Elkhorn Ranch Arizona

A view of the ranch headquarters amidst the wide open Altar Valley.
Our family's been here ranching since the fall of 1945!
Ranch headquarters is 7 miles from the paved highway.
Lots of old fashioned hospitality goes on around here!
Yes ~ you can tan here in the AZ sunshine.
You can hike everywhere the horses go ~ plus some place they don't go!
You'll eat and help serve good beef a couple nights a week!
Here's a glimpse of one of our guest cabins ~ there are 20 in all!
You won't be home for the holidays, nor will you be alone!
Enjoy spring time in the Sonoran desert!
You'll probably get your picture taken by guests ~ especially at the barn.
Livestock skills are valued here!
Befriend fun-loving guests!
Become a birder!
Get into mountain country!
Wear boots to work!
You could be part of this photo next year!

One job still open ~ Housekeeper wanted to spend this Winter at our Sunny Arizona Guest Ranch near Tucson!

Elkhorn Ranch, in the rugged Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson, Arizona, is a guest ranch offering horseback riding & comfortable living for about 32 guests. The Miller Family has owned and operated Elkhorn continuously since 1945 and enjoys the friendship of many returning guests and crew. Our Covid-Care program prioritizes crew safety!

Located southwest of Tucson, AZ in the Altar Valley at the base of the Baboquivari Mountains -- about 1.5 hours drive from Tucson. On a map, follow Ajo Highway/Route 86 southwest out of Tucson; head south at Three Points onto Sasabe Highway/Route 286; the ranch road is between milepost 26 and 25; take the ranch road 7 miles to the very end.

About Elkhorn Ranch Arizona

Join us for our 76th season!

Working at Elkhorn is about joining our family business and in turn helping our guests feel like part of the family. Guided horseback riding and hiking is our main organized activity.  Guests enjoy an all-inclusive lodging, dining, and riding experience for a week or longer (4 nights is our minimum stay).   The crew gathers in October to open the ranch -- a time for getting to know the fellow crew, our family, and the ways of the ranch. Guests arrive in mid-November and the season ends in early May. With a small crew, every job is vital, and pulling your weight is a must. Appreciation of the outdoors and rural living makes the winter here a treat -- if you need city life, we're not the place for you.

Learn about our COVID-Care Program

Elkhorn Ranch is committed to making safety a priority for guests and crew and has developed an extensive risk management plan to provide a cohesive environment for both crew and guests to enjoy their time at the ranch. Last year we worked hard and had a very safe year ~ and perhaps enjoyed some good luck as well!  The notes below describe our successful program from last season.  We are watching federal, State and Pima County guidance as we approach the fall and elements of our strategy could change.   Our program involves:

  • Additional handwashing stations and sanitizer at strategic locations;
  • Outdoor heated dining areas for guests and crew;
  • Provision of cloth masks for crew, and guidance for crew and guests as to situations and times appropriate for wearing masks;
  • Changes to our housekeeping and dining to minimize risk;
  • A cancellation policy for guests that encourages them to not travel if ill or exposed to COVID or tested positive.

We have had questions about whether we will require that guests and crew be vaccinnated.  We strongly recommend vaccinations, as people from all over the place do cross paths at the ranch and while traveling to the ranch.  But we do not think it is appropriate nor possible for us to require vaccinations.  We will be revisiting these topics as we get closer to the guest season, in response to federal, State and local guidance.

Check our website for COVID-Care information.  

The Employee Experience

You can begin and end each day with birdsong in the background and usually an above average sunrise or sunset.  It is quiet here, well away from town.  If you need daily Starbucks, we're not the place for you.  If you can go weeks without driving your car, you'll be right at home.  If you like the outdoors, hiking, peace, and quiet -- you'll love it.  If you seek a horseback guiding position, you'll find rugged and scenic country, good horses to learn from and teach, and traditional western cowboy culture.

Our crew ranges in age from 20ish to the 60ish.  As a winter operation, the crew does not tend to be a college student crowd -- though we always have people in their early 20s on the crew.  The social dynamics vary year-to-year depending on the crowd, but the nearest bar is a solid hour away and evenings are often quiet.  People need to make their own fun -- campfires, games, puzzles, watching a movie. The crew are invited to all ranch social functions, and usually, there's some sort of ranch supported social function just for crew about once a month.  If you seek a party every night, you might be a bit bored here -- and given our long season, you'd be exhausted if you found one.

Speaking of the long season, one of the biggest differences between Elkhorn Ranch AZ and many seasonal jobs is the long season.  In comparison to summer seasons, we are barely hitting our stride in mid-January after the crew has been here for about 3 months.  We often say that our season is more of a marathon in comparison to the sprint of a summer season.  Some people find this very difficult, particularly if they work back to back seasons without any break in between.

We aim to treat our crew well here.  We take maintenance of crew housing seriously, do our best to have plenty of good food available, try to be supportive when issues and challenges come up.  We strive to be fair and have jobs clearly defined.  We encourage people to value each others' privacy (which can be difficult in close quarters).  That said, we are not white glove-wearing rules and regulations people.   We aim to treat people like adults and trust that they will behave accordingly.  Most of all, we strive to work closely with our crew to model the family-style hospitality that is the essence of traditional guest ranching.  We aim for an environment that's all about friendly horses, friendly people, and beautiful country.  

We recognize the challenges of doing our work safely given the COVID-19 situation and have systems that prioritize crew safety, as well as guests.  We are watching guidance as we head towards the 2021/22 season.  Look for "COVID-care" info at our website ~ highlighted in blue.  

Ideal Candidate

An ideal Elkhorn Ranch crew candidate could range in age from 18 to 60ish.  As a winter season place, we don't work well for people actively enrolled in school ~ though some people have accomplished flexible on-line coursework.  Here are some qualities that we think suit our operation ... 

  • Work and life experience in hospitality and outdoor recreation, livestock oriented agriculture and/or horse related outdoor recreation
  • True commitment to working the entire season
  • Genuine enjoyment of rural living ~   if you need city life to be happy, we're not the place for you 
  • Physical and emotional wellness
    • Ranch life is physically demanding, with long days and at least some heavy lifting for all jobs.  Are you willing and able to lift a minimum of 50 pounds (think of a saddle, 50 pound bag of flour, loaded suitcase, heavy cast iron skillets, team lifting furniture, etc.)
    • Living and working with the same people, over the course of a long season, can be stressful ~    sometimes people with depression, anxiety, addiction, etc find this work environment hard 
  • Hobbies or interests that you can enjoy living out here ~ outdoor activities, interest in the natural world, music, art, reading 
  • Overall, you're a team player who has demonstrated your ability to
    • Get along with other people both during work and off-hours;
    • Be reliable and get the assigned job done;
    • Keep a positive attitude with guests and co-workers; and
    • Be willing to help out occasionally in areas outside your usual job.
  • For some jobs, we require that you have an active drivers' license approved by our insurance company 

Room and Board

Full room and board are a valuable part of your compensation and everyone who works at Elkhorn lives on the ranch. Everyone has their own room and most likely shares a bathroom with one other person. Rooms are furnished and linens are provided.

The Elkhorn kitchen works hard to provide for both guest and crew dietary needs and preferences, but if you have strict dietary needs, you might find it difficult given that you do not have individual access to kitchen facilities and town is over an hour away.  Feel free to talk with us about your individual needs, and we'll give you an honest answer as to how we think it will work for you!

Employee Perks

Dude ranch life for our guests is an all-inclusive experience, and the same is true for our crew in a sense.  Our guests vacation in our remote Sonoran desert location, and our crew get to live here!  Avoiding the cost and logistics of housing, utilities and food can be an advantage.  Some people choose to do without owning a vehicle ~ a good way to save money!  Horsebacking riding, birding, and hiking are amazing here!  

Ok, we know you want to hear about other business details ~ so here's that info as well!  This is a job where everyone lives and works here at the ranch on site ~ the food and lodging aspect is a valuable part of your compensation; and we provide paychecks every other week.  Here are more details ... 

  • Room and board are part of your compensation and you are not charged for them, nor is the value added to your paycheck 
    • Everyone has a private room and a shared bathroom (with one or two people)
    • Rooms have furniture, bed and bath linens, lighting
    • Board includes three meals per day, in the crew dining room
  • Financial compensation comes from wages and a guaranteed portion of the "crew fund".  
    • A weekly salary is based on the average number of regular and overtime hours worked for various jobs.  
    • A tip/gratuity pool that we call the "crew fund" is derived from a 15% service charge automatically added to all guest bills.  A portion of the crew fund is distributed regularly via payroll, and the remainder is distributed to all crew present at the end of the season.  
      • Crew must be present at the end of the season to be eligible for their portion of the end of season crew fund distribution.  In plain English, if you don't finish the season, you are not eligible for any of the end of season crew fund distribution.  
      • Please note that we discourage direct tipping.  
  • Paychecks are issued every other Friday (every two weeks) ideally using direct deposit
  • Everyone works a 6 day week (which includes holidays and weekends) with one regularly scheduled day off
  • Sick leave is mandatory in the State of Arizona and is available for use 90 days after date of hire
  • Reimbursement for a portion of medical insurance costs after one full season ~ note that finding good medical insurance is increasingly difficult -- if you've got something that works for you, think hard before letting go of it!

Crew are welcome to use ranch facilities like the pool, tennis court, library, etc... and are welcome to join horseback rides, which can be a great part of the experience!  (Note that when the ranch has a high guest count crew may not be able to ride.)

Getting Here and Getting Around

Most of the crew prefer having their own vehicle.  During our long season, it can be refreshing to be able to leave the ranch on your day off.  We certainly have had many people work here who do not have cars, and we are happy to help purchase occasional staples for the crew on the weekly town run.  That said, it can be very difficult to feel dependent on the ranch or fellow employees for transportation.  If you have medical or other needs that require frequent town visits, you definitely should have your own wheels.  

If you do choose to be here without your own vehicle, we are happy to pick you up at the Tucson airport or elsewhere in Tucson.

Tucson is a big biking community, but at the ranch, you'll be in a rural environment that is not suitable for road bikes.  The ranch road is ok for mountain biking, but we discourage mountain biking on the ranch trails due to conflicts with the horse program.  If you're an avid biker, there are many places you can go on your day off.

For Fun

You're welcome to ride and enjoy the pool during your free time, though crew riding is limited when guest numbers are high.  The hiking is wonderful on the ranch and regionally.  City fun, shopping and the like are about 1-1/2 hours from the ranch.  The ranch crew room has satellite TV plus a video/DVD player and many games, puzzles, and books -- you can also sample the ranch guest library.  Crew are invited to all ranch social functions.  There is a "crew only" wireless area around the crew dining room that is available to you if you join the crew cost-share pool and a computer (no printer) provided by the ranch for your use.  If you need to be online a lot, you'll want to arrange your own internet access so as to not overuse shared bandwidth.  Verizon has the best cellular or cellular-based data service.  

How to Apply

Elkhorn Ranch will accept applications during July and early August, and beyond until all positions are filled.  We ask that our returning crew confirm their plans for the upcoming season by August 1, 2021.  We will begin serious review of applications and interviews August 16th, 2021 ~ so we strongly recommend that you get your application to us by mid-August.


  • Complete the online application form available by clicking on Apply Here below. You can also contact the ranch for a paper application form if necessary.
  • We encourage you to provide a resume ~ you can attach it to your application.  You may also email your resume or any other materials to office@elkhornranch.com.
  • Provide professional references ~ and please check that contact information is up to date.  We do check references and if we can't reach people we will quickly give up on your application.
  • Photos are not required but you are welcome to send them.  For horseback guides, we recommend that you submit video.  

Please note that it is very important to let us know the dates when you will be available.  We expect crew to arrive in October, ideally for an October 4, 2021 starting date, and the seasonal commitment ends May 2, 2022.  

Feel free to contact us, preferably by email at office@elkhornranch.com, to check on the status of your application.

Attention: The Miller Family
Elkhorn Ranch
27000 W Elkhorn Ranch Road
Tucson, AZ  85736

520-822-1040 ... office@elkhornranch.com (email preferred for correspondence)

Contact Elkhorn Ranch Arizona