Arizona Sonoran Desert Sampler

Destination: Tucson, AZ

| Activities: Horseback Riding, Hiking, and Culture

Nestled on the outskirts of Tucson, the Tanque Verde Ranch, is an ideal spot for exploring the surrounding mountains and desert. Each day is a new activity, with lots of fun in the desert sun. Our guides are not only hiking experts but talented artists as well so will offer sketching opportunities on several hikes. We'll start the week with a Cowgirl Cookout and spend some time improving our riding skills and strengthening our hiking legs on nearby trails. A trip to southern Arizona wouldn't be complete without an opportunity to also explore its culture and cuisine. So we will travel south one day to hike at Madera Canyon then visit Tubac - a Spanish presidio turned artist colony for a refreshing prickly pear margarita and time to visit the many galleries and shops. We couldn't leave out a trip to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, described as a fusion experience that's part zoo, part botanical garden, part art gallery, part natural history museum, and part aquarium! With Tanque Verde Ranch as our base, there's a little something for everyone on this Sonoran Desert adventure! Maximum group size: 13


  • Settle in at Tanque Verde Ranch - recognized as the last luxurious outpost of the old west and located on 60,000 acres of Tucson’s most breathtaking desert landscapes
  • Saddle up for a private lessons and private group rides to see the ranch from a unique perspective
  • Lace up - hike under the towering saguaros and explore some of the Southwest's most diverse landscapes
  • Visit Tubac - a Spanish Presidio turned artist colony
  • Tour the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum
  • Experience some of the unique flavors of Tucson and its legendary Day of the Dead celebrations
  • Treat your tired muscles to a massage at the ranch's spa and relax at the indoor/outdoor pools and hot tubs


  • 1 - 2 experienced AGC guides based on group size
  • Five nights of double occupancy accommodation
  • All meals except dinner on Day 4
  • All transportation once you arrive in Tucson, AZ
  • National Park and other entry fees
  • Private horseback ride

What's not included: Travel to and from Tucson, one dinner, travel insurance, spa services, alcoholic beverages, and guide gratuities.

Trip Documents

Trip Intro

This trip is for women in good physical condition who can hike for three to six hours a day in a desert environment. There will be hikes of over six miles on four of the days and also some time to relax at the ranch. You will have the option to participate in all of the hikes if you train for a level 3 rated trip by engaging in aerobic conditioning, such as walking vigorously up hills, jogging, cross-country skiing or stair stepping for 30 - 45 minutes at least 3 - 4 times a week. Rating: 1 [2] [3] 4 5.

This is primarily a hiking trip with a few opportunities ride at the ranch and explore some of the other highlights and flavors of the desert southwest. We hike some of the areas highlights, including Saguaro National Park, Madera Canyon, Sabino Canyon and Mt. Lemmon to get a feel for the amazing diversity of this landscape. We'll also have a basic riding lesson and walk ride at the beginning and then have the option for a sunset ride later in the trip. There are also opportunities at the ranch to to go mountain biking, take a yoga lesson, or just relax and explore the many beautiful acres of desert on your own, especially if you want to arrive early or stay after the trip ends. There are so many options to make this a truly one-of-a-kind adventure!

There are five double-occupancy "salas" rooms available each with two queen beds, as well as two double or single occupancy "casitas" for a supplement. All of the rooms are located on the north side of the property in "Quail Hollow" with a nice grassy courtyard that invites you to relax and enjoy the sunset with your travel companions. The casitas are more spacious with their own sitting areas and are available for a supplement of $700, which can be as a single supplement or shared for an upgraded double. Both are described here.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

Welcome to the beautiful southwest! Please plan to arrive at the Tucson International Airport by 3 PM or if you're driving, at the Tanque Verde Ranch by 4 PM. After brief introductions, we'll settle into Tanque Verde Ranch, our home base for the trip. Located on the edge of the Rincon Mountains and overlooking the rolling foothills of Saguaro National Park, Tanque Verde Ranch offers charming, southwestern lodging, and is one of Tucson's top destinations for horseback riding and other outdoor activities. We'll take a short hike to familiarize ourselves with the ranch and then gather for a cowgirl cookout! After dinner, relax around the campfire or enjoy the sunset from the courtyard outside our rooms. (D)
Overnight: Tanque Verde Ranch
What could make a delicious breakfast even better? Riding a horse to it! We'll saddle up this morning and ride out to our awaiting breakfast cookout. Enjoy pancakes fresh off the griddle and a full spread of breakfast options before riding leisurely back to the ranch. We'll change our clothes and then stretch our legs on a hike in neighboring Saguaro National Park. With a picnic lunch and daypacks for a 6.5-mile loop hike of Gardwood Dam and Little Wildhorse Tank trail, the afternoon is ours to explore. The first 30-minutes are fairly flat and then we'll have a few challenging ups and downs but the views and variety of cactus and wildlife along the way are worth it! This hike will also take us to Little Wildhorse Tank - one of the only perennial areas for water in the park. We'll have lunch on the trail and time to marvel over all the interesting plants and animals. For those wanting an extra challenge, there's also the option to take a 1.2-mile round-trip spur trail to Bridal Wreath Falls. For those that would prefer to skip the extra mileage and capture the moment in an artistic way, your guide will lead a sketching and watercolor workshop trailside. We will get back to the ranch in time to take a quick dip in the pool or hot tub and freshen up before heading into Tucson for dinner and a margarita, if you choose! (B, L, D)
Overnight Tanque Verde Ranch
After a hearty breakfast we'll drive about 90-minutes south to explore Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains. The canyon is one of the most renowned birding locations in the United States and we'll have ample opportunities to add to our bird lists on the 6.5-mile Josephine Saddle Loop via Super Trail. The trail follows a moderate grade for 3.6 miles before reaching the Josephine Saddle. This is the perfect spot to enjoy our lunch and keep our eyes and ears open for wildlife, including the stunning Elegant Trogon! This is another spot for us to create artistic memories too. At Josephine Saddle, the trail branches in several directions and we'll return via Old Baldy trail, descending the 1700 feet we just climbed up but in only 2.2 miles. After our hike, we will continue about an hour south to the historic town of Tubac, which was founded as a presidio, or fort, in 1752 as the Spanish empire expanded into the desert Southwest. Today, Tubac is a thriving artist community with over 100 galleries, shops and great restaurants. You'll have the option to stroll the town at your own pace or shuttle a short distance to the Tumacácori mission - a 19th-century Franciscan mission and now a National Historic Park. You can take a tour of the park or walk 4 miles back to Tubac along the historic Anza trail that follows the Santa Cruz river. We will meet back up around sunset for dinner at Elvira's - an iconic, vibrant and award-winning Mexican restaurant. If you want to try mole while in Arizona, this is the place to do it! Overnight Tanque Verde Ranch (B, L, D)
After an early breakfast we'll drive about an hour to the top of Mt. Lemmon, stopping along the way at a few of the highlights and viewpoints. Depending on the conditions and energy levels we'll hike one of the many shaded trails near the top of the mountain. After a lovely picnic lunch, we'll treat ourselves to a cookie at Mt. Lemmon's famous cookie cabin! We'll be back at the ranch by mid-afternoon with the option to take a sunset ride, relax at your room, or partake in one of the numerous activities and amenities at the ranch. Tonight's dinner is on your own, a chance to check out one of the many delicious restaurants or relax at the ranch. Overnight at Tanque Verde Ranch. (B, L)
Today begins with an early breakfast and plenty of cowgirl coffee! We'll then drive a short distance to Sabino Canyon and catch a shuttle to the Seven Falls trailhead. It's one of Tucson's most popular hikes (it's easy to see why) and worth getting there early to beat the crowds. On this 5-mile out and back trail, we'll be surrounded by saguaros, cholla, ocotillo and the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. And after a gradual and steady climb, we'll be rewarded with the views of Seven Falls and time to relax and dip your feet in the cool pools. After a sack lunch, and an optional sketch in our notebooks, we'll hike back to the trailhead for the short shuttle ride down the canyon. We'll then zip over to Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place! We'll arrive in time to witness the Raptor Free Flight and then tour of this unique museum. Sadly, our time together is coming to end but we'll share a spectacular final dinner together in Tucson. Overnight Tanque Verde Ranch (B, L, D)
Wow, it's our last day, already? We sure packed a lot of fun into these 5 days together! You are free to leave any time after breakfast. We will have you to the airport by 11 AM for flights out after 1 PM. Or there are shuttles and ride-shares available for a fee if you would like to leave at another time.

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.


(7 reviews)
4.7 Food
4.9 Lodging
4.9 Safety
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Joy P.
0 months ago

Each day was a new adventure. We walked in a different vegetative habitat and saw different animals. The guides worked well together and adapted to the groups needs The group was one of the most enjoyable group of women I have had on a trip

Janet R.
0 months ago

Two terrific, knowledgeable, and supportive guides and a great group of women.

Laurie L.
0 months ago

Kathryn K.
0 months ago

The variety of planned hikes and other activities, relaxed setting, PHENOMENAL guides, and the great/ easy-going group members. It was also special to see how well Brenda and Alexa worked together--- they made it seem like play, which further enhanced the experience.

Diane S.
0 months ago

Kathleen C.
0 months ago

Wonderful group of women

Sheila J.
0 months ago

I really enjoyed the ranch; it was a great central place to partake of our daily adventures and gave guests the option to join the guided activities or stay behind to enjoy ranch life.

  1. Where do we eat?

    All breakfasts will be at Tanque Verde Ranch. The AGC guides will be preparing all of the lunches and the dinners will be at local restaurants. When out to dinner, you'll be able to order off the menu. One dinner is on your own, your guides can shuttle you to and from Tucson or you're welcome to eat at the ranch.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    If we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise rooms are double-occupancy and you will be paired with a roommate unless you have requested a specific roommate.