There’s nothing like the desert to get visions of cowboys dancing in your head, and Windwalker Expeditions, Inc. (888/785-3382, www.windwalkerexpeditions.com , $165) can help you live out any Zane Grey (or even Billy Crystal, City Slickers–style) fantasies with trail rides atop guide-owned Arabian or quarter horses. Beginners can even get lessons on the trail. For experienced riders, the company also organizes multiday pack trips through the backcountry lasting anywhere from 2 to 10 days.
Cave Creek ’s Spur Cross Stables (480/488-9117, www.horsebackarizona.com ) can get even the newest cowpokes into the saddle. The ranch, located on the site of an 1870s gold mine, offers spectacular rides through the desert and mountain passes of Tonto National Forest, with rates beginning at $35 for an hour. Customize your horseback adventure, or select the Native American Ruin, Stagecoach Stop, or Sunset trail ride. Children can sign up for the all-day Trail Blazer Kids Camp or feed crackers to the pot-bellied pigs, mini donkey, and pygmy goats that roam the ranch.
Wanna push the herd? Maybe flank and brand a calf? Or perhaps do a little pickin’ and singin’ after a long day on the range? Well, have I got the place for you, cowhand. Arizona Cowboy College (30208 N. 152nd St., 480/471-3151, www.cowboycollege.com ) offers honest-to-goodness, “no frills” lessons in cowboyin’. From half-day sessions on horseback riding and roping ($150) to the comprehensive six-day course ($2,250), you’ll have the experience of a lifetime learning how Arizona’s pioneers won the West.