My Dude Ranch experience in Tombstone
Staying in a Dude Ranch in Arizona was a true dream, but not a travel dream, a lifestyle one!
The best memories I have date back to those college and high school summer holidays working in an Italian ranch, waking up at 5 am to feed horses. It was a great period of my life, but nothing was (and still is) more dreamy to me than actually live an American ranch lifestyle.
Ok, Dude ranches are arranged and run for passionate travelers to enjoy the experience fully. They are only partially working ranches, but still, spending time there, helping wranglers, learning cattle driving, and penning is something I absolutely loved!
Tombstone Monument Ranch
Tombstone Monument Ranch looks like an old west town, just like the ghost towns dotting Cochise County’s hills. The rooms line the street and are all differently styled and named: the Grand Hotel, the Marshall’s office, the post office, the jail, and my room, Wyatt Earp. Yeah, I was treated to a super iconic stay.
The reception area is next to the super cool Old Trappman Saloon with its typical swinging doors, copper roof, and charming old wood everywhere. During the day it is quite quiet, and in the evening there’s always something going on, from country music to a great card lesson. While there, I learned how to play Faro, Wyatt Earp’s – now illegal – game and had a great time, even though I didn’t win.
Next door, there’s the restaurant, serving excellent food, from the best crispy bacon ever at breakfast to yummy meat in the evening. As per breakfast, I recommend you start with the early coffee down at the wagon: magic atmosphere and the most interesting chat with Arizona Bill…
They also have a swimming pool for those looking to relax, but I didn’t stop there. You know, true cowboys don’t have spare time for this kind of stuff 😉
Riding with wranglers
Ranch activities are always cool and scheduled daily for guests to fully enjoy their experience. The planning is always at the front desk, and to book, you need to decide what you want to do and write your name in the related column.
My thing is riding, so I booked several rides per day. The schedule is tailored to suit all riders and offers very slow, scenic rides and fast cool rides with trotting and galloping.
I loved the slow one in the morning, to visit the hills all around, the historic mines and hand-dug wells, the old railroad with super scenic bridges, and get to see the Indian Petroglyphs. On the last day, I even experienced the history ride, getting to know more about cowboys, miners, and Apaches.
Other options are the half day ride to Tombstone, the Beer & Cheetos ride and the tequila tasting ride (oh yeah).
I really had a great time with Lynette, an experienced and super nice wrangler who taught me a lot, sharing her knowledge of the area and cowboy daily life.
While there, I also fell in love with “my horse,” RW. Beautiful, greedy, sweet, and wanting to canter and lead all the time.
Other ranch activities
I also recommend cattle penning: a true cowboy sport looking oh so easy when watching western movies and being a bit more complicated in real life, but it’s such fun!
Other ranch activities include shooting with an instructor, but I’m not very keen on this kind of sport, and archery lessons, which I loved.
Non-riders could also go hiking or visit the Dragoon Mountains where Apache Chief Cochise and Geronimo had a stronghold or took a day trip to Wilcox or Sonoita or Elgin for a wine tasting and a Kartchner Caverns tour.
The half-day ride to West’s most famous cowboy town, always mentioned as “Tombstone, Arizona,” was one of the highlights of my stay at the ranch.
Walking the dirty roads of this old town is like stepping into an old movie: Allen Street iconic shops and saloon, the world-famous Bird Cage Theatre, wooden sidewalks, horse-drawn stagecoaches, true cowboys, and less authentic men wearing black frock coats and country music.
For some touristy but nice performance, don’t miss the O.K. Corral and the famous Wyatt Earp gunfight reenacted several times per day.
Oh, in Tombstone, you can also see the world’s largest rose tree (!), planted in 1885, resisting bullets fights and still blooming.
Getting to the ranch
The ranch is located 2,5 miles (4 km) from Tombstone, right next to the town founder Ed Schieffelin’s tombstone, but when I first asked how far it was, they replied to me, “more or less 3h on horseback”. Dreamy, I told you.
I traveled through the US by train and got there from Tucson, booking the transfer from the Amtrak train station together with my stay at the ranch, and it’s a one-hour quite scenic drive.
P.S. next stop Yuma, Arizona.