The Circle Z Ranch is officially open for our 96th Season as Arizona’s Oldest Guest Ranch! Our Ranch family is excited to serve you on your horseback riding vacation this season.
Our off season was filled with fixing fences (always!) and working with our young horses. The progression of our 3 and 4 year old youngsters has been very positive under training with Kelly, Diana, Jennie, Miko, and Omar. We were finally able to get Ginger, Lexi, Flash, and Dolce under saddle and riding out on the range this summer. We look forward to many more rides with them!
The summer monsoons started late but brought an above average amount of rain, always appreciated with our drought conditions. If you are here earlier in the season you will see the lovely green grasses and the trees lush with leaves. This Fall should bring some amazing colors to the Sycamore, Cottonwoods and Ash trees which adorn our native habitats.
We are looking forward to introducing you to our new staff so check out the article below introducing the new and the return staff. This is a talented and friendly bunch and we have all been having a great time getting the ranch ready and doing some team building.
Please join us this Season at our beautiful ranch property. We continue to fuss over every detail from the corrals to the kitchen and in the rooms.
We can’t wait to see you!
The Circle Z Family
Our 96th season runs from October 30, 2022-April 23, 2023. We look forward to welcoming our friends from around the world back to the ranch for our 96th year!
Order Our New Circle Z Ranch Cook Book!
The Circle Z Ranch Cookbook features over 150 recipes by Pastry Chef Lydia Fairlamb and Chef Eric Williams that have been branded with an “outstanding and seriously good” approval rating by our valued Ranch Guests, A culinary tradition of our fine cuisine from The Circle Z Ranch kitchen can now be recreated in the comfort of your own home. This historic collection of recipes is now available to you in the first edition of The Circle Z Ranch Cookbook, available in our gift shop or from our online publisher. ORDER ONLINE
Our Staff for 2022-2023!
George, Jennie and Miko Lorta have put together an incredible and talented staff and look forward to introducing them to our guests. Jenna is back in the office and will be assisting you with your reservations. In our kitchen we are happy to have Lydia and Eric returning, and they are joined by the equally talented Natasha. Our waitresses are all new and so much fun: Diana, Sarah, Savanah and Taylor, and Chris will be helping them with dishes and other duties. Our wonderful housekeepers Myrna, Maria and Anna are back, and Raul will be keeping our grounds beautiful. At the corrals are Kelly, Alice and Omar, and the new faces are Wade, Brittany, Peyton and Mariah, all expert at handling horses and people!
We believe a fine dining experience is a special and unique moment; a warm setting, a chef taking great care in their planning and executions, and an atmosphere of invigorating conversations. This is the dining magic at the Circle Z Ranch, where our guests are left both satisfied and longing for more. And this season we are so pleased to introduce our exceptional dinner and pastry chefs, who have a deep love for their creations and a love of the ranch life.
Pastry ChefLydia Fairlamb
Lydia Fairlamb is the pastry chef at Circle Z Ranch. She is originally from York, Pennsylvania but loves the warm weather of Arizona. She graduated in 2019 from The Culinary Institute of America with a degree in Baking and Pastry Arts, and in 2021 from Johnson & Wales University with a Bachelors in Food and Beverage Entrepreneurship. While she loves baking of all kinds, her favorite dessert to eat is ice cream, the weirder the flavor the better! Bring on the mint-peanut-butter-ripple! In her spare time she loves going on long hikes, knitting, playing the harp, and dreaming up the fun flavor concoctions she might someday sell in a bakery of her own, (lasagna cake anyone?) Good food is a huge part of a good vacation, and Lydia can’t wait for you to try what we’re cooking up here at Circle Z.
Chef Natasha Billiot
My name is Natasha Billiot and I was born and raised in Houma, Louisiana. I had the passion for cooking since I was younger and my father helped nurture it. As I got older I learned that I loved learning about different cultures and ethnic groups though the cuisine that they cook.
Even now I love learning about new cooking styles and ingredients that I bring into my everyday cooking. I graduated from the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute in Thibodaux, Louisiana with a bachelor’s degree in Professional and Pastry Culinary Arts. Through out my culinary career I have worked at some amazing dude ranches such as Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming and Bar Lazy J in Colorado. While working in New Orleans I worked as the Pastry Manager at Maypop, an award winning restaurant. Now I am doing seasonal work to move around and learn more about things I could only read about.I am so excited to join the Circle Z team this season!
Chef Suzanne Surber
Hello! My name is Suzanne E. Surber. As a child, cooking beautiful meals with my grandmother introduced me to the gift of food and the joy of smelling it cooking. As an adult, traveling has given me a chance to work with Michelin star chefs and learn in French restaurants on the coast. I have over 30 years of experience in various kitchen disciplines as an executive chef, pastry chef, and kitchen manager. Farm-to-table gardening is also an interest of mine and I enjoy growing vegetables, micro-greens, and edible flowers for my kitchen. Outside of work, I enjoy being an artist, creating abstract realist nature-inspired paintings.
We are offering several specials for our 2022-2023 guest season. Here is a brief description of dates that still have availability. Let us know how we can help in planning your Dude Ranch Vacation!
Pre-Christmas Special 10%-20% Off
We have limited availability in our pre-Christmas special dates, which runs from November 27-December 18, 2022. Depending on the week chosen, we are offering from 10%-20% off of our published rates.
Pre-Christmas Short Stay Special 25% Off
There is plenty of space available for this 4 Day stay from December 18-December 22, 2022
New Years Special 25% Off
What a fantastic deal, chose from either a 4 day or a 7 day vacation package from December 29, 2022-January 5, 2023
Adult only Weeks 10% Off
These popular specials run from January 8-January 28, 2023 and there is still limited availability
Arizona’s Original Dude Ranch begins our 95th season on October 31st and we are thrilled to welcome our friends back to Southern Arizona! Though much at the ranch has changed over the years, so much has remained unchanged: outstanding horses, great food, comfortable accommodations, and fun for every generation! Each cottage has been remodeled, our horses are fully rested and ready to work after a very long break, and our new kitchen crew is working hard on planning our made-from-scratch menu. Reservations for this season are filling up very quickly, so if you have yet to schedule your vacation, now is the time to do it!
Our 95th season runs from October 31, 2021-April 17, 2022. We look forward to welcoming our friends from around the world back to the ranch for our 95th year!
Here’s What’s New this Year
DINING: Our dining room is fully remodeled and doubled in size, with nice lighting and ventilation, a full- service buffet area, and an expanded outside patio. We have also placed outdoor tables around the ranch for those wishing to grab a to-go container and eat outdoors.
GUEST ACTIVITIES: George and his crew built a volley-ball court near the tennis court and horseshoe area, spreading sand to soften the footing. Yoga is back twice a week with Mariam, helping you limber up after a long day in the saddle. We have a new offering of “Sip-n-Create” with Heather Buton on Thursdays. Show off your creative side while decorating horseshoes, painting, or jewelry-making and have some wine on us. We have purchased 4 new kayaks for our guests’ use at Patagonia Lake! The kayaks will be stored at the Lakes’ Visitor Center, alongside paddles and life jackets. Just let us know if you are interested in some paddling and we will set you up with a day pass at the Lake!
ENTERTAINMENT: We will have Joe Barr back performing music and poetry at the campfire on Wednesday nights and Bill Ganz filling up the cantina with his guitar and vocals on Saturday night. Vince Pinto will still be leading the way with his expertise in local flora and fauna on Wednesday morning. We are sorry to say that Paul Michaelson has retired this year from selling jewelry and Zapotec weavings and it will take some time to fill his shoes! Heather has agreed to bring along some of her unique creations to sell at Thursday’s Sip-n-Create.
At the Corrals
Our herd of horses fared very well over their year off. Rested and healthy, they had plenty of grazing when the record-breaking monsoons hit in July! Over the past year we have been working with 7 new horses for our guest herd, so welcome Bueno, Cinch, Dwayne, Picante, Saffron, Rip, and Taz. They will all be great horses for our guests.
You will be seeing more of our young horses being ridden by our wranglers out on the trails: Fargo, Pablo, Cocoa, Apollo, Martina, Comet, Louie, Bourbon and Aztec. We are so fortunate to have the time and expertise to bring these horses along and to watch them progress as friendly and responsive horses.
While getting the horses ready for our guest season, there are so many details to cross off our list: shoeing, dental work, vaccinations, and cleaning burrs out of manes and tails. The trails have become very over-grown following the heavy rains, and it has taken our wranglers a lot of work to clear them from mesquite, cat-claw, and all the other thorny desert growth.
Along with our always popular pre-holiday, adults only, and rough riders week, we are adding another exciting week: Women’s Only Cowgirl Up Week! Please follow the link for all the fun facts to help you plan your vacation.
Our General Management Team remains Jennie and George Lorta, the best hosts anyone could ask for. Their son Miko is still keeping the horses and guests happy at the Corrals. Jenna has taken over in the office and is doing a great job keeping the reservations and gift shop organized! Meg continues as our bookkeeper, and we are very grateful for her watchful eye! Our kitchen crew whipping up meals will be extraordinary chefs Eric, David, and Lydia, plus our Kitchen aide David. Waitstaff is Mariam, Angie, Sabrina, Autumn, and Emily, who will greet you every day with smiles and fresh coffee. Our meticulous housekeeping team is Maria, Anna, and Myrna. Raul is back to help us keep the grounds lush and inviting. Rounding out our staff are the wranglers! Returning are Alice, Maddie, Kelly and Omar, who is now our year-round ranch hand. We are happy to welcome new wranglers Payden, Kim, and Ted, three great horse-people who are excited to get to know you!
This year we spent a considerable amount of time exploring for, and developing new trails around the ranch property for our guests to enjoy come this Fall. Some of the trails open up new terrain and some incorporate old routes with a new twist! We thought it would be fun to take you along for the ride so you can see what goes into finding and developing new trails, where these new route are, their names, and how we plan on using them!
So the fun part is going out to look for new trails. We always have an idea in mind of the areas we want to explore and open up, so we spend time exploring these spots either by horseback or by hiking, Following old game or cattle trails is super helpful, especially when in steep terrain, because the animals always know the easy ways up or down a canyon! A couple of the trails this year were made to extend particular trails into loops, and it was a matter of visualizing, then hiking to find the best connection.
After we identify the chosen route, the real work begins. We load up chainsaws, loppers, small saws, McCleods and really good work shoes and gloves! With 5-7 staff, we start sawing mesquite trees, chiseling through cat claw (which is a nasty as it sounds) and kicking, lifting, or scraping rocks off of the trail. And just when you think you have found the best way up a steep canyon, Omar or Jennie will find a better way, which is great because that’s team work at it’s finest!
So here are the trails we’ve improved or rerouted.
Nancy Howard Trail. Widened this trail in several areas and removed rocks. Also made a connecting loop to Bradford Mine (which was only an out and back trail).
Sand Canyon. Removed lots of rocks from a steep area that circle up and around some large boulders in the canyon
The Trogan Trail: This is a rerouting of Steph’s Trail by the lake, which had become washed out and was also very steep! The new route is much gentler and adds about 30 minutes to this ride.
And here are the new trails:
Preston’s Trail connects Nash ridge with the old Stacy’s trail to the North of Circle Z Mountain. This trail does have some steeps, so is more for riders comfortable with that. It opens up some really beautiful views of Squaw Gulch. A good ride for those wanting a longer trail on the way home from the Chuck-wagon cookout.
Hideout Trail is a replacement trail for Smugglers, which had become too washed out and rocky. This trail connects off of Jesses Trail and is gentle,with great views to the North and Mount Wrightson.
The DJ Trail heads out of, or towards (depending on your starting point), the Bar Z Cook out area. The views are stunning of the Patagonia Mountain range and of Castle Butte and weaves in and out of some cool rock formation.
The Hohokam Trail is another near the Bar Z Cookout, and will be great for all day rides or the Bar Z Cookout ride. Whether you take the loop that goes all the way around Castle Butte, or the straight shot to the South of Castle Butte, you feel like you are using trails that were once used by the natives. And there are some surprises along the way!!
The Sierra Loop will make for a wonderful afternoon ride, as it heads in the direction of the Patagonia Mountains, and the lights and shadows are really great in the afternoon. We are considering offering this ride as a “photography” ride for those wanting a photo on their horse as a keepsake.
We are thrilled to introduce our new Logo for the Circle Z Guest Ranch, which will be used in many different ways including embroidered on our popular ranch wear items in our gift shop. Imagining this new design was a creative group effort, with many members of our team giving their thoughts. We wanted the logo to speak to who we are, and to portray a more contemporary feel, while holding on to our deep and historic origins. It was important to represent the history of the ranch, exuding the simplicity of life here at the ranch, along with the authenticity we continue to offer our guests. And most of all, we wanted to represent the reverence we hold for the foundation of our ranch: our horses.
Many of you who have been to the ranch will recall the beautiful artwork in our cantina, showing Mrs. Zinsmeister, the original ranch owner, and her horse El Sultan, the original ranch stallion, bowing in front of the ranch gate. This was the inspiration for our logo. We hope you like it, and we look forward to introducing it to the look and feel of our ranch.
New for our 94th Season: Getting Better with Time
Our “off season” was anything but slow with our summer remodeling projects well underway! Lucia’s Suite underwent a memorable upgrade, Cottage 3 got a makeover, and we expanded our historic Cantina. And along with our yearly touch-ups and maintenance, we’ve added new handmade hat racks in every room!
The Magic Continues!
New guest pleasing activities and amenities were a priority when planning our upcoming season. Twice weekly stretching sessions on our lush lawn, surrounded by scenic views and the tranquil ambiance of Circle Z, will be a routine offering. And for those of you who have yet to take the challenge, a weekly guided hike up Circle Z mountain to see the breathtaking views from above will be available. Back down the mountain, the fun doesn’t stop. Along with our heated pool, tennis court, and game room, we’ve added Corn-hole, Croquet, and an oversized Connect 4 set! Prefer some quiet? Relax by Lucia’s memorial or unwind in one of our new hammocks sprinkled throughout the ranch. Taking full advantage of our expanded Cantina, we are looking forward to visits from some of the local wineries throughout the season. Our happy hours may just be a little happier!
George, Miko, and the Circle Z Wranglers have been hard at work creating new riding adventures by forging new trails and ensuring the absolute best horseback riding for your stay. We’ve also expanded our program to include more lessons for every level of rider. There will be new and improved horse games, sure to delight our guests, and our horses! See you down at the corrals!
We are happy to welcome back many returning staff members! Our leading ladies, Diana and Jennie, will be there to guide every aspect of your stay. Down at the corrals, George and Miko will be joined once again by Alice, Maddie, Tavo, and Omar. Yesenia and Meg will keep the office running smoothly while Lupita will continue to keep your accommodations in tip top shape! Returning for her 5 th season at the ranch, Jenna will be leading the dining room staff to which Kiahna will be assisting once again. Thank you all. Let’s make this season our best yet!th
Introducing the new team members of Circle Z
In the kitchen, our whole new crew of Christopher, Lynden, Olivia, and Jesus will be cooking up savory perfection! Joining the serving team this season are Vasi and Kylee, and in housekeeping, Maria is here to maintain the cleanliness and perfection you’ve become accustomed to. James and Kayden are ready to care for you and the Circle Z horses down at the corrals while Arturo will be keeping the desert oasis at Circle Z in beautiful condition. Welcome to the new members of the team. May you also be touched by the traditions and magic of Circle Z Ranch!
We had a fantastic summer and were able to finish up on the final remodels on our accommodations. Cottage 3, which is a 2 unit cottage with standard rooms and adjoining baths underwent a beautiful transformation. Piou and his expert crew rewired, re-plumbed, tiled and painted to perfection. Take a look for yourself at how luscious and inviting these rooms are!
Lucia’s Suite had a face lift as well. This one bedroom suite offers optimum privacy. We re-tiled the floors, remodeled the bathroom, and added a coffee service area. See for yourself!
Once we finished Cottage 3, we turned our sights to our Cantina, which has been the center the social fabric at the Circle Z. The interior space was doubled in size, and the bar area was reconfigured to make the most of our evenings cocktail hour. We kept the outside decking the same, just moved it over a little. Take a look for yourself at this beautiful transformation! We look forward to many happy times here.
As horse owners, we find the need to move horses from one place to the other, whether it is a few miles or a few hundred miles. When I first started hauling long distance with my horses, I searched for helpful tips on doing this safely. With research and experience, I found that the more we plan and are prepared for a long haul with our horses the more successful the outcome.
A month before traveling, I carefully plan my route. I don’t like driving in a lot of traffic, so if going through high traffic areas I try to plan during non-peak hours, such as weekends or mid-morning. If going for more than 1 day, I search for stables or fairgrounds where the horses can have a nice break from the road and get some needed rest. Call the stables in advance to make sure they have room and inquire about types of areas they have. I prefer a nice turnout area for the horses, but some prefer indoor stables. To find places to overnight board, I do a google search for stables or fairgrounds in the areas I plan to stop. I look along the routes and try not to make it longer than 8 hours between the overnight stops. I do not have a trailer with LQ, so I try to find hotels near to the stables. Most stable and fairgrounds have ample room for parking trailers. There is a lot to say for stop overs that are not too far off of your path and are easy to locate, especially if you arrive after dark. Most places are very good at giving good directions and information about your horses’ accommodations.
If you are traveling across state lines, you must have a Coggins test (which are good for 1 year), and a Health Certificate. You should plan at least 2 weeks in advance so to be sure to have the results by travel time. My vet will also send along Prevail, Bute and Antibiotic eye ointment in case of veterinary emergencies. Also have your trailer stocked with vet wrap, scissors, knife, duct tape, fly spray, linament and anything else you may routinely use for your horses.
The week before traveling, I make sure my vehicle and trailer are all in top running condition. Check the tires, check all fluids, make sure bearings are packed, and that the floor under the trailer mats are in good shape. Also make sure there are no fuses blown when you hook the trailer to your truck and that all lights are working.
Hauling long distance can be stressful for horses, but it doesn’t need to be if you plan ahead and pay attention to detail. First of all, make sure that the horse is comfortable loading into the trailer that you will be taking them in. Loading into an enclosed trailer is much different than loading into a stock trailer. I find the slant trailers with butt bars are much easier on the horse for long trips. Also make sure if you are using the butt bars for the horses’ first time you let them get used to that before-hand. If your horse has never ridden in the trailer, make sure to get them out on the road a few times before the trip so they get the feel of the movement.
To prevent colic and encourage water intake on the road I give psyllium to my horses the 7 days leading up to departure. The day before, and during travel, I add a powdered electrolyte to the grain to encourage water intake.
When preparing the day of, I make sure I have enough hay and feed for the journey. The Cashel Hay Bale Bags are nice for storing the hay and keeping it dry in the back of the truck. Or, you can also store hay in the front stall of the trailer if there is room. I use hay bags for feeding the horses on the road, and make sure I have physical access to more hay to fill their feeders while on the road. I also clip a water bucket in front of them and use the Horse Spa Hole N Hole to keep the water from spilling while allowing the horses to drink. I always put down wood chips on the trailer floor to absorb any urine and prevent slipping while offering a soft cushion for their legs. Most trailers have a 25 or so gallon water tank so make sure this is full to use out on the road.
I also tie my horses in the trailer when hauling. You can use either their lead rope or a strap with a safety release. I do use one of the latter for my young horse who likes to untie himself. When tying, make sure the tie is secure, that there is enough rope length for them to eat their hay and drink water but not to drop down too far below the level of the feeder. No-one wants a horse getting their legs tangled and panicking, causing real harm to the horse.
After loading the horses, and before hitting the road, I do a thorough walk around to make sure all doors and windows are secure, the trailer running lights and brake lights are working, and all safety straps are in place.
While on the road, I make sure the horses have plenty of air circulating, but do not allow them to stick their heads out the windows. Most trailers have bars and/or screens over the windows that allow the horse to look out and to get plenty of air circulating. These also drop down if you need access to the horses head and for placing more hay and water for the horses during the trip. Be aware of the temperatures outside in case you need to adjust the circulation pattern.
While on the road, I make sure to stop at least every 3 hours, to gas up and give the horses about ½ hour to rest. Make sure to figure in this time when you are mapping out your trip, especially if you are on a tight schedule (and the looser your itinerary the better because the unexpected always happens!). I do not unload my horses along the way. Horses are fine for up to 9 hours in a trailer as long as they have food and water, and unloading during the trip just adds to your end time considerably. Rather, get to where you are going and let them –and you- have a long rest.
And if you decide to hire a hauler to transport your horses, do your research and ask plenty of questions! Assure that they have overnight stops with unloading, that they provide water and feed on the trip, and that they clean the trailers well between hauls.
When travel becomes necessary, please consider some of these tips to help you and your horse have a stress-free trip!
The newest special at the ranch, and one to be an old hand favorite, is our Rough Riders/Best of the Circle Z Season Finale. This week is geared towards guests who are wanting more adventure in their riding and are at least intermediate riders. To make sure a guest will get the most out of the week, our managers will help you decide if this is a good fit.
This years Rough Riders Week, we entertained 16 guests. The first ride, to everyone’s delight, was not the usual walking ride, but a loping ride for those who wanted! Because this is a week where we know all the guests are competent riders and are known by the wranglers, we gave more lee-way to our staff for turning it up a notch
During our steak night cook out on Monday, we invited musician Joe Barr to entertain the guests during the meal. This made a wonderful backdrop of music while we dined on the ever delicious steak night dinner.
On Tuesday, we took guests to the Wagon Wheel Bar. Although the day was windy, the views and sky were just amazing. Many said it was the best ride ever! Because of the abilities of the riders, we did a little more exploring and bush waking on our way, discovering a few new trails in the process.
On Thursday evening, after the all-day ride to Castle Butte, the ranch hosted Margarita Party during Cantina Hour.
The highlight of the week was the Red Rocks/San Rafael Valley ride. This ride is about 6 hours long and is definitely a ride for competent riders. With one of our deliciously prepared sack lunches securely packed, we loaded the horses and headed to the trail head of the Arizona Trail. The views on this trail are stunning, starting a winding uphill climb past beautiful red rock cliffs with Red Mountain in the backdrop. We end the ride up in the San Rafael Valley.
Our week ended with the Sonoita Horse Races and our Cinco De Mayo party. The excitement built all week as our Wrangler Omar worked to get his horse Canejo (Rabbit) ready for the Big Boy Ranch Horse Race, and boy did he do a spectacular job, beating out 6 other ranch horses to take home the trophy.
One thing we will be adding next year is having Mariachi’s Play for our Cinco De Mayo Party.
The best thing about this week was the camaraderie among the guests and staff. There was a lot of laughter and stories being told and some great riding! We look forward to offering this week every year during our final week of the season, a great way to celebrate a successful year.