Location: 40 miles north of Phoenix in Coldwater Canyon near Black Canyon City. When you make your reservation, they will give you directions from Interstate 17.
Horseback Riding Reservations: 623.374.5245
Group Reservations: 623.780.1624
Website: Western Destinations
Experiencing Canyon Creek
It was the day before Easter, and I was quick to accept an invitation to tour Canyon Creek Ranch on horseback with Jim Brown, the founder and owner. I soon found out that there are treasures hidden within the ranch and the talented staff at Canyon Creek that not many know about.
The Real Arizona
Jim Brown and his wife Opal are native Arizonans. Their love for their state, the beautiful lands and the people is evident. As I rode with Jim, an engaging story unfolded. The ranch is their family home and, as far as Jim is concerned, always will be. They own several other properties as far afield as Catalina Island, California but the hills surrounding the ranch and the lazy creek that runs through it are clearly special. Jim's family is involved in the business and, when you are there, you are treated with old fashioned Arizona family hospitality.
We headed out across a rocky desert, dotted with wildflowers, past some fantastic volcanic formations and up a hill so we could get a better look at the surrounding mountains and valley. We looked across the valley toward a Mesa and Jim told the story of an British horseback riding enthusiast who toured the world looking for the best places to ride in each country. He contacted the ranch and, since he was an experienced rider, they decided to take him on a thrilling ride up to the top of the mesa. As soon as he could get to a phone, the excited rider phoned his wife in England to tell her that he had just experienced the best ride ever and that she needed to return with him to experience the trail. And, within a year, she did.
My favorite part of the trail was crossing the creek. As the dogs who accompanied us laid in the water cooling off, the horses took a deep drink and I turned to look back up the beautiful canyon. This was indeed a memory maker!
Canyon Creek has horses and trails for all levels of rider and for all ages. They excel in planning to meet individual needs. Rides can be long or short, hard or easy.
On a Mission
Jim not only loves the land and the horses, he has a soft spot in his heart for children. He dedicates considerable time and resources to introducing children to the wonder of horses. There is something magic about a child and a horse and Jim believes this magic should be make available to even the most disadvantaged child. When you ride at one of the Western Destinations facilities, you can be assured that you are supporting good people and good works.
Entertainment and Team Building
While some of us are thrilled to have the opportunity to ride in the the Arizona desert on a well-trained trail horse, groups head out to the ranch for even more exciting fare. The ranch hosts corporate retreats and family groups and has a "fun and funky" old Western town right on the ranch. As we toured the weathered buildings, I entered the saloon and encountered a world class entertainer. He sat me down and amazed me with card tricks and slight of hand. He was excellent and is only one of the entertainers employed by Western Destinations (the name for the Ranch's parent company). They have authentic Western entertainment, fun Western style games such as roping and axe throwing and can individualize the experience for a group... large and small. They are well-respected. I heard that a group of executives from Daimler-Benz were coming from Germany to attend a retreat hosted by Western Destinations.
Experiencing Authentic Western Food
Under an ancient and sprawling tree, right in the middle of Canyon Creek Ranch's Old Town, we sat with some other riders and compared notes. The highlight was Opal's Chili which was served as a side dish to fantastic bar-b-qued hamburgers and grilled chicken. In the background teenagers laughed as they had their first shooting lessons at the little shooting range. Men swapped tall tales over a beer fresh from the rustic saloon.
So Now You Know
It's usually the conceierge at a Phoenix or Scottsdale resort that suggests riding at Canyon Creek Ranch and visitors from all over the world have experienced riding there. Otherwise, people find the ranch by word of mouth. I recommend a ride and Western experience with these folks because they have the ability to both entertain and to expose the visitor to the real Arizona. What they put together is a quality experience. They have the facilities to host both individuals and large groups and tailor-make the experience to be truly memorable.
In the Future
Western Destinations also owns the Hualapai Ranch, up at Grand Canyon West and, with the opening of the Skywalk there, is adding rooms to meet the need. It would be a great way to spend a few days at one of Arizona's newest attractions, one that is truly out in the wide open spaces.