Nicknamed ‘The West’s Most Western town,’ it provides some of the most incredible locations and trails for horseback riding in Scottsdale.
With 330 days of annual sunshine and a vast share of the McDowell Mountains ranges seen from Scottsdale, there are numerous ways for you to enjoy and explore the Sonoran desert.
Whether hiking through the native ruins and over the rocks or taking the reins and riding through the 400 miles available, there’s no better feeling than experiencing the desert on horseback.
Here are seven riding locations that offer horseback adventures ranging from sunset plus dinner rides to more relaxed 1-hour rides.
Cave Creek Outfitters
Going back to a simpler time and relishing in all that cowboy life had to offer has never been easier.
By riding with Cave Creek Outfitters, you get an array of activities perfect for the whole family.
Cave Creek Outfitters has been a Scottsdale outfitter since 1993, and they know a thing or two about creating the ideal horseback adventure.
Located near the Rio Verde River, riding at Cave Creek offers impressive views of the McDowell Mountain and Mazatzal Mountian Ranges.
The stables provide incredibly well-trained, polite, and gentle horses trained to ride in the desert.
In addition, the wranglers make sure that each ride is safe, fun, and informative as possible, with enough opportunities for photos.
They offer the following rides
- 1.5 hour ride is charged at $85 per person
- 1-hour ride is charged at $60 per person
- Private rides are charged at $112 per person and have a 2-person minimum
- Rides have a maximum of 6-12 people per group
During fall and spring, guests to the ranch can experience the Cowhand Aventure package and the Trail Boss Adventure Package.
Cowhand Adventure Package: 10 am Only
Experience a 1-hour trail ride into the Sonoran desert. Afterward, participate in cowboy games which include:
- Hanging horseshoe ring toss
- Throw tomahawks
- Bow and arrow archery
- Stationary steer roping
Subject to the time of the ride, you can enjoy:
- Classic cowboy lunch of grilled hamburger
- Chicken breast
- The plump hot dog accompanied by cowboy beans and corn
- Potato salad chips
- Non-alcoholic beverages
Charges: $90 per person plus tax.
Trail Boss Adventure Package
For riders looking for a longer time in the saddle, enjoy a 1.5-hour ride into the Sonoran desert, indulge yourself in the available cowboy games, and end or begins with a delicious cowboy lunch, depending on your ride time.
Charges: $115 per person plus tax.
Need To Know Before Heading Out
- They provide bottled water
- Reservations are required to ride
- Children must be six years old to ride
- They have a weight limit of 240 pounds
- They have different ride timings per season, so check with their team before reserving.
Address: 31313 N 144th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85262, United States
Phone: 480 471 4635
Located in north Scottsdale, Macdonalds Ranch is a family-run business offering residents and out-of-town guests horseback rides for the past 20 years.
You don’t need riding experience to enjoy all Macdonalds’ Ranch offers by providing a herd of well-trained gentle horses.
Explore the more significant part of the Sonoran desert with their 1.5-hour or 2-hour guided group or private rides.
For younger cowpoxes, the local petting zoo should provide enough entertainment.
However, for nervous riders or guests who want a more relaxed ride, the 45-minute stagecoach ride, charged at $300 for five guests, should suffice.
Also available at the ranch are cowboy cookouts.
- Horseback ride plus dinner – $135
- Hay rides $98 per guest
- $45 per young child
The minimum riding age is eight years old. Perfect for families and friends with inexperienced riders.
The group rides will take you into the desert, where you will be treated to views of the native flora and fauna. You can choose from the 1-hour, 1. 5 hours, or 2-hour group rides.
1-hour group ride
- $ 65 per adult
- $60 per child
1.5 hours ride
- $95 per adult
- $90 per child
2 hours ride
- $120 per person
Ideal for riders with some horseback experience to enjoy the desert tranquility and some one-on-one bonding time with your stead.
You can choose from the
- 1-hour ride charged at $100 per person
- 1.5-hour ride at $130 per person
- 2-hour ride set at $160 per person
If there’s an activity that everyone should try and do is exploring the Sonoran desert by moonlight. Perfect for couples, family, or alone.
The moonlight rides are available for
- 1 hour charged at $100 per person
- 1.5 hours charged at $ 130 per person
- Rides are by reservation only via phone
- Children must be six years and older to ride
- Their hours of operation vary season by season. Always check before
- The weight limit is 240 lbs depending on the height of the rider
- The moonlight rides are available four days before the full moon
- Check-in time is 30 minutes before riding. A $35 late fee will be charged if you don’t check in within 15 minutes
- Riders who have to have their horses led cannot participate in the moonlight rides
All changes or cancellations must be made 24 hours before the riding time. Otherwise, it will lead to a full charge.
Address: 26540 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85255, United States
Arizona Horseback Adventures
Stepping away from the constant noise of the city and stepping into Arizona Horseback Adventures will provide you with both a historical and fun time.
Its location is in an 1870s gold mine. The rides take you from the ranch to the Sonoran Desert and the foothills of the Tonto National Forest.
From being guided by professional and informative wranglers, experience an authentic western adventure that starts on the ranches’ front porch and concludes as you dismount from one of their gentle well-trained horses.
Besides being the home to Reno (one of the horses), the ranch is also home to a couple of dogs, a tortoise, and goats, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, that make their presence known as soon as you step on the ranch.
Enjoying the beauty of the Sonoran desert, crossing creeks, and passing by towering Saguaros, Arizona Horseback offers a 1-hour ride charged at $57, a 1.5-hour ride, and a 2-hour horseback ride that takes you to the Sonoran desert and the Tonto National Forest.
You’re sure to learn about the wildlife and plants that inhabit the land. In addition, these rides are perfect for all levels.
Sunset Trail Ride
Arizona sunsets are like no other. With the perfect mix of brilliant red and purple hues, riding through the desert with the evening at your back will be an imprinted memory.
You can choose from the 1-hour and 1.5-hour ride.
A much longer ride, ride through the Sonoran desert and enjoy scenic vistas of ancient Hohokum and Petroglyphs. You can choose from either 3-hour or 4-hour trailblazer rides.
If you’re looking for more time in the saddle, you can choose different rides to quench your riding thirst.
You can choose from the 5-hour Indian ruin ride, the 6-hour combination of Petroglyph and Indian Ruin, or the 6.5-hour ride to the 7 Springs Area.
- The ticket price includes the entrance fee to the Spur Cross Conservation.
- 48 hours cancellation, 100% refund
- For a 48 -24 hour cancellation, get a gift certificate with 1-year expiration.
- Less than 24 hours, no refund
Address: 44029 N Spur Cross Rd, Cave Creek, AZ 85331, United States
Phone: 480 488 9117
Suppose you’re looking for a little bit more of a workout, then look no further than the trails that litter the Sonoran desert.
Whether you’re looking for more short trails that still offer beautiful views of the desert or a longer, more challenging trail, you will find all that you’re looking for here.
Blue Wash Trail
Generally considered a moderately easy route, the Blue Wash Trail is a 2.8 miles out and back trail located a few miles from Scottsdale. The duration of the ride is 1 hour and 13 minutes.
- A waterfall filled with vegetation on all sides
- The trail is fit for kids and dogs
- The ground is mostly sand mixed in with rocks with a few boulders here and there.
- There are no bathrooms at the trailhead
- No fee is required for entry into the park
- Dogs are welcome but must be leased
- The trails isnt marked, so a pre-downloaded map
- Little to no shade on the trail
Granite Mountain Loop
The Granite Mountain loop is a 4.2-mile loop that takes you around Granite Mountain and back and features some of the most dramatic rock formations.
- Duration – 1 hour 52 minutes
- Parking is available at the trailhead
- Water and restrooms aren’t available
- Elevation gain of 500 feet
- The trail is single track
- An equestrian staging area is available
- The fee is $5 per day for use
- Rated as difficult
Location for the trailhead: 31402 N. 136th St., Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Pemberton Trail Loop
Explore this 15.7 miles trail loop located in McDowell Mountain Park. One of the longest trails in the park, this trail features a mix of ascents and descents and varied terrain.
- Duration 5 hours 20 minutes
- Dogs are welcome but should be leashed
- Surface is singletrack
- The trail features incredible views of Four Peaks and the Rim.
- It has a 1960ft elevation at the trailhead
- Rocky terrain on one part and sandy on the other
- The Park entrance fee is $7
- The trail isn’t shaded
Desert Parks And Gateway Loop
If you’re looking for an easy loop trail, look no further than Desert Parks And Gateway Loop. The 8.5 km trail is also popular with birders and hikers.
- Dogs are welcome. However, they must be on a leash
- Features an elevation gain of 203m
- The terrain is rocky, with certain parts flat
- The trail is well marked, and into the McDowell Sonoran Preserve
- Incredible views of the Mcdowell Mountains and beautiful surrounding scenery
- Clean restrooms
Now that you know where to go for unguided rides in the desert, here are a few guidelines to follow for an even better time.
The Sonoran Desert is home to varied adapted wildlife, whether mule deers, coyotes, bobcats, wild horses, rattlesnakes, or roadrunners.
It would be best if you always looked for yourself and your horse. If possible, bring a first aid kit and water. The trail terrain is rugged.
Make sure your horse is fitted with the correct shoes. Whether riding at a stable or by yourself, always be courteous, make your presence known, and always clean up as you go.
Scottsdale is great for any adventurer, but it’s a horseback riders’ playground, offering everything from guided rides to miles of uninhibited trails.
So saddle up, and enjoy all that Scottsdale has to offer, not forgetting to tip your wrangler and give your four-legged friend a carrot treat.