Rancho De Los Caballeros: Home on the Range

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This southwestern escape embodies everything that’s made dude ranch vacations a trend in travel: adventure and luxury, melded with authentic Americana.

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play…. “Home on the Range” is a classic American cowboy song—and, increasingly, it’s also what clients in search of a unique American travel experience are asking their travel agents to book. Dude ranch vacations have become a bona fide travel trend in recent years, thanks to properties in the west like Rancho de los Caballeros, a historic guest ranch resort in southern Arizona that aims to give its guests a comfortable, unique and authentic American experience.

cowboy up Dude ranches, or guest ranches, originated in the late-1800s, when industrialization gave many Americans a longing for a simpler, freer time—a feeling most travelers can empathize with today. Ever since, they’ve been offering guests an experience of America’s last frontier with added luxury.

According to Rui Pereira, general manager at Rancho de los Caballeros, it’s no surprise that dude ranch vacations have come into vogue, particularly for families traveling together. “Dude ranches offer a family-friendly environment along with activities for the whole family,” he explains. “We offer family [horseback] rides, and our dinner cookouts are a great place for families to gather and enjoy spending time together by the fire.”

Whether your clients are kids or just kids at heart, they can indulge their inner cowboy in a variety of ways throughout the property. Horseback riding is undoubtedly the main reason for visiting a dude ranch and there’s plenty of that here, with trails throughout 20,000 acres of untarnished Sonoran Desert landscape, with rolling hills and vast open spaces. Led by seasoned guides, riders learn about the grand tradition of the Spanish caballeros, the “gentlemen on horseback” who explored and settled this part of the country—and with so much wide open space to explore, they could feel like they’re discovering the territory for the first time. In fact, riders can trot across the desert for a full week without repeating a single trail, as well as develop a relationship with the horses during their rides. The ranch is home to 100 horses, and will try to pair riders with the same horse when possible throughout the course of their stay.

Parents and kids ages 10 and older can try their hand at team penning, literally “rounding up” a dozen yearling steers and herding them into a pen. With the help of a cowboy, clients ride into a herd of cattle and attempt to move the steers in batches of three. The result can be thrilling, confusing, frustrating and fantastic fun, all at once—and always exciting. The event is timed, too, so clients can attempt to improve their skills during their stay.

Riding horseback is just one way clients can get in touch with the desert experience. A naturalist guide shows off the beauty of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem on nature hikes, horseback rides and birdwatching expeditions that showcase the area’s plant and animal life. Visitors can see any of 300 bird species, including the greater roadrunner and burrowing owl, as well as reptiles and even ruins of early desert inhabitants. The nature of the desert is a spectacle in itself—wide open plains with a backdrop of craggy mountains and bright blue skies. Though the Sonoran Desert is one of the country’s hottest destinations, its consistent pattern of rainfall has sustained a rich ecology of plants and animals, including the famous and stately saguaro cactus.

Back at the ranch, families can take advantage of the property’s four tennis courts, swimming pool, and trap and skeet facilities for parents and children ages 12 and older accompanied by an adult. The Los Caballeros Golf Club features an 18-hole championship course designed by Hardin & Nash and worthy of Golf Magazine’s Silver Medal Award, ranking it among the top 75 resort courses in the U.S., and Golf Digest called it one of Arizona’s top five courses.

The Caballeros Kid’s Program ensures that younger kids, ages 5 to 12, can join in the fun too. Beginning at 8 a.m., counselors ensure the kids get a hearty breakfast before a full day of learning horsemanship and exploring trails on guided horseback rides. Next up: swimming, tennis, hiking, scavenger hunts and more. Babysitters are also on hand for kids under 5.