Above the heat of the desert and below the chilly temperatures from Arizona’s high country sits Cottonwood, a beautiful destination that’s perfect for spring-weather riding. Ranked as one of the top 10 destinations in the United States, Cottonwood is home to several guest ranches offering exciting adventures both in and out of the saddle, and is filled with stunning trails to explore with your own horse.
We’ll share some of our favorite places to visit in Cottonwood and give you a list of things to see and do in between rides.
BUMBLE BEE RANCH
A working guest ranch that was started in 1998, Bumble Bee Ranch (bumble beeranch.com) is a full-service facility on 190 acres, surrounded by 74,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management public land in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains, and can handle groups of people from one to 300.
Bumble Bee Ranch has two guest houses, tent and RV campsites (with or without electric), horse corrals so you can bring your own mount, restroom and shower facilities, and a large pavilion that’s perfect for meeting fellow guests and dancing the night away.
The ranch’s website provides 10 different trails that are accessible on horse and by foot; all start and end at the ranch. Rides vary from 1½ hours to 6½ hours and range from easy to technical and rocky, so you’ll be able to find a trek to suit you, no matter how long you’d like to be on the trail and how challenging a ride you typically enjoy. During your ride you may encounter sandy washes, water crossings, ATV trails, and cattle trails. Some trails even have water troughs available for your horse to drink from along the way.
We decided to check out the Government Springs Trail and part of the Black Canyon Trail. We rode straight across from the ranch and worked our way to the saddle between the first ridge on the right and large mountain to the left. The trail was easy going and on a side hill without any dropoffs. The scenery is straight out of a Louis L’Amour Western novel, featuring statuesque saguaro, palo verde trees, and rambling prickly pear cacti.
If you choose to leave your horses at home, the ranch also provides private guided trail rides and advertises the most well-mannered trail horses west of the Mississippi —perfect for riders of all skill levels.
For a riding adventure you’ll never forget, be sure to check out one of the ranch’s cattle drives. During the first hour you’ll traverse through rugged Western country looking for cows. The second part of your ride will involve driving the cattle back to the arena. All of the riders partaking in the cattle drive are broken into teams; each team takes turns going into the herd, cutting a specific cow from the herd, and driving it to the other end of the arena. This gives riders the opportunity to hone a new set of riding skills and develop an appreciation for working cattle.
The best way to end a fun-filled day at Bumble Bee Ranch is by indulging in the cowboy cuisine. Whether you go for the baby back ribs or choose the ribeye dinner, their delicious country-style grub cooked in their award-winning kitchen will knock you off your feet.
THE RANCH AT TRAILS END
Our next stop was the Ranch at Trails End (theranchattrailsend.com), just on the eastern outskirts of Cottonwood and 20 minutes from Sedona. The location of the ranch offers beautiful views of the surrounding area, and the ranch’s porch is the perfect place to relax after a long drive and enjoy Arizona’s beautiful views.
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