Tucson: A Nature Lover's DreamAuthor: ParrotTalk
Date of Trip: December 2005
This canyon in Coronado National Forest offers narrated tram tours on a 3.8-mile paved loop. There are nine stops along the way, and you may get on and off at will and hook up with one of the hiking trails if you wish. An unnarrated shuttle is also available to the Seven Falls trailhead.
The Tanque Verde Ranch
For the first 5 nights of my stay, I was at the Tanque Verde Ranch. This is a nice property on the east side of Tucson, abutting the Saguaro National Park. I had a standard room, which is adequate for 1 to 2 people. It had a nice Southwestern decor and patio chairs out front. The bathroom seemed a little outdated, but it was fine. During my stay, I was actually the only one in my building unit, as the other bathrooms in that building were being redone and mine was slated for the same after I left.
This ranch offers a wide range of activities, including hiking, mountain biking, nature walks, art classes, and, of course, horseback riding. Rides go out three times per day, and you can choose between walking or lope rides. To participate in the lope rides, you must first pass the ranch lope test, for which there are classes available if you don't have much riding experience.
The food was excellent. Lunches are served buffet style in the dining room. There are several hot entrees and side dishes available, as well as a large salad bar and breads, cheese, etc. The best part was the huge pastry table offered each day at lunch with about 20 to 30 items. Dinners are waiter service and offer about 4 to 5 entrees. Several times a week, dinners are served as a cookout in the Cottonwood Grove. Breakfasts are a buffet, or you may order off a menu. For all meals, you may request a table for just your party or you may choose to join others at one of the group tables.
Westward Look Resort
Check-in was friendly and efficient. The lobby rooms were reminiscent of the Old West or a Mexican hacienda. They marked the building I was staying in on a map, and I set off to find it. I had a bit of trouble locating it, but once I did, I was impressed. I had reserved a standard posada room, and it was quite large. It was decorated in a dark terracotta color with a Mexican-style tile in the bathroom. I believe the hotel has three pools, but I only used the one closest to my room. I didn't eat at either of the hotel's two restaurants, The Gold Room or the Lookout Bar and Grille, but they looked nice. The hotel also offers tennis and horseback riding as well as having several nature paths around the property.
The desert setting is lovely, with lots of varieties of cacti. While there I saw a road runner, cottontail rabbits, and many quails. I didn't see any rattlesnakes during my stay, but the people staying in the next building had one on their porch, which was promptly removed by ranch staff.
Tohono Chul Park
This little park is a jewel. The landscaping is beautiful with many different types of gardens to view. You are given a map upon admission and you may either circulate freely on your own, or take advantage of one of the guided tours. Tour topics vary but might include birds of the desert, basic desert ecology, or native plants. There is a lovely tea room on sight which seemed quite popular. I arrived at the park for it's opening hour of 8am and was the only one there. By 9am, it was starting to fill in more. If you want a very peaceful experience, then I recommend going early- you may have the place to yourself.
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