Gallop Into Family Fun: A Macdonald’s Ranch Review on Horseback Riding Adventures

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Horseback riding through the Arizona desert is about as quintessential “western” as you can get. However, unless you’re a cowboy, you’re not likely ready to saddle up and hit the trail. Luckily, MacDonald’s Ranch in Scottsdale has everything you need to show up and get your western fix!

On our recent visit to Scottsdale, Arizona, Experience Scottsdale invited us to enjoy an early morning horseback ride so that we could write a MacDonald’s Ranch review from our own experience. It was one of the highlights of our visit to Scottsdale, and I’m excited to share this with you!

While I’m at It, Let Me Mention This…

We traveled with four of our kids, including three teens and a nine-year-old. Their interests are as varied as flavors in an ice cream parlor, so finding activities they all enjoy is the biggest challenge of planning a vacation itinerary! (One more reason why Scottsdale is hands-down one of the best places to vacation with a family!)

MacDonald Ranch horseback ride - Scottsdale
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

A Quick Look at the History of Macdonald’s Ranch

Before we gallop ahead to the day’s events, let’s take a moment to appreciate the rich history of MacDonald’s Ranch. Located in the serene Sonoran Desert, the ranch has been a cornerstone of the Scottsdale community since 1956. 

Established by the Richardson family, it opened its gates to the public on Easter Sunday in 1970 as Old MacDonald’s Farm, offering $2 horseback rides and hayrides to desert bonfires​.

As time passed, the ranch evolved under the guidance of Bob Richardson’s youngest son, Robby. He renamed this western heritage site MacDonald’s Ranch and now manages the operations alongside his wife, Silvia, and their two daughters, Kelcie and Kylee​.

Today, MacDonald’s Ranch is much more than horse rides. It’s a testament to a family’s passion and dedication, a place where the old west comes alive and where every visitor is welcomed as part of the MacDonald’s Ranch family. The staff took great care of us from the time we arrived until we said our last goodbyes!

Our Experience at Macdonald’s Ranch

MacDonald's Ranch
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

We arrived at 7:30 am for our excursion, taking into account the time needed to complete the paperwork and for the staff to pick suitable horses for each rider. Our ride began at 8:00 am, an ideal time that allowed us to avoid the heat of the Arizona summer while still savoring the outdoor experience. And savor it, we did!

The horses followed a well-worn path that wandered through fields teeming with a stunning variety of cacti. (That in itself is worth the price of admission.) 

The horses were quite tame and knew exactly what to do, making even our nine-year-old feel comfortable and confident in the saddle. The MacDonald’s Ranch staff who led the ride were experienced riders themselves, sharing interesting trivia and fun facts about the ranch and its surroundings along the way.

Per the ranch’s suggestion, we wore long pants, jeans being the best option, and closed-toe shoes. I would second this recommendation to any future visitors. At times during the ride, you might brush up against plants that wouldn’t feel pleasant on bare skin. 

As for safety, riding helmets were recommended and provided by the ranch, but wearing them was optional. Our family chose to wear them as a safety precaution.

Beyond the Horseback Rides: Additional Offerings at Macdonald’s Ranch

cactus at MacDonald's Ranch
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

MacDonald’s Ranch is more than just a horseback riding stable; it offers a variety of events and activities that cater to diverse interests and ages. Have a special occasion you want to celebrate in a unique way? MacDonald’s Ranch has you covered. When we were there, a mom and two adult daughters joined us on the ride—they were celebrating one of the daughter’s college graduation. What a fun memory they made together!

MacDonald’s Ranch also hosts birthday parties with a distinctly Western theme that I can only imagine would make lasting memories for children and adults alike. (Heck, I wish I could have my next birthday party there!)

The ranch provides a dedicated party area with picnic tables and a Western-themed play area. For an added touch of fun, they also offer a stagecoach ride as part of the birthday package​.

For those looking to experience a slice of cowboy life, MacDonald’s Ranch offers Cowboy Cookouts, combining a horseback or wagon ride with an old-fashioned, western-style cookout under the Arizona sky. The cookouts are a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the desert scenery, the company of fellow riders, and a hearty meal, all in one outing.

In addition to these offerings, the ranch organizes private events, accommodating small parties (20-person minimum) and large gatherings. Whether it’s a corporate outing or a family reunion, MacDonald’s Ranch can provide a unique and authentic Western setting for any event​.

MacDonald’s Ranch also hosts a Pumpkin Patch event during the fall season, adding a fun, seasonal twist to the ranch experience. Visitors enjoy hayrides to the pumpkin patch, where they pick their own pumpkins. 

Beyond the Ranch and Into the Community

Finally, MacDonald’s Ranch extends its services beyond the ranch itself. They participate in parades and community events, and even offer their horses for hire for different occasions. The ranch also takes pride in breeding and training its own horses​​.

Whether you’re a horseback riding enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply looking for a unique experience, MacDonald’s Ranch offers an array of activities and events that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the cowboy lifestyle, all set against the beautiful backdrop of the Sonoran Desert.

After the Ride: Reflecting on Our Adventure

Blunt Family at MacDonald's Ranch in Scottsdale
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

Looking back on our family’s experience, we can confidently say that the memories we have from MacDonald’s Ranch were well worth our time to make them. 

From the serene horseback ride at dawn to the captivating varieties of cacti we encountered, this adventure offered a unique blend of relaxation and education, which is not an easy balance to strike when vacationing with teens!

For those of you considering a visit to MacDonalds Ranch, we wholeheartedly recommend it. We hope you’ll enjoy your adventure as much as we did!

Plan Your Visit to Macdonald’s Ranch

MacDonald's Ranch
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

The ranch is located just north of Phoenix in the City of Scottsdale at 26540 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85255. 

For more information about the services and activities they offer, visit their website at 

Our thanks again to MacDonald’s Ranch and Experience Scottsdale for hosting our family for this excursion!

More Article by Our Woven Journey:

Here’s Why Scottsdale May Be the Most Family-Friendly City in America
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Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.