Arizona’s Hideout Ranch - A Rider’s Review
by Annette Doerr
In the winter of 2010 while trying to decide on a family vacation, I began scouring the web for guest ranches. We’d been on ranch vacations before in both Arizona and Texas but, while we always had a great time, the thought of doing the same old thing and at the same time on the same trails was too much of the same. In a twist of fate, I happened upon the website for Hideout Ranch, on the Arizona/New Mexico border.
Spring Break Ranch Vacation
Spring Break for my daughters (then ages 15 and 13) fell in late March, and we definitely thought that part of the country might be a nice temperature change from cold, dreary, snowy New York. The website was intriguing, and the ranch seemed very different than the “dude” ranches we had vacationed at four times in the past.
Our family might be a little different than the average guest ranch customer. We have a horse. We are horse people, and we all ride. Having the knowledge and experience I have usually compels me rule out most dude ranches. To me, the horses are first and foremost. Are they fit? Do they look happy and healthy? Are they levelheaded and even-tempered? Are the owners actually horsemen, or are they just playing the “cowboy part” most guests want to see when they go to a ranch.
After many, many emails back and forth with ranch owner Tamara J Lawson, we took the plunge and booked a five-day stay. Honestly, we were a little unnerved by the description of “cowboy cooking”. Other guest ranches we had been to had featured a big lodge where they put out a huge buffet. The thought of our meals being cooked over a campfire and eating outdoors sounded a little more rustic than I thought I was ready for.
Let me clear that misconception up right now. Mealtime was an absolute delight. Hideout Ranch’s camp cook, Jerry Racicot, is one amazingly talented chef. It takes a special talent to adapt and develop recipes for Dutch Oven cooking! Jerry and his wife, Jennifer, have an organic farm near the ranch, and most of the produce used at Hideout Ranch is grown and harvested right down the road. The art of cooking over a campfire has been truly lost to history, but Jerry brought it to life every morning and night - and oh! Was it delicious...
Trail Riding at Hideout Ranch
What sets Hideout Ranch apart from other ranches is, well, everything! We didn’t ride twice a day for an hour on the same old tired trails. We rode five-to-six hours a day on rides tailored for us by Trail Boss and Owner, Craig Lawson. Our horses were carefully selected for us according to our riding experience and preference. You don’t have to be an Olympic-level rider. The Hideout Ranch horses have you covered! There are plenty to choose from, and they have the right horse for you!
Each morning, we loaded our horses and trailered out to a new destination. Each new day welcomed us to a wonderful new adventure. The area surrounding the ranch is chock-full of American history. During our stay, we rode to Horseshoe Canyon, Fort Bowie, the Chiricahua National Monument, and, on our last day, rode right off the ranch property into Owl Canyon.
Each ride was more spectacular than the one before it. The scenery and terrain changed dramatically from ride to ride, and the horses took it all in stride. We had the opportunity to ride in places most Americans only read about in history books or watch in Western movies.
Anyone interested in Native American and/or American history will be in absolute heaven. This is the real-deal west, and our horses carried us through it, to places a human on foot would have great difficulty reaching. Our first-rate equines were happy, healthy, well fed, and sure-footed. No typical follow-the-leader “hack” horses at Hideout Ranch! Our five-day stay flew by, and soon it was time to return to New York, full of stories, pictures, and memories.
Roundup and Jumping Lessons!?!
By summer, we decided we needed to get away from the rat race, so I contacted Tamara once again. We flew out for a very special ranch event - Roundup! See, horses aren’t the only important part of Hideout Ranch. They also run a herd of purebred Black Angus beef cattle, used for breeding stock replacement. It was time to round up the babies born during the year so they can be tagged, wormed, and vaccinated.
Moving a herd of cattle on horseback was the experience of a lifetime, and we were blessed to be part of it. My daughters even branded their own namesake calves!
Now, one would think working all day doing roundup in the Arizona summer sun would be enough for one day. Well, not for us, and not for Hideout Ranch! We changed tack from Western to English, and went out to the jumping area where Tamara schooled my girls over some fences! We definitely earned our giant pot of authentic Cowboy Stew and cornbread that evening!
We spent the rest of the week trailering out to ride the historic trails of places like Camp Rucker and the unbelievably rugged and beautiful Cochise Stronghold, rumored to be Cochise’s final resting place.
In a few short weeks, we’ll be heading back west to Hideout Ranch for our third trip in one year. I cannot wait to figure out which new places we’ll discover this time. The opportunities for places to ride are endless. The horses are beyond fantastic. The food... well let’s just say you’ll need to hit the gym hard when you get back home, because this isn’t a weight loss camp! And the people? They don’t get better than Craig and Tamara J Lawson.
They’re horseman first and foremost, and just genuinely GREAT people. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at the ranch for a short stay or a long stay, you’re going to have an awesome time because of these wonderful ranch owners and their well-trained horses.
There’s so much more to Hideout Ranch than I can write here. I didn’t even begin to touch on the cattle or their system for naming their herds. It is truly a unique and wonderful place.
Their motto is “Come Hideout… On Horseback..” I urge you to do so - you’ll be glad you did!
About the Author: Annette Doerr is a self-employed business owner, equestrian and married mother of two, who is active in greyhound rescue. Critically injured in a jumping accident in 1990, she now prefers the security of a Western saddle and is starting to dabble in dressage. Annette enjoys riding her foundation-bred AQHA, Docs Are Smart (aka Cody).
Learn more about great Arizona ranches in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide, a comprehensive resource for dude ranches, riding holidays, cattle drives and equestrian escapes, for more great ranch vacations and check out Equitrekking's Meet Your Host, where we interview ranchers to give you a more personal look at ranch vacations and life on the range.