it: being in Arizona, it was open in the autumn half-term, which rules out most ranches on its own, and it was recommended by a (non-rider) friend.

They will collect guests from Tucson airport for free, but as usual I prefer to hire a car. With only the address to go on, locating the ranch was easy, but much further out than a Speedway address might imply. You have to go right to the end of the road, and pass signs telling you that the road ends ahead, before a private side road to Tanque Verde appears. The ranch is about a mile down the (tarmac) road.


The Tucson area has plenty of attractions to keep a visitor happy, and warrants an extra day or two on one end or the other of a vacation, if time is available. The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum is a must, and many other attractions, from the Old Tucson theme park to Tombstone, are within easy reach. The centre of Tucson is about 20 - 30 minutes drive away, if you have a car, and is worth a visit if only for shopping. The main shopping malls in Tucson are the Park Plaza, Tucson Mall and Foothills Mall; the first two are in reasonable reach of Tanque Verde.

The area that guests ride in has plenty of Saguaro, prickly pear, mesquite and palo verde; typically local vegetation, and also typical of the Saguaro National Park that adjoins the ranch. A couple of ranges of hills are just beyond the boundaries of the ranch - I remember the Rincon Mountains as one range.


As a family party of four, we were given a suite of open plan rooms with a semi-private porch and plenty of cupboards - with a phone in the room. This was well up to good hotel standards.

The public areas included a TV lounge, bar, dining room and meeting room. Other facilities included tennis courts (with instructor), outdoor and indoor swimming pools, gym, sauna, and nature room. There is both an arena for the childrens riding programme, and a riders recreation room with table tennis and separate arena.

With around 90 rooms, capacity is obviously a couple of hundred. This means that contact with the staff is less important as part of the atmosphere of the ranch, and impressions of other guests will dominate a stay. We were there in late October, with about 90 guests; more than 50% were English.


Tanque Verde rightly prides itself on its food, with a hearty SouthWestern style dominating, and a very good pastry section to the buffets. Breakfast is cook to order with a buffet of breads, fruit and salad; prickly pear jam is on every table. Lunch is also a buffet, where the pastry section dominates, with a selection of hot dishes and a salad table. Dinner is chosen from a nightly menu, with prime rib and cactus jus the speciality of the house.

One of the big attractions of a riding holiday is the (relative) freedom to indulge yourself with guilt-free calories, in the expectation of working most of it off during the day. Tanque Verde lets you take good advantage of this theory.

There is a breakfast cook-out on a ride, about twice a week.


Most nights have some form of entertainment arranged, from a display by a local jewelry dealer, to a cook-out with country music and cowboy poetry, to informative talks about the wildlife or customs of the region. During the day non-riders can choose from tennis, nature walks, mountain biking or lazing by the pool for their entertainment. Probably the most fun were the talks by Tom Chambers, country musician and cowboy folklorist extraordinaire, but closely followed by the display of hawks.

For the very easily bored, Tucson is close enough to be an easy option for visits, for dinner, for shopping, for tourism or just to find a bar or some music.


I suspect that Tanque Verde's riding program will get widely differing evaluations from different guests - it works very well for the novice or for children, but wasn't entirely satisfying for myself. One good thing is the number of rides: there are three options during the day, each one being from just over one hour to almost two hours. One ride is just after breakfast, at 9 am, another at 10:30, then an afternoon ride at 2 pm (or it might have been 2:30). As is the common pattern, most rides have a walking or a loping option. To go on a lope ride, you have to pass a lope test, or graduate from their loping lessons. This involves cantering from one end of an arena to the other - two of us went on the first available lope test, to be told that it was for "experienced Western riders only". I took my life into my hands and confessed to not being an experienced Western rider at all; but we both passed without further comment. Despite comments from repeat visitors, the lope check wasn't necessarily the toughest of any guest ranch.

At a frightening 235 lbs, I had the easy choice of at least half a dozen horses, all of them up to weight and good for a few pounds more. These horses were all conditioned for nose to tail riding, which was all they were allowed to do - and was a small disappointment to me. One of those I rode was inclined to buck a little in deep sand; quite possibly connected to my very English style of Western riding.

Rides went out by various paths in all directions, mostly on Tanque Verde land, but with some routes out into public land. The vicinity is most level with lumps in - not exactly the rolling downs, but certainly irregular enough. A few trails were suitable for cantering, but this was mostly done in the many dry washes about, with some sand but mainly gravel sized rocks underfoot - really very well suited to the purpose.

For children under 13, a separate riding program is available. This most means lessons in the arena, of the trot or lope around the barrels to the back of the ride form. Christopher had the same horse all week, a small thoroughbred called Mac, with whom he was very happy. Other riders could keep their horse, or swap if they weren't suited. A walking ride was available; but because of the relatively small number of children on the programme (around 12 - 20 while we were there), it wasn't possible to have a regular loping ride for the more advanced children. Towards the end of the week some of the children were allowed out on a separate loping ride. Parents could tag along at he back of the childrens ride if they wanted; I did this for one walking ride and one loping ride. The loping ride was faster than most of the adults loping rides, as a matter of interest, and to my great amusement.


Using a Leatherman Micra to remove cactus needles from guests who have ignored advice to never step backwards in the desert. There's always an obliging cactus right behind you, and some of those thorns do not bear close inspection.

Watching a British radio crew approaching all of the children in the riding programme one by one, only to send them away when they realised that they were all English.

Watching one (English) father drag his son away from the riding programme, for a day trip out to Tombstone, just as they were leaving for his first ever loping ride.