About an hour north of Phoenix, riding, roping and art come together in the high-desert community of Wickenburg.

In 1863, when Prussian immigrant Henry Wickenburg found gold in Arizona's high desert near the Hassayampa River, little did he know that his namesake community would thrive well into the 21st century. Today, Wickenburg—located some 60 miles northwest of Phoenix, as the hawk flies—is a modern town that reveres its roots. Get your bearings at the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce's visitor center, where you can discover things to do in Wickenburg and see the town's 1895 Santa Fe Railroad depot setting.

The cowboy life

Here, a traffic jam involves pickup trucks and horse trailers—after all, this western town is the team roping capital of the world, with arenas like Rancho Rio, Simpson Ranch and others hosting Wickenburg events such as public roping and barrel racing competitions. The annual Senior Pro Rodeo, held during Wickenburg's Gold Rush Day, also celebrates equestrian talents. Get your feet in the stirrups with a trail ride from one of several stables, where you'll pass stately saguaros and climb ridges to get views of the Hassayampa River, which flows partially underground.

The dude (ranch) abides

When local ranchers opened up their bunkhouses to paying guests more than a century ago, Wickenburg's rep as Arizona's dude ranch capital was forged. Today, you can still get a taste of ranching life—albeit with modern amenities—at historic guest ranches. Kay El Bar's old adobe buildings draw guests, who also come for trail rides, hiking, target shooting and family-style meals. At Flying E Dude Ranch, take part in cattle drives, horseback riding, team penning and Jeep rides on 20,000 acres of this working cattle ranch. For a more luxe vibe, Rancho de Los Caballeros has stylish accommodations, a spa and golf, plus horseback riding, skeet shooting and ATV tours.

Art alert!

Wickenburg boasts three beloved cultural institutions. Desert Caballeros Western Museum houses a top-notch collection, featuring artists like Frederic Remington, Thomas Moran and Maynard Dixon, a vignette gallery that tells the story of Wickenburg and a popular annual exhibit, "Cowgirl Up!" spotlighting women artists. The modern Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts has a robust season of performances by the likes of Lily Tomlin, the Beach Boys, Pink Martini and the Glen Miller Orchestra. Like your movies in a vintage setting? Saguaro Theater has shown first-run and classic Western films since 1948.

Beneath blue skies

You didn't come to Wickenburg to spend all your time indoors. Meander along gentle paths through a lush riparian setting at Hassayampa River Preserve, a birder's paradise where nearly 300 species of feathered friends have been spotted. Across town, go for a challenging hike up Vulture Peak, where the steep trail's reward is a view across miles. Power walkers and bike riders will like the Sunset Multi-Use Path that runs through historic downtown Wickenburg. Need more? Hit a golf course for 18 holes.

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