As the adage goes, when you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras. Though that’s true everywhere, it holds extra weight in Scottsdale. Scottsdale, and McCormick Ranch in particular, has a rich equestrian history.
In some parts of the U.S., horseback riding is a thing of the past, relegated to dude ranches and rural areas. But horses continue to be a part of mainstream life throughout the West, and the Scottsdale area is even more unique; it's the epicenter of the country's Arabian horse world.
Whether you’re an equestrian visiting the area, ready to literally get back in the saddle, or a newbie whose curious about animals of the equine variety, Scottsdale is for you. Here are our tips for going horseback riding in Scottsdale AZ.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Fowler and Anne McCormick bought up many parcels of land in Scottsdale. This land eventually became the area now known as McCormick Ranch. Anne set aside 150 acres of the land and built an equestrian center dedicated to Arabian horses.
The first Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show was held here in the mid-1950s. What started as a small gathering of equestrians has grown to a highly sought after event that attracts roughly 2,000 horses and some of the world's top trainers each year. Though the show is usually held in mid-February, you can still find countless activities, adventures, and outfitters to satisfy your desire for a horseback ride.
If you don't have extensive experience riding horses, you can still get out on the trail. A few of the area ranches, such as MacDonald's Ranch, offer guided tours on some of the Sonoran Desert's easier trails. Most of the ranches have horses sized for all ages, and some even offer hayrides, stagecoach rides and a cookout to give you the real cowboy experience.
Scottsdale is full of horseback riding experiences. Whether you're bringing your own horse or renting one from a local stable, you'll find many beautiful horse-friendly trails in the Scottsdale area. Pinnacle Peak Park and the smaller Mescal Park are popular trails for those who want to see the area by horse. The Stonegate Equestrian Park in the northeastern part of the city is a good starting point. It has two arenas and a round pen, as well as picnic areas and playgrounds to keep everyone happy.
No horse to bring along? No problem. Head out on a horseback riding tour with one of these outfitters near The Scottsdale.
Cave Creek Outfitters is known for both their beautiful horses and breathtaking terrain. Their headquarters sits near the Rio Verde River, looking out at McDowell Mountain and the Mazatzal Mountain Range. Group trail rides range from 6-12 riders, so you’ll have plenty of instruction if you’re new to horseback riding. You’ll also learn about desert plant and animal life as you ride.
Head deep into the Sonoran Desert on a guided ride with MacDonald’s Ranch. The Ranch offers everything from group rides to moonlight rides, so you can experience the desert in a completely new light. No experience is necessary for their group rides, though they recommend that those with some horseback riding experience go for a private ride.