Circle Z Ranch - A Relaxing Retreat

Circle Z Ranch, winter horse holidays, horse rider retreat,

Circle Z Ranch, winter horse holidays, horse rider retreat,

The oldest continuously operating dude ranch in Arizona (since the 1920s), Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia is a 6500-acre oasis of peace and calm, perfect for a relaxing retreat. Managers Jock and Pamela Soper began visiting Circle Z in the 1980s as guests, fell in love with the ranch, land, and people, and are now in their third season as staff.

Circle Z’s featured activity is its horseback riding. Rides are offered twice daily and are modified to suit all levels of ability. Foreman George Lorta matches each guest with one of the 85 or so horses, many of which were bred, foaled, and trained right on the ranch, for the duration of their stay, and returning guests often find that they are able to be paired with their former mount again.

Circle Z Ranch, winter horse holidays, horse rider retreat,

Many of Circle Z’s trails wind through the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains, covering terrain that varies from rangeland to canyons.Many of Circle Z’s trails wind through the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains, covering terrain that varies from rangeland to canyons.

Circle Z Ranch, winter horse holidays, horse rider retreat,

Photos courtesy of Circle Z Ranch

“We’ve been going [to Circle Z Ranch] for one week a year for seven years,” says guest Barb McLintock. “Year eight is coming up. I’ve been to guest ranches before and so many of them have rather dull, ‘tail to nose’ horses. One of the things that’s so cool about the Circle Z is that they cater to all different kinds of riders. It’s absolutely gorgeous – the most gorgeous country you could think of to ride in.”

Situated 4000 feet above sea level, many of Circle Z’s trails wind through the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains, although a particularly popular ride leads along the Sonoita Creek, which flows year round. Splashing through the creek is a lovely and refreshing way for horse and rider to cool off on a hot afternoon.

Bird watching is the other main attraction at Circle Z. The ranch lies a mere 10 minutes from Patagonia, which is not only known for its embodiment of the “Old West,” but is also an international birding destination, with some 200 species of birds migrating through the area each year. The region also offers beautiful hiking. The trek to the top of nearby Circle Z Mountain often affords the opportunity to spot local fauna, as well as providing a breathtaking view from the summit.

Back at the ranch, guests are invited to make full use of the state of the art tennis court, and cool off in the outdoor swimming pool. Other activities include horse shoes, shuffleboard, basketball, ping pong, and golfing at one of several golf courses in the area. Topping off a vacation at Circle Z is the food. Ranch-grown vegetables are often featured on the menu, which places an emphasis fresh, local, and sustainable eating.

To learn more, please visit www.circlez.com.

Main Article Photo: Barb McLintock

This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Canadian Horse Journal.

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