Situated amid the ponderosa hills and Sonoran scrub valleys of Tonto National Forest, Cherry Creek Lodge tucks visitors into upscale accommodations that mirror the rustic environment. Although richly appointed guestrooms and gourmet meals may entice some to remain indoors, the postcard-worthy surroundings pull most sojourners into Pleasant Valley, which plays host to hunts for the 11 different game species—including elk, quail, and mule deer—that populate the region, as well as activities such as sporting clays, cattle drives, and fishing Lake Sharon’s largemouth bass.
Although today's lodge inhabitants can be found regaling one another with fishing stories or roasting pinecones over the hearth, the Pleasant Valley scene wasn’t always so tranquil. In the late 1800s, the valley provided the setting for an infamous dispute between the Graham and Tewksbury families that became known as the Pleasant Valley War. The conflict garnered national media attention at the time and generated numerous unresolved theories concerning its causes.
Jackpot Ranch's most dazzling amenity: 72 acres of land in the Verde Valley with endless blue sky above. Tranquil ponds reflect the scenery around them as the light mist from fountains floats out over the pastures, gazebo, and previously un-misted surfaces. Guests can climb to a three-story treehouse for a spectacular view of the Verde River, rocket down a water slide that also doubles as part of the ranch's irrigation system, or wander a petting zoo populated by deer, goats, pigs, rabbits, and other feathered and fuzzy creatures. After swaying in a hammock in the shade, playing horseshoes, or doing a little catch-and-release fishing, travelers can cozy up in one of six teepees large enough to sleep six people or one dozen mini horses who are using up their Jackpot Ranch vacation days before the end of the year.
Hundreds of animals from around the world roam the spacious, natural habitats on Out of Africa Wildlife Park’s 104 acres. Tours of the Wildlife Preserve jaunt past gray wolves and spotted hyenas, while a 30-minute African Bush Safari travels through a 22-acre high-desert-plains habitat where lions and tigers roam the hillside. Caretakers, colorful toys, and brain-tickling games of chess entertain Bengal and Siberian tigers in the Tiger Splash’s 35'x50' pool. Guests eager to interact with the park’s critters can hold anacondas and boas at the Giant Snake Show or tag along with caretakers feeding lions and tigers with 800 pounds of raw food. Check out Out of Africa Wildlife Park's YouTube or Twitter page for more information.