53 miles NW of Phoenix; 61 miles S of Prescott; 128 miles SE of Kingman
Known a half-century ago as the dude-ranch capital of the world, Wickenburg once attracted celebrities and families from all over the country. Those were the days when the West had only just stopped being wild, and spending the winter in Arizona was an adventure, not just a chance to escape snow and ice. Today, although the area has only a handful of dude (or guest) ranches still in business, Wickenburg still clings to its Wild West image. The guest ranches that remain range from rustic to luxurious, but a chance to ride the range is still the area's main attraction.
When dude ranches first flourished back in the 1920s and 1930s, Wickenburg realized that visitors wanted a taste of the Wild West, so the town gave the tenderfoots what they wanted: trail rides, hayrides, cookouts -- the works. The town is still providing those same activities and has now preserved one of its downtown streets much as it may have looked in the early 1900s when this was a booming mining town.
Wickenburg was founded in 1863 by Henry Wickenburg, a Prussian prospector who came to the desert in search of riches. He hit pay dirt just south of the town that now bears his name, and his Vulture Mine eventually became the most profitable gold and silver mine in Arizona. Although the mine closed in 1942, it is now operated as a tourist attraction. If you've come to Arizona searching for the West the way it used to be, Wickenburg, with its ranches and old gold mine, is a good place to look. Just don't expect shootouts staged in the streets every day -- this ain't Tombstone.