Arizona Hike & Sketch

Destination: Tucson, AZ

| Activities: Sketching, Hiking, Horseback riding & more

Nestled on the outskirts of Tucson, the Tanque Verde Ranch, is an ideal spot for exploring the surrounding mountains and desert. Each day is a new activity, with lots of fun in the desert sun. Our guides are not only hiking experts, but talented artists as well, so will offer sketching opportunities on several hikes. We'll start the week with a Cowgirl Cookout and spend some time improving our riding skills and strengthening our hiking legs on nearby trails. A trip to southern Arizona wouldn't be complete without an opportunity to also explore its culture and cuisine. So we will travel south one day to hike at Madera Canyon. With Tanque Verde Ranch as our base, there's a little something for everyone on this Sonoran Desert adventure! We provide a watercolor set and journal that fits in your day pack, along with expert art instruction and a supportive, creative hiking group. Maximum group size: 12


  • Settle in at Tanque Verde Ranch - recognized as the last luxurious outpost of the old west and located on 60,000 acres of Tucson's most breathtaking desert landscapes
  • Experiencing and learning about variety of Southwest desert ecosystems
  • Learn field sketching skills designed for all levels of artists
  • Hiking and Horseback riding
  • Practicing using your Nature Journal in a new way to really see and record the beautiful vistas


  • Two of our experienced hiking guides; one is Botanical Artist/Art Educator and other is a long-time Field Artist/Nature Sketcher.
  • Five nights of double occupancy accommodation
  • All meals except dinner on Day 4
  • All transportation once you arrive in Tucson, AZ
  • National Park and other entry fees
  • Private horseback ride
  • A small travel sketch set with journal, water brush, travel watercolor set, and micron pen

What's not included: Travel to and from Tucson, one dinner, travel insurance, spa services, alcoholic beverages, and guide gratuities.

Trip Documents

Trip Info

This trip is for women in good physical condition who can hike for three to six hours a day in a desert environment. There will be hikes of over six miles on four of the days, plenty of sketching instruction, and also some time to relax at the ranch. You will have the option to participate in all of the hikes if you train for a level 3 rated trip by engaging in aerobic conditioning, such as walking vigorously up hills, jogging, cross-country skiing or stair stepping for 30 - 45 minutes at least 3 - 4 times a week. Rating: 1 [2] [3] 4 5.

This is both a hiking trip and an opportunity to learn and practice basic art elements. Enjoy the mountains and improve your drawing and watercolor sketching techniques. There are a few opportunities to ride at the ranch and explore some of the other highlights and flavors of the desert southwest. We hike some of the areas highlights, including Saguaro National Park, Madera Canyon, Sabino Canyon and Mt. Lemmon to get a feel for the amazing diversity of this landscape. We'll also have a basic riding lesson and walk ride at the beginning and then have the option for a sunset ride later in the trip. There are also opportunities at the ranch to to go mountain biking, take a yoga lesson, or just relax and explore the many beautiful acres of desert on your own, especially if you want to arrive early or stay after the trip ends. There are so many options to make this a truly one-of-a-kind adventure!

There are five double-occupancy "salas" rooms available each with two queen beds, as well as a single occupancy "casitas" for a supplement. All of the rooms are located on the north side of the property in "Quail Hollow" with a nice grassy courtyard that invites you to relax and enjoy the sunset with your travel companions. The casitas are more spacious with their own sitting areas and are available for a supplement of $895, which can be as a single supplement. Both are described here.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

Today is arrival day. Please plan to arrive at the Tucson International Airport by 3 PM or at the Tanque Verde Ranch by 4 PM. After brief introductions, we'll settle into the ranch, our home base for the trip. Located on the edge of the Rincon Mountains and overlooking the rolling foothills of Saguaro National Park, Tanque Verde Ranch offers charming, southwestern lodging, and is one of Tucson's top destinations for hiking, sketching and horseback riding. We'll take a short hike to familiarize ourselves with the ranch and then gather for a Welcome Cookout Dinner - Cowgirl style! After dinner, start playing with your watercolors and nature journal to record the vivid colors of the sunset from the courtyard outside our rooms, then join the evening campfire. (D)
Overnight: Tanque Verde Ranch
After an early breakfast, we'll have a private riding lesson and then saddle up for a ride around the ranch. After this warm-up ride, we'll stretch our legs on a hike and sketch in neighboring Saguaro National Park. With our packed lunches and sketchbooks, you will have a choice to “hike more” on a 6.5-mile loop hike of Gardwood Dam and Little Wildhorse Tank trail, or “sketch more” stopping more to sketch the spectacular views and variety of cactus and wildlife along the way. For those wanting an extra challenge, there's also the option to take a 1.2-mile round-trip spur trail to Bridal Wreath Falls. We will get back to the ranch in time to take a quick dip in the pool or hot tub and freshen up before heading into Tucson for dinner (and a margarita if you choose!). (B, L, D)
Overnight Tanque Verde Ranch
After a hearty breakfast we'll drive about 90-minutes south to explore Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains. The canyon is one of the most renowned birding locations in the United States and we'll have two hike options to add to our bird lists: “Hike More” on the 6.5-mile Josephine Saddle Loop via Super Trail. The trail follows a moderate grade for 3.6 miles before reaching the Josephine Saddle, returning on the Old Baldy Trail, descending the 1700 feet we just climbed up but in only 2.2 miles. Or “Sketch More,” hiking as far as we want, again stopping several times to pull out our sketchbooks, complete with short sketching lessons and tips. Whatever you chose, we will keep our eyes and ears open for wildlife, including the stunning Elegant Trogon! After our hikes, we will continue about an hour south to the historic town of Tubac, which was founded as a presidio, or fort, in 1752 as the Spanish empire expanded into the desert Southwest. Today, Tubac is a thriving artist community with over 100 galleries, shops and great restaurants. You'll have the option to stroll the town at your own pace or shuttle a short distance to the Tumacácori mission - a 19th-century Franciscan mission and now a National Historic Park. You can take a tour of the park or walk 4 miles back to Tubac along the historic Anza trail that follows the Santa Cruz river. We will meet back up around sunset for dinner at Elvira's - an iconic, vibrant and award-winning Mexican restaurant. If you want to try mole while in Arizona, this is the place to do it! Overnight Tanque Verde Ranch (B, L, D)
Today begins with an early breakfast and plenty of cowgirl coffee! We'll then drive a short distance to Sabino Canyon and catch a shuttle to the Seven Falls trailhead. It's one of Tucson's most popular hikes but it's easy to see why and worth getting there early to beat the crowds. On this 5-mile out and back trail, we'll be surrounded by saguaros, cholla, ocotillo and the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. And after a gradual and steady climb, we'll be rewarded with the views of Seven Falls and time to relax and dip your feet in the cool pools. You will have a chance to learn techniques to practice painting water in your sketchbook. We’ll return on the same trail, and take the short shuttle ride down the canyon. We'll then visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place! We'll arrive in time to witness the Raptor Free Flight and have a private guided tour of this unique museum, taking sketch notes along the way. (B, L)
After an early breakfast we'll drive about an hour to the top of Mt. Lemmon, stopping along the way at a few of the highlights and viewpoints. Depending on the conditions and energy levels we'll hike one of the many shaded trails near the top of the mountain. After a lovely picnic lunch, we'll treat ourselves to a cookie at Mt. Lemmon's famous cookie cabin! We'll be back at the ranch by mid-afternoon with options to partake in one of the numerous activities and amenities at the ranch, take more time with your nature journal and/or a sunset horseback ride. Save your energy and your appetite though because tonight's dinner is not to be missed. Sadly, our time together is coming to end but we'll share a tasty final dinner together at a Tucson landmark restaurant. Overnight at Tanque Verde Ranch. (B, L, D)
Wow, it's our last day, already? We sure packed a lot of fun into these 5 days together! You are free to leave any time after breakfast. We will have you to the airport by 11 AM for flights out after 1 PM. Or there are shuttles and ride-shares available for a fee if you would like to leave at another time.


(6 reviews)
4.8 Food
5 Lodging
4.7 Safety

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

Sort By:
Most Recent

Cynthia F.
1 year ago

Mary M.
1 year ago

I loved the variety of activities - hiking, sketching, mountain biking and horseback riding. The guides and group were amazing.

Susan H.
1 year ago

The trip leaders and trip participants

Jean P.
1 year ago

The art lessons were exactly what I was hoping for, the women on the trip were a hoot, the scenery on our hikes was gorgeous, and the Dude Ranch accommodations, meals, and horseback rides were superb. Claire and Brenda were terrific guides. It ALL was special.

Darby S.
1 year ago

The group of women was amazing and what truly made the trip. But the artistic bent was equally important and I loved having the opportunity to learn more about field sketching and using this artistic outlet in my travels.

Keelin H.
1 year ago

  1. Where do we eat?

    All breakfasts will be at Tanque Verde Ranch. The AGC guides will be preparing all of the lunches and the dinners will be at local restaurants. When out to dinner, you'll be able to order off the menu. One dinner is on your own, your guides can shuttle you to and from Tucson or you're welcome to eat at the ranch.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    If we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise rooms are double-occupancy and you will be paired with a roommate unless you have requested a specific roommate.