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City slickers will find more than ridin' and ropin' on a weekend escape to an Arizona dude ranch

Ever dream of riding into the sunset like Roy Rogers or gazing at star-pierced night skies and finding the Milky Way? How about sipping a prickly pear margarita or walking the labyrinth while meditating in a cactus-studded desert. I recently stayed at Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenburg, a gentrified dude ranch where service was prompt and genuine smiles were the norm. No surprise that the place is named after Spanish caballeros, who were known as “the gentlemen on horseback.” Nowadays, it’s also an 18-hole golf resort, which Golf Digest considers among the top five in Arizona and top 100 nationally. The tab: $630 for two nights in a suite with breakfast (standard rooms go for $205 a night with breakfast), $16 for lunch at Golf Club Grill, $99 for two lunches and a dinner in the Dining Room and $10 for a prickly pear margarita.

(Los Angeles Times)

The bed

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The family-owned and -operated rancho is set on 20,000 acres in Arizona’s high Sonoran Desert, about 75 miles north of Phoenix. My spacious ranch-style suite included a kitchen, living room with fireplace, master bedroom and spacious bathroom with a spa tub. I enjoyed listening to chirping birds while basking in the sun on my private patio.

The meal

The golf club’s Grill at los Caballeros is open to the public and offers hearty sandwiches and reasonable prices. I ordered the Sourdough Jack Wild Turkey sandwich ($12) — scrumptious and satisfying. Dinner at the Rancho de los Caballeros Dining Room verges on fine dining. I would have dined there more often (my grilled salmon with capers was exquisite), but its dress code, enforced to maintain the fine-dining atmosphere, meant dress slacks, skirts or dresses for me. This was inconvenient at best after a full day photographing horses, cowboys and cowgirls, and a cattle roundup at a nearby working ranch.

The find

Be sure to try the prickly pear margarita, then sample the labyrinth walk where you can meditate, gaze upon stoic saguaros and take in the fresh desert air. In the process, I experienced divine relaxation that was good for the soul. A spa, horseback riding, golfing and trap shooting are also offered at the ranch for an additional fee.

The lesson learned

The food in the Dining Room was more to my liking than my New York steak at Charley’s on Wickenburg Way. It was gristly and tough—not what I expected.

Rancho de los Caballeros, 1551 S. Vulture Mine Road, Wickenburg, Ariz., (928) 684-5484. One wheelchair-accessible suite.

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