Wickenburg and the rest of Arizona’s historic communities vie in a friendly competition for the title of the state’s most Western town. But just between us cowpokes, it’s no contest. Wickenburg wins, hands down.
Downtown Wickenburg is a step back in time, where century-old buildings line the streets and life moves at a relaxed pace. Spend any time at all chatting with the shopkeepers and restaurateurs of the business district, and you’ll learn the true meaning of Western hospitality.
The rising thrust of Vulture Peak dominates the skyline. Pristine desert spreads out in all directions. Miles of hiking and riding trails crisscross the rugged landscape. Working ranches and guest ranches create swaths of uninterrupted terrain and wildlife corridors. This city defines wide-open spaces.
Founded in 1863, Wickenburg is one of Arizona’s oldest towns. In 2018, it turns 155 years old—a history rich with cowboys, miners and ranchers. And that’s not the only milestone being celebrated. Across the state, significant milestones lend themselves to celebrations this year, so now is the perfect time to mosey out Wickenburg way and discover what the residents already know. Arizona keeps the West in Wickenburg
This is what started it all, 155 years ago. Fresh from California’s gold rush, Prussian-born Henry Wickenburg discovered a ledge of quartz seamed with gold in the mountains above the Hassayampa River. The Vulture Mine operated from 1863 to 1942, becoming one of Arizona’s most productive gold mines.
12 miles outside Wickenburg, visitors can tour Vulture City, a ghost town with a remarkable collection of historic buildings gnawed by the elements, but still standing. They’re surrounded by worn mining equipment such as the stamp mill and headframe. The nearby Hanging Tree, where 18 men danced at the end of a rope tied to a sturdy branch for crimes that ranged from murder to “highgrading,” or stealing gold from the mine, offers silent testimony to the harshness of the era.
Long known as the Dude Ranch Capital of the World, Wickenburg has always provided the Western experience to visitors. Two of the most prominent ranches reach historic milestones in 2018, both hitting the 70-year mark.
Sitting on 20,000 acres, the Flying E preserves a way of life. The big spread is a traditional dude ranch that focuses on horseback riding. Two rides are scheduled daily, one on Sunday, and all experience levels are accommodated. Ranch facilities also include a heated swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts and horseshoe pits.
The Flying E is geared toward families. Things are done together as a group, from riding to dining. It’s a chance to reconnect, not just with the land but also with loved ones. And how often do those opportunities come along?
Established in 1948, Rancho de los Caballeros quickly won acclaim for charming accommodations and impeccable service. Guest rooms and suites are scattered about the grounds in graceful casitas. While different styles are available, each comes with handcrafted furniture, warm Southwestern colors, plush beds with luxurious linens and private patios.
The ranch features daily horseback rides, a full-service spa, trap and skeet range, tennis courts, a swimming pool and an 18-hole golf course that’s been ranked as one of the top hundred in the United States by Golf Digest.
Held each February, Gold Rush Days is a history lesson masquerading as a rollicking, fun-filled festival. You receive an education in the heritage of, not just the town, but also the entire state. No wonder the Library of Congress selected this venerated annual event as one of America’s Living Legacies.
Since 1948, Wickenburg has celebrated its frontier past with a town-wide blowout. Festivities included gunfights, gold panning, mucking and drilling contests, a Senior Pro Rodeo, classic car show, family carnival and one of the biggest parades in Arizona. Don’t miss the old-fashioned melodrama held nightly in historic Saguaro Theatre.
Now in its 30th year, this colorful festival takes place on Sept. 1 and kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month in Arizona. It celebrates the contributions of Wickenburg’s Hispanic pioneers. Stories and photography exhibits bring this important chapter of Wickenburg history to life.
Enjoy Latin bands, mariachi music and folkloric dancers throughout the day. There is also a kid zone and an outdoor mercado overflowing with arts and crafts, along with plenty of food and drink. Guacamole, salsa and margarita contests give participants a chance to offer up their best recipes with prizes and awards on the line.
Finish the year with an authentic taste of the Old West. Even though the Cowboy Christmas Poetry Gathering takes place in the Convention Center and the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, it will conjure up the open range, crackling campfires and a glittering canopy of stars overhead.
The romance of cowboy life is celebrated in this 30-year-old event. As handy with a rhyme as they are with a rope, these performers captivate audiences with their words and music. Cowboys and gals, wranglers, ramblers and ranch hands get together to share songs and poems about long days spent in the saddle. The event occurs Dec. 7–8.
Allow plenty of time for your Wickenburg visit. Adventures are plentiful if you’re so inclined. Enjoy a walking tour of historic downtown. Take a jeep tour into the hardscrabble outback along old mining roads. Ride an actual stagecoach through the saguaro-dotted landscape. Climb to the top of Vulture Peak. Hike the desert trails of Sophie’s Flat or the gentle pathways of Hassayampa River Preserve, a sheltered riparian oasis. Explore scenic Box Canyon with its dramatic high stonewalls. Wickenburg has a way of pulling you outdoors.
In a fast-paced, ever-changing world, it’s good to disengage once in a while. Swap your desk for a saddle and your computer screen for a panorama of mountains and sky. Let the desert stillness soothe away some of the stress of everyday life. Breathe deep the clean air. Savor the details. Slow down a little. Let Wickenburg show you how to get your mosey back.