Nestled in the foothills of the Vulture Mountains, along the banks of the Hassayampa River, is an oasis in the Sonoran Desert: Wickenburg. Founded in the late 1800s to support Henry Wickenburg’s Vulture Mine, the town has evolved throughout the years to become a modern community rich in the traditions of the old west.
While Wickenburg has often been listed among the top places in the country to retire, it’s also a great place to visit, with plenty of activities for people of any age. Here are my top ten suggestions:
1. Stay at a Guest Ranch
Wickenburg is often referred to as the “Dude Ranch Capital of Arizona.” With several ranches in and around the town, that’s no surprise. Some of the best include Rancho de los Caballeros (928/684-5484), Flying E Guest & Cattle Ranch (928/684-2690), Kay El Bar Guest Ranch (928/684-7593), and Rancho Casitas (928/684-2628). Each ranch offers activities that can include horseback riding, golf, tennis, swimming, nature walks, and more.
2. Take the Historic Walking Tour of Wickenburg
A free brochure is available at the some local area merchants. It will guide you past Wickenburg’s historic buildings and locations, with interesting tidbits of information to describe each one. The walk isn’t long and it’s a great way to see the town.
3. Visit the Desert Caballeros Western Museum
Who would think that a small town like Wickenburg could have such an incredible collection of western art? Located on Frontier Street in town, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum is a great place to visit any time of the year. If you’re a fan of Western Art, you may want to plan your visit to Wickenburg around the museum’s calendar. Check the museum’s Web site, www.westernmuseum.org, for an up-to-date listing of lectures, exhibits, and special events or call them at 928/684-2272. Museum admission is $5 per person with discounts for AAA members, seniors, and children.
4. Visit the Hassayampa River Preserve
Located five miles south of town on the Phoenix Highway, the Hassayampa River Preserve offers easy, self-guided hiking trails through both desert and riparian environments. It’s a bird-watcher’s paradise! The visitor’s center includes interpretive exhibits and a gift shop. The suggested donation is $5 per person. Call them for more information at 928/684-2772.
5. Eat at a Local Restaurant
Sure, Wickenburg has the usual collection of fast food places, but it’s much better to eat with the locals. Some of my favorite places include:
- Anita’s Cocina, serving Mexican food for lunch and dinner; 928/684-5777
- Screamer’s Drive In, serving excellent breakfast burritos for breakfast and the best burger in town for lunch and dinner; 928/684-9056
- House Berlin, serving authentic German food for lunch and dinner; 928/684-5044
- The Cowboy Cafe, serving real cowboys breakfast and lunch; 928/684-2807
- Rancho de los Caballeros, for a fine dining experience at dinner time and Sunday brunch; reservations required, 928/684-5484
(For more information about places to eat, read the wickenburg-az.com Dining Guide.)
6. Go Shopping
Downtown Wickenburg has a number of interesting shops offering a variety of merchandise. Don’t miss the shops on North Tenger, West Apache, and East Wickenburg Way. And if you’re a horse lover or fan of western clothing and art, don’t miss Double-D Western World on West Wickenburg Way (928/684-7987). (Read more about shopping in Wickenburg.)
7. Hike Up Vulture Peak
The 3,660-foot Vulture Peak is a volcanically formed landmark about five miles south of the town. Bring a picture lunch with plenty of drinking water. The hike along the BLM-maintained trail isn’t long and only the last quarter mile could be considered strenuous. Enjoy lunch at the saddle or at the very top of the peak. (Thois is a hike for the autumn, winter, or spring; in summertime, it’s just too hot.) The views are great and, best of all, it’s free. (You can read about this hike on the Vulture Peak Hike page on wickenburg-az.com.)
8. Drive to Box Canyon
The locals know where the cool water flows — at Box Canyon and the slot canyon beyond. Take Rincon Road to just past the second river crossing, and then make a right down the narrow dirt road that leads to the river. Follow the tracks of other vehicles to stay out of quicksand. Soon, you’ll find water flowing in the river and, if its a weekend, lots of quads and Jeeps speeding through the water. You’ll need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to make this trip. You can learn more about this trip on the Box Canyon and the Slot page on wickenburg-az.com. Important Note: Do not drive up to Box Canyon from downtown Wickenburg or either of the Rincon Road river crossings. Doing so will take you through private property.
9. Visit Vulture Mine
If you’re interested in history and ghost towns, don’t miss Vulture Mine — the gold mine that started it all — about 10 miles south of town on Vulture Mine Road. You’ll pay $7 for a self-guided tour that takes you through an amazing collection of buildings from the 19th century, many of which are still in very good condition. Be careful in the summertime, though — the rattlesnakes like the shade of those old buildings just as much as the visitors do.
10. Take a Helicopter Tour
Flying M Air offers helicopter tours of the Wickenburg area. If you’ve never been aloft in a helicopter, this is your chance to do it over a landscape that has to be seen from above to be really appreciated. The company also offers exciting day trips to remote desert locations, like the Waters-Sunset Mine site and the Swansea Ghost Town. Call them for more information and reservations at 928/684-1233; or visit their Web site at www.flyingmair.com.
Those are my suggestions. Now let’s see how many you can do while you’re in Wickenburg!
And if you want more suggestions for things to do, be sure to visit the Things to Do pages here on wickenburg-az.com.