It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you live.Robert Duvall as Gus McCrae, ‘Lonesome Dove’
It was living that I was after. A need to feel awake, energized…alive! So, I returned to Arizona.
The pandemic has taken its toll on all of us in one way or another. Working from home had me longing to wander somewhere so I could reconnect with nature and myself. That’s one of the reasons I travel – to reconnect with myself, discover something new, meet new people, and engage with life. Likely the same reason for many of you.
First, let me share the inspiration for this trek to Tucson and White Stallion Ranch.
I went to see Arizona Odyssey, a photography exhibit at Gilbert Historical Museum by renowned photographer, Kerrick James. It was his photo from White Stallion Ranch of running horses, titled Running of the Horses from the Deep Corral, that inspired me to explore this unique western ranch.
Go West, Cowgirl
As I arrived at White Stallion Ranch, I couldn’t help but wonder about others that were on this same dirt road many years ago. Passing through the gate truly took me back to a simpler time of the American West. That’s what I love about Tucson – it still reflects the American West and reminds me of Louis L’Amour stories, Johnny Cash, and old country songs.
History of White Stallion Ranch and the True Family
White Stallion Ranch is surrounded by Saguaro National Park, Panther Peak, and the majestic Tucson Mountains near I-10 in Tucson, AZ. This welcoming Ranch is family-owned and operated with quite a bit of history to share.
It began in the 1900’s as a cattle ranch and you can see part of the original adobe wall in the current dining room.
The Ranch had several owners over the years. Cynthia and Allen True purchased the ranch in 1965 and additional land purchases brought the size to 3,000 acres. The True family, 3rd generation now, continues to own and operate this sprawling guest ranch.
I was elated to connect with Russell True during my stay and chat with him about getting through the covid-travel years and more. I really wanted to learn more about his memories of growing up at the Ranch. After all, he was only about five years old when his parents purchased this Ranch and moved from Colorado to Arizona. Russell said, “One of my fondest memories was FINALLY talking my parents into letting me learn how to team rope, and then being able to do it.” I could only imagine what that must have felt like.
65% of White Stallion’s business comes from returning guests and that speaks volumes about the experience. I asked Russell about this, and he said, “the feedback from a guest that I will never forget was from a lady who had been to the ranch in 1965 (our family’s first year) and then back for our 50th anniversary and she said, ‘Everything is different, and nothing has changed,’ and it was the perfect comment from our perspective.”
The property is surrounded by spectacular mountain views and towering Saguaros as well as cactus gardens. At times you’ll feel like you’re on a western movie set and well, you are, as there were quite a few movies filmed on property and it is still used for commercials and Nashville videos.
For example, the first film shot at the ranch was Arizona in 1939 with William Holden and Jean Arthur. There were many others over the years including How the West Was Won (1977 with James Arness), Stones for Ibarra (1988 with Glenn Close and Keith Carradine), and over 20 others.
There are 43 rustic and beautifully designed rooms plus a hacienda, suitable for a larger family. Rooms have a queen or king plus twin bedding and several other configurations.
The American Plan includes snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, and three meals. The main dining room offers cooked to order breakfast, buffet lunch and dinner. There’s also a patio where guests can enjoy lunch alfresco.
There’s so much going on each day including Rock Climbing, Archery, E-biking, Cattle Sorting, Slow Rides, Fast Rides, Lessons, Team Penning, Shooting, and more.
About horseback riding – everyone that rides will get matched with their own horse to ride during their stay. This is based on experience, height, weight, and riding goals. It’s best to start off with a lesson (the only fee-based activity).
This dude ranch has one of the largest private herds of horses (160+) in the state. The slow ride, which is also suitable for children (5 and up), gives you an up close and personal look at the desert to discover and learn more about the flora, fauna, and surrounding area from the wranglers; whereas the fast ride gives you the opportunity to lope through the desert for a true sense of freedom and adventure. Guests must pass a lope test before they can go on a fast ride.
Just added to my bucket list is the skill of loping but first, more lessons and slow rides.
In addition to riding, there are ample opportunities to hike in the Sonoran Desert to enjoy the scents, sights and sounds of nature by exploring the trails, which is what I spent most of my time doing. The most challenging is to hike Panther Peak, which you can see in the distance. Self-guided hikes are possible, and the Nature Walk (or Edible and Herbal Walk) are good ways to learn more about the desert during your ranch getaway.
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.Anonymous
This was on my mind often as I wandered around the ranch – it was one of the goals of my stay – what was the ‘one’ thing for me? What’s the one most important thing for you?
When you’re in an environment like that of White Stallion Ranch you learn how to be with yourself, how to live your life more fully, and consider what’s most important to you. I won’t go into what came to me during my stay, but it was eye opening, and I’m changed for the better because of it. My stay was limited but my thinking is boundless.
A flower blooming in the desert proves to the world that adversity, no matter how great, can be overcome.Matshona Dhliwayo
As you meander through the different paths at the ranch you’re greeted by more towering saguaros, flowering aloe, cholla, vibrant bougainvillea peeking through terra cotta archways, and a plethora of desert flora and fauna. The cactus gardens and nearby pen with horses yearning for guests to bring some treats was all part of the experience.
When the day is done and your hips, thighs and arms are sore from riding, a massage at the spa is the answer. They also offer body wraps and facials. An intimate spa with comfortable areas to relax and there’s also a fitness area. In addition to the spa, the Saguaro Serenity Courtyard was a great space to take a time out from an active day.
Making the most of the evening to take time to gaze at the stars, listen to a cowboy sing by the bonfire, partake in line dancing, and enjoy authentic western shows makes for a fun stay.
If you stay for one week, you can join the True family for an exhibition rodeo at the arena with barrel racing, team roping, and more.
My time at White Stallion Ranch has left a lasting impression on me and I’m looking forward to returning to spend more time outdoors, getting back in the saddle, and engaging in activities that enhance my life’s journey.
What to pack
Closed toe shoes, long pants, hiking boots, hat, gloves, short and long sleeve tops, shorts/fitness clothing, sweater/jacket (seasonal), bandana, bathing suit, small flashlight, camera, sunscreen. Be sure to leave room in your carry on for some western items as there are vendors that sell their wares either inside the main building or the courtyard.
Travel Tips and Info
- Fly into Tucson International Airport (about 35-minutes).
- Phoenix Sky Harbor is about 1.5 hours away
- Bring gloves (for riding)
- Family friendly and there are many non-riding activities for all
- Transfers to the Ranch are included on the full American Plan package of 4-nights or more*
*$25 per person, per transfer for shorter stays and other packages
- Consider staying at least 5-days to get the full benefit of this Western Ranch Experience
- Visit White Stallion Ranch at www.whitestallion.com
- Dude Ranch Foundation at www.DudeRanchFoundation.com
- Visit Tucson at www.visittucson.org