Horsin' Around Adventures gives visitors a chance to explore Arizona's canyons and scenic wildlife habitats the way the first settlers did—on horseback. But because today's riders likely aren't as experienced as those in the Old West and don't know how to bribe their mounts with a cool drink of sarsaparilla, Horsin' Around puts riders aboard gentle steeds that are between 9 and 12 years old. These horses know the trails so well that riders can relax and enjoy the scenery, which includes a babbling creek and vineyards at the Sedona/Oak Creek location and lush pines at the Williams location.
Riders who set out from M Diamond Ranch can thread the dusky red cliffs of a narrow canyon, trot across scrub-covered hills, or climb a ridge to gaze onto the sweeping panorama of the Verde Valley. These excursions are possible thanks to the 100-year-old ranch's uniquely qualified trail guides, the only ones in the area permitted to lead visitors through the scenic Red Rock District of Coconino National Forest. Each holds CPR and First Aid certifications, and can safely lead groups or private rides out on tours lasting up to three hours, either during the day or by moonlight. On each outing, they teach guests basic tenets of horsemanship, cowboy history, and cowboy culture, including the art of switching places with your horse to fool outlaws.
After trail rides, draft-horse-drawn wagons transport visitors to optional cowboy cookouts at an all-weather elevated site with panoramic views. Here, chefs serve traditional frontier fare such as 16-ounce rib-eye steaks, campfire chili, and dutch-oven cornbread, while visitors commune or listen to live country-western and rockabilly music. Though they entertain daily, the ranch's staffers also perform vital tasks behind the scenes; they conduct regular trail maintenance and put proceeds toward preservation—efforts that have earned them a Wildlife Habitat Stewardship Award.
In 1906, after studying disruptions in the orbit of Uranus, Percival Lowell began to suspect the existence of a planet beyond Neptune. He referred to it as Planet X, and he scanned the night sky from his Flagstaff observatory until his death in 1916. More than two decades passed after the initial conjecture before Lowell astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh sat down in the very same observatory and confirmed the existence of the dwarf planet Pluto.
Though Lowell and Tombaugh's planet was kicked out of the solar club in 2006, their discovery led to several decades of essential research at Lowell Observatory. The observatory’s astronomers have since discovered evidence of the expanding universe and have also provided exhaustive measurements of the motions and basic properties of stars. In 2012, the nonprofit observatory became home to the Discovery Channel Telescope—the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States and currently the only one capable of observing the astronauts stranded on Neptune.
Much of Arizona remains unchanged from the days when cowboys and their dinosaur steeds ruled the desert plains. Millions of acres of lush trees still blanket the Coconino National Forest, growing up over mountains in defiance of the desert's red rocks. In Mayer, miles of horseback trails snake past rivers and rock outcroppings, passing by historic windmills and cattle ranches that still operate to this day.
The horseback guides at Pot A Gold Adventures call each of these majestic landscapes home. Each day, they lead groups from three different stables: Hitchin' Post Stables, Pot A Gold Stables, and Mountain Ranch Stables. From here, they depart on two-hour adventures through deserts and forests. On some of these trips, they might stop to build a fire and cook dinners of steak, potatoes, and beans.
Lemonade and iced tea replace cowboy food during the spring and summer. The wagons are drawn on rubber wheels to make the ride as smooth as possible so guests can enjoy the views as well as the horses, as they are nearly as beautiful as the surrounding landscape. Pot A Gold Adventures' trainers raise most of the purebred Quarter and Paint horses almost from birth.
Though visitors to Pot A Gold won't find leprechauns, they will find horses—plenty of them. That's because the business, which runs its own outpost in Mayer, is also the parent company to Pioneer Village Stables in Phoenix and Hitchin' Post Stables in Flagstaff. At each of its locations, visitors climb atop purebred quarter and paint horses to travel a different landscape. Pot A Gold Stables invites riders and their steeds to trot along 4,500 acres peppered with rock outcroppings and a river. Pioneer Village Stables has a more urban aesthetic, albeit one that feels more like a ghost town than a city. Here, riders saunter through the remnants of an 1800s-era community, clomping past an old church, sheriff's station, and sarsaparilla well.
Cowboy Way Adventures’ veteran wranglers traverse this vast landscape and know the wilds of Arizona almost as well as they know the muscular steeds they captain. To introduce others to the untamed beauty of the Arizona countryside, they match riders with compatible horses and lead guided trail rides.
After pairing each guest with a steed that moonlights as a cattle horse and occasional lounge singer, the wranglers take parties through the pine-filled Prescott mountains, trotting alongside rocky cliffs and through the Verde River. Riders in Wickenburg wander down Sonoran Desert trails, past saguaro cacti and sandy washes that lick the bases of soaring cliffs. Those in Sedona follow red-dirt cattle trails before circling back to the stables, guided by the windmill in the distance.
Wranglers ensure a comfortable yet exciting journey that allows beginners to saunter along and advanced equestrians to gallop up hills and naturally occurring escalators.