The southeastern Phoenix suburbs of Gilbert, Chandler and Queen Creek are part of the big city now, but started out agricultural. Gilbert was even once known as the “Hay Shipping Capital of the World.” Large populations there mean access to great dining and shopping.
Meanwhile, Pinal County to the south is also home to plenty of snowbird ropers each winter. The town of Maricopa (population 50,000) sits 30 miles southwest of Phoenix, while Coolidge is about 60 miles southeast of the metroplex, and Casa Grande—a town of about 60,000—is just 50 miles straight down Interstate 10.
World Series Qualifiers Nearby:
• Jan. 2–5: Queen Creek, Shelley Productions
• Jan. 10–12: Casa Grande, Shelley Productions
• April 24–26: Globe, The Roping Company
Where to camp, practice & jackpot
• John Volken Academy’s non-profit, Welcome Home Ranch (jvaranch.org), in Gilbert has about 60 indoor and 60 mare-motel-type pens available. The boarding fee includes daily feeding, cleaning six days a week with bedding—plus they’ll turn your horse out in the front pastures three times a week. Available are three spacious arenas and a round pen plus an equine hydrotherapy pool.
Double C Productions (facebook.com/doublecropings) and Rope Fast (ropefast.com) produce various weekly jackpots and saddle ropings at the venue, which also serves as a life-skills academy for young men. The Vista Feed & Market on-site offers hay and grain with proceeds benefiting a foundation supporting needy orphanages in Africa. Double C’s ads in The Arizona Jackpot (thearizonajackpot.com) have a bar code to scan for up-to-date jackpot information.
• Wengert’s Winter Roping Camp in Casa Grande
3953 S Tweedy Road
Joel Wengert offers RV hookups, daily practice, covered horse pens, round pen, pastures, outside riding and a hot walker.
• Walking N Arena in Casa Grande
7350 N Henness Road
(602) 321-1738, rube-woolsey.com
Four-time NFR header Rube Woolsey offers daily practice, lessons and training tune-ups; 16 RV hookups, 12 x 24 covered stalls, outside riding, barrel patch, weekly jackpots, a clubhouse and a laundromat.
• Lonestar Equestrian Center in Coolidge
350 S Attaway Road
Preston Porter offers a lighted arena, team roping practice, weekly jackpots and goat ropings, 25 RV spots, showers, laundry and hospitality room; 16 x 16 covered stalls, turnouts, round pen, wash racks, walker and outside riding.
[Read more: Arizona Legends: Top Ropers Out of Arizona]
• Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre in Queen Creek
22358 S Ellsworth Road
The town of Queen Creek’s 38-acre facility has a full-size covered arena and three outdoor arenas, 56 RV spots, more than 300 covered stalls, wash racks and restrooms.
• Siggins Horse Company Arena in Eloy
11125 S Highway 87
Ray Siggins offers stalls, RV hookups, ropes for sale, jackpots and concessions.
• Aros Arena in Picacho
18704 S Picacho Highway
Four-time NFR team roper George Aros offers nightly team roping practice, boarding, lessons, rope-horse training and sales, and RV hookups (adjacent to Picacho Peak KOA Campground).
• Cowboytown Arena & RV Camp in Eloy
7825 Eleven Mile Corner Road
Kenny Zamora offers RV hookups, dry camping, laundry, a dozen 16 x 30 covered stalls, an outdoor arena with solar remote chute, round pen and walker.
[Read more: West Phoenix: The Hotspots of Buckeye, Arizona]
• Rattlesnake Arena in San Tan Valley
41271 North Rattlesnake Road
Billy Barnett offers no camping but lots of nightly practice with two roping arenas, 12 x 24 and 12 x 60 covered stalls, full care, outside riding, walker, round pen and wash racks, and is hosting a Jake Barnes/Clay Cooper school Dec. 28–29.
• P&M Arena in Mesa
11404 East Brown Road
This non-profit facility has two full-size arenas, weekly ropings and practices; Superstition Stables offers 12 x10 stalls plus paddocks, daily full care or self-care, a full-size arena with three lighted round pens, a clubhouse and restrooms, wash bay and 16 RV hookups.
• Gallopin Goose Arena in Coolidge
1980 South Arizona Blvd.
No camping or horse boarding, but Troy Shelley offers jackpots, including World Series qualifiers and weekly high-numbered ropings at the arena adjacent to the Gallopin Goose Saloon and Grill (open 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.)—a honky-tonk restaurant that’s kid-friendly until 10:00 p.m.
• Rodeo Grounds in Casa Grande
400 W Rodeo Road
West Pinal Mounted Sheriff’s Posse offers a full fairgrounds with two arenas hosting high school and college rodeos and, each February, the Mike Cervi Jr. Memorial, plus lots of team ropings by area producers.
WHERE TO EAT
•San Tan Flat is a big, open-air combination of a campfire, restaurant and concert. Marshmallows can be roasted here, or dance the night away with live tunes almost every night outdoors after scarfing what some say is the best ribeye in Arizona.
•And don’t miss a trip to the award-winning Olive Mill. More than 7,000 varieties of olive trees around Queen Creek provide the fresh, local foods in the gift shop. As for the award-winning food, check out the Mill’s vanilla bean olive oil waffle for breakfast, made from scratch and served with whipped cream and berries, peaches or bananas and cream. Lunch and dinner involve bruschetta, paninis, pizza and more, plus beer and wine. It’s pet-friendly and kids can roam freely in the beautiful outdoor garden seating.
•Hankering for Mexican? Serrano’s, in the older part of town, is the ticket. For anything else, head to the Queen Creek Marketplace for chains like Buffalo Wild Wings, Olive Garden, Panera and Smashburger—plus the all-important In-N-Out Burger.
Truck & Trailer Repair; Veterinary Services
At Rodeo Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Queen Creek, owner Hal Earnhardt is a team roper, and there are cowboys on staff at the dozens of local Earnhardt Auto Centers, as well. A big sponsor at Horseshoe Park is San Tan Ford in Gilbert, where their service department offers repairs from brake service to an oil change to tire care.
Great West Trailer and Truck has a presence right at Horseshoe Park, or Mesa offers Hays Trailer Sales. Another roper-friendly vendor is Bishop’s Trailer Sales in Apache Junction. For tires, try Queen Creek’s Red’s Tire Shop and, to get your four-wheeler fixed up, visit Iron City in Casa Grande.
Arizona Equine & Surgical Center in Gilbert has been around since 1984 and they’ve got it all—from ultrasound, MRI, and digital radiology to surgical facilities; even acupuncture, pre-purchase exams, shockwave treatments and regenerative medicine (PRP, stem cells and IRAP). Also, Desert Mountain Equine in Queen Creek has a full pharmacy and supplement roster, if you need anything from syringes to Succeed.
[Read more: North Phoenix: The Hotspots of Cave Creek, Arizona]
In Queen Creek, kids will love the roller coaster, rock climbing wall and miniature golf at Schnepf Farms, while their parents can shop for fresh produce or peach pies, or even eat a bite of grilled succotash from the garden. The Mansel Carter Oasis is a 48-acre park boasting a play area, splash pad, ballfields, skate park and recreational fishing lake. Any ballers in the family? Across Ellsworth is the 11-acre Founders’ Park with a couple of lighted basketball courts, playground and horseshoe pits; or Desert Mountain Park has lighted courts, an amphitheater and volleyball courts.
Chandler offers Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, which shows off dragsters, monster trucks, off-road racing and even drag boats; and Makutu’s Island—a tropical-themed indoor play center. Try the themed playground at Tumbleweed Park or take a vintage train ride on the Desert Breezes Railroad. In Gilbert, check out Golfland Sunspash’s mini-golf and arcades, water slides and laser tag.
A few more educational gems are the Arizona Railway Museum and Rawhide Old West town in Chandler; San Tan Historical Society in Queen Creek; and Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa.
In the Sonoran Desert you can bike, hike or ride your horses up the Queen Creek Wash Trail or the Maricopa Trail via San Tan Mountain Regional Park.
[Read more: Why Arizona Has Become Home to The Snowbirds]