The easiest place to set up an equine adventure is at Ponderosa Stables & South Mountain Stables in South Mountain Park  (10215 S. Central Ave., 602/286-1261, http://arizona-horses.com ). The experienced trail guides lead rides almost everywhere through the 16,000-acre park, as well as special sunrise and sunset rides that include breakfast or dinner seven days a week, all year long. Trail rides start at $30 a person for one hour and can change depending on the size of the group. Morning reservations are recommended, especially for summer days when the temperature can top 100 degrees.
Driving out to the far eastern edge of town makes Saguaro Lake Trail Rides (13020 Bush Hwy., 480/984-0335, www.saguarolaketrailrides.com ) more of an all-day destination than a place to drop in, but the lush canyons, towering rock spires, and, yes, an actual lake make the area one of the more scenic spots to ride horses. Rides run anywhere from $38 to $110 per person.
On the west side, step into the saddle at White Tanks Riding Stables (20300 W. Olive Ave., 623/935-7455, www.whitetanksriding.com ). The staff can round up horses for trail rides, “Dutch oven” dinner rides, and even pony rides for kids. Rates start at $37 per person for an hour.