March 28, 2012 Looking for a unique, authentic way to enjoy the best of Arizona? Consider a visit to a dude ranch. At one of the nine ranches affiliated with Arizona Dude Ranch Association, it is possible to savor the real western lifestyle, where the world moves at a more relaxed pace and where horseback riding is an everyday treat. A girlfriends getaway, an intergenerational adventure or any other group outing can be enjoyed. The ranches are as diverse as the state, “ranging from the more traditional smaller, remote ranches, where horseback riding and ranching are the primary focus, to our larger resort-style guest ranches, with all the amenities,” said Lacy Gambee, a spokesperson for the association.

Circle Z Ranch  Circle Z, located 60 miles southeast of Tucson, is a guest ranch operated continuously since 1926. Here, guests ride ranch-bred horses through the foothills of the historic Santa Rita Mountains. As a quiet, family-oriented ranch, the emphasis is on riding and down-home hospitality. The ranch has 27 rooms and is open from October through May. The Circle Z is known for excellent horses and great variety of trails, but also recognized worldwide for birding throughout the ranch and on the adjacent Patagonia Nature Preserve. (888) 854-2525, www.circlez.com

Elkhorn Ranch  The Elkhorn Ranch lies 50 miles southwest of Tucson in its own mesquite-covered valley, where the mountains and open desert meet. Since 1945, the Miller family has operated the ranch with exceptional riding and comfortable living for 32 guests in 20 cabins. Visitors enjoy wildlife and wintering birds, lazy hours in the sun, tennis, swimming and shuffleboard from November through April. (520) 822-1040, www.elkhornranch.com

Flying E Ranch   High on a mesa in the Hassayampa Valley, 60 miles northwest of Phoenix, the Flying E Ranch offers a personal approach to the dude ranch experience with a strong family feeling between guests and staff. Since 1946, the Flying E Ranch in Wickenburg has specialized in authentic Western hospitality, with great horses for every rider, ranch-style home cooked meals and a comfortable place to relax at the end of the day. The 17-room ranch is in operation from November through May. (888) 684-2650, www.flyingeranch.comFlying E Barn Gather

Hidden Meadow   This luxurious guest ranch is surrounded by the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona’s White Mountains. Guests enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fly-fishing, archery and horseback riding on the hundreds of miles of national forest trails surrounding the ranch. The 12-cabin ranch is open year-round.(866) 333-4080, www.hiddenmeadow.com

Rancho De La Osa  Rancho De La Osa is a 300-year-old ranch property and one of the last great haciendas in the U.S. Established as a guest ranch in 1924, visitors enjoy innovative Southwest cuisine and scenic trail rides, while surrounded by history that has been lovingly preserved in the beautiful buildings set in the Sonoran Desert. The ranch, located 65 miles southwest of Tucson, has 18 rooms and is open year-round. As the ranch borders the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, there are abundant opportunities for viewing birds and wildlife — on foot or on horseback. (800) 872-6240, www.ranchodelaosa.com

Rancho de los Caballeros   This ranch, with 79 rooms, is located in Wickenburg. It’s open from October through May. Tee off on the 18-hole championship golf course, enjoy a scenic trail ride, play tennis or relax in the spa. (800) 684-5030, www.sunc.com

Sprucedale Guest Ranch  Sprucedale Ranch is nestled high in the pine country of northeastern Arizona at an elevation of 7,600 feet. It has been in the Wiltbank family since 1941, and it is a haven for people to ride horses, relax and reconnect with nature. In addition to horseback riding, there are activities for all ages — cow milking, gymkhana rodeos, colt leading, branding, western dance lessons, cookouts, fishing and hiking trails. The 14-cabin ranch is open from May through October. (928) 333-4984, www.sprucedaleranch.com

Tanque Verde Ranch  A historic working ranch and a Mobil 4 Star Resort, Tanque Verde Ranch combines the adventurous lifestyle of the Old West with the comfort and amenities of a world-class resort. Located on 640 acres in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson, Tanque Verde Ranch offers horseback riding lessons, trail rides, hiking, mountain biking, tennis, swimming, fishing and La Sonora Spa. The 74-room ranch is open year-round. (800) 234-3833, www.tvgr.com

White Stallion Ranch  The White Stallion Ranch sits on 3,000 acres of the beautiful Sonoran desert, adjoining Saguaro National Park, north of Tucson. The varied riding program includes walk rides, lope rides, breakfast rides, mountain rides, all-day rides and team cattle penning (a horse and cattle game done in the arena). Saturdays typically offer an exhibition rodeo with steer wrestling, team roping, and barrel racing. White Stallion Ranch, a 41-room property, is open year-round. (888) 977-2624,  www.whitestallion.com