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!

Winter in sunny Arizona in the heart of Sonoran Desert

We are a winter season (Nov-April) Elkhorn Ranch, in the rugged Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson, Arizona that provies personalized horseback riding, hiking & comfortable living for about 32 guests. The Miller Family has owned and operated Elkhorn continuously since 1945. We hire about 20 people for October early May seasonal jobs. A Covid-Care program prioritizes crew safety.

Rural ranching country about 50 miles from Tucson, Arizona at the base of the Baboquivari Mountains in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Ranch headquarters located at the end of a 7 mile dirt road. Great hiking, horseback riding and birding right at the ranch. City life and many outdoor adventures within a couple of hours drive into Tucson and the surrounding region.

About Elkhorn Ranch Arizona

Update:  We have completed our 2022/2023 season hiring.  But things can change!  If you'd like to be considered for a mid-season opening, you'll see job posts called "General Interest".  Please feel free to leave your info there and that's the first place we'll look if something opens up!  Thanks, the Miller family.  

Join a family-owned and operated business in its 77th season.  You'll live and work in an exceptionally beautiful rural location on the eastern slopes of the Baboquivari Mountains, about 50 miles southwest of Tucson, Arizona.  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 late April or early May.  You'll have your own private furnished room with linens provided as well as all meals ~ no commute, no rent!  Enjoying the outdoors and rural living is important -- if you need city life, we're not the place for you.

The first generation of Millers began guest or dude ranching in Montana in 1922 and launched the Arizona Elkhorn Ranch in 1945.  The ranch is operated by Mary & Charley Miller and Tom Miller, the 3rd generation of the family.  Conservation and sustainable grazing practices are cornerstones of our operation, and we take pride in our herd of over a hundred ranch raised and trained horses.  We work closely with ranching neighbors through an organization called Altar Valley Conservation Alliance.  

What is special about Elkhorn Ranch?  We think it is our personalized approach ~ whether on rides, in our cabins, or in the dining room.  Plus we have a beautiful setting and friendly horses and a wonderful cadre of returning guests of all ages.  We do our best to apply the same personalized touch to working with our crew.  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.  

The Employee Experience

You begin and end each day with birdsong in the background and usually a way above average sunrise and 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 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 make their own fun -- movie nights, 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 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).  We aim to treat people like adults and trust that they will behave accordingly.  

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 online 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
  • A 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 driver's license approved by our insurance company

Room and Board

All od our crew live here on the ranch.  Housing and food (aka room and board) are a valuable addition to your compensation ~ enjoy no rent, no utilities, and no grocery shopping!

You have your own private room plus bed linens and towels and share a bathroom with 1 or 2 people.   There are two areas of crew housing ~ behind the kitchen and near the maintenance shop.  Near the kitchen, there are seven rooms that are set up duplex style, with a shared bathroom between the rooms.  Near the maintenance shop, there are a couple of small trailers, two duplex units, and some rooms adjacent to the shop.  The “shop rooms” are closest to the barn and are used by the horseback guides ~ these rooms require walking outside briefly to a separate building with a bathroom and shower.  

Washers and dryers for crew use are located in the kitchen area and the maintenance shop area.  Laundry machine use and soap are free.  Clotheslines are readily available or the dryers take $.75 per load.

The crew dining room is separate from the guest room and has an attached TV/video room. A designated crew internet account provides WIFI around the crew dining room.  In 2022, Starlink WIFI was installed and it is significantly better than in previous years.  

You'll have three meals per day.  You can order your favorite breakfast classic ~ eggs any stye, bacon or sausage, pancakes etc.  Lunch and supper are balanced and bountiful.  Our crew eats the same meals as guests, plus leftovers.  Thursday night margaritas and steaks are a highlight!  Please note that if you work in the kitchen/dining room areas, you will often be working during crew meals.  You will have meals, but you’ll need to adapt your eating schedule to your job!

The Elkhorn kitchen works hard to accommodate crew and guests' food allergies and preferences.   Enhancing our menu to provide more robust vegetarian and gluten-free offerings is a big goal for this next season.  Along the same lines, we are working on becoming more skilled at vegan offerings ~ but we cannot promise a strictly vegan menu on a daily basis.  We are happy to talk with you about your individual needs and will give you an honest answer. 

Employee Perks

  • Beautiful SUNRISES
  • Lots of time in the saddle for horseback guides on GOOD HORSES!  And the opportunity to ride during your free time for all crew
  • Weekly MARGARITAS AND STEAK dinner
  • Great HIKING just out your door
  • Lots of BIRDS -- start your life list
  • Reduced rates with the massage therapist that comes out to the ranch
  • Amazing library of books and videos, puzzles and games – plus a swimming pool, tennis / pickle ball / basketball court, and pingpong 
  • Participate in creative workshops offered periodically during your free time ~ photography, music, art
  • GOOD INTERNET provided by Starlink
  • Financial assistance for medical insurance your 2nd year and beyond
  • Access to Colonial supplemental insurance program
  • Beautiful SUNSETS and an amazingly big and dark NIGHT SKY

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

The Sonoran Desert is the land of saguaros ~ the iconic cacti with arms.  The winter sunshine sure feels good!  At Elkhorn, you are in the heart of it.  

Elkhorn is known for its individualized horseback riding program and ranch-raised horses.  If you are a horseback guide, you’ll get lots of saddle time on good horses in a rugged, interesting country.  All the crew has the chance to ride in their free time and this is a great place to learn.  

Tucson was designated a City of Gastronomy in 2015 due to its 4,000+ years of agricultural history in the region, the confluence of cultures in the region, the huge breadth of food-related businesses, cultural celebrations, festivals, activism, and research that exist here today.  There is LOTS to do!  Our family favorite is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  

Reaching activities off the ranch does take some driving time ~ but you can always hike right from the door of your room, spend time at the pool, or join a horseback ride.

How to Apply

An overview of our hiring process:

  • Active recruiting takes place beginning in July and continues until all positions are filled
  • Returning crew confirm their plans by August 1st
  • For the best chance of success, try to apply by August 15th
  • Reference checks and interviews are conducted, and we may request additional information via email
  • We do our best to let you know the status of your application but are happy to answer your questions preferably by email
  • If jobs become open during the guest season, they’ll be posted on CoolWorks ~ we do keep applications on file for one year

To apply:

  • Complete the online application form available by clicking on Apply Here below
  • We strongly encourage you to provide a resume ~ you can attach it to your application
  • Professional references are important and make sure that contact information is up to date ~ if we can't reach people we will quickly give up on your application.
  • For horseback guide applicants only, we recommend that you submit short video clips (catching, saddling, mount/dismount, walking).  
  • Please note that it is very important to let us know the dates when you will be available. We expect the crew to arrive in October, ideally for an October 3rd or 10th, 2022 starting date, and the seasonal commitment ends April 30, 2023.

Contact Elkhorn Ranch Arizona