Named for the creek that started at the base of the Silver Queen mine in the nearby mountains, Queen Creek began as a scattered farm community a train’s ride from Phoenix.
Today, it’s still “country,” despite being so close to the city. It’s also within 10 minutes of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, which receives direct flights from handfuls of rural airports—from Rapid City to Provo; from Missoula to Minot. What’s more, Queen Creek is just 30 minutes from downtown Phoenix and 45 minutes from Sky Harbor International Airport, as well.
The other feature you don’t often find in a small town like this is the impressive 38-acre Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Centre, which is home to just about any horse event you would want to enter. It’s quiet and secluded, with four arenas (one covered), 56 RV slots, 320 stalls, full wash racks for horses and more.
Queen Creek offers a great variety of shopping and dining—including a couple of the most diverse restaurants in Phoenix. At the same time, it’s one of the most picturesque locales in the metro area. You can take a load off and view the San Tan and Goldmine mountains to the south, and the Superstition Mountains to the northeast. Best of all? It’s central in the grand scheme of Phoenix metro area ropings. Queen Creek is just as close to Cave Creek and Buckeye as it is to more ropings in Maricopa, Coolidge and Casa Grande.
Where to Practice
Any ropers with barrel racing wives will appreciate that Queen Creek has its own barrel racing association and hosts regular jackpots. But the town is also home to one of the biggest ropings in the Valley or anywhere, all year. The annual World Series of Team Roping event, scheduled this year for Dec. 27–30 at Horseshoe Park, is produced by Troy Shelley and company. It’s a weekend that has typically drawn some 500 teams per roping for years, and pays five figures to each roping’s champs. The weekend prior, Shelley is putting on a World Series roping down in Marana, as well.
New this winter will be the Kirchenschlager Classic Series, every Tuesday starting in mid-November at Horseshoe Park. Trevor Kirchenschlager, a 9-plus heeler who spent time on the rodeo road with his brother, Tate, and cousin, Dakota, will come from Texas and partner with his girlfriend, Makayla Boisjoli, to produce the weekly series. The Canadian Boisjoli family has spent years winning in the Arizona jackpot scene.
In September, Kirchenschlager’s plans were to keep the ropings affordable at pick-one-draw-two for $150, enter twice, with great cattle and lots of prizes. The ropings are expected to pay back 75 percent and possibly offer a $25-per-man buyback in the first round, with half that added to the pot. Each Tuesday, he expects to host a #9 and a #11, using a World Series barrier and five-second barrier penalty, and was still thinking about whether to host practice sessions.
Additionally, Rattlesnake Arena in Queen Creek boards horses and offers team roping practice with two arenas, trail riding and a round pen. The P&M Arena in Mesa will be hosting ropings produced by Willson’s Double C Productions. The venue also offers barrel racing practice and weekly jackpots, plus team roping practice twice a week.
In Gilbert, Double C will produce various jackpots at the non-profit John Volken Academy Ranch .
Shelley Productions offers ropings at Coolidge’s Gallopin Goose Arena, complete with food, cocktails and live music. The property is home to the Gallopin Goose Saloon and Grill—a historic honky-tonk where Waylon Jennings started his solo career.
Truck and Trailer Repair; Veterinary Services
Rodeo Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram recently opened at the corner of Ellsworth and Empire Blvd. Owner Hal Earnhardt is a team roper (he and Victor Aros won the rodeo in Payson in 2011), and his offspring, who work at the dozens of Earnhardt dealerships, are cowboys, as well. Also, a big sponsor of horse-related events at Horseshoe Park is San Tan Ford in nearby Gilbert, where their service department offers any repair you need.
Another supportive company has a location right on the Horseshoe Park grounds, and that’s Great West Trailer and Truck. It sells every kind of trailer and offers service and parts. Founder Josh Motley is a life-long tie-down roper.
For horse care, the largest veterinary clinic of its kind in the desert Southwest is Arizona Equine & Surgical Center in nearby Gilbert. The clinic has been around since 1984. Also, a new clinic called Desert Mountain Equine opened in Queen Creek, featuring Dr. Scott Meyer, who attended CSU’s vet school and studied sports medicine and surgery in Australia.
The San Tan Historical Society is free on Saturdays and gives you the historical flavor of the area, from its connection to architect Frank Lloyd Wright to the benefit provided the community by the German POWs camped here during World War II. You can also visit the Desert Wells Stage Stop and an original 1930s homestead. Investigate the Gold Mine Mountain area and all its old claims, as well as the folks who were innovative enough with irrigation to make farming work in the desert.
Mesa offers the Arizona Museum of Natural History, and in nearby Chandler, you can find exhibits of antique trains at the Arizona Railway Museum. You could also take a vintage train ride at Desert Breeze Park, or see if anything’s happening at Rawhide—the 1800s Old West town. Chandler also offers the Solar System Walk, with a scale model of the planets; Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, which shows off dragsters, monster trucks, off-road racing and even drag boats; plus, Makutu’s Island—a tropical-themed indoor play center.
Finally, west of town near Interstate 10, check out Hohokam Pima National Monument, featuring the remains of Snaketown, an ancient Hohokam village.
Where to Eat
San Tan Flat is a big, open-air combination of a campfire, restaurant, and concert. Modern with a country flare, it’s where you can chill with close friends, roast marshmallows with your kids or dance the night away with live tunes almost every night. Here you’ll find what some say is the best ribeye in Arizona, along with scrumptious creamed corn and rolls.
Neither should you miss out on 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 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 involves 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? Cerrano’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.
At Schnepf Farms, they grow fun. That’s according to their slogan, but most Queen Creek locals would agree.
Your kids will have a ball at the Farms, which is open Thursdays through Sundays. Admission includes hayrides and several other rides, including a roller coaster, carousels, a petting zoo, cornhole games, a rock climbing wall, miniature golf, bonfires, marshmallow roasting, a four-acre corn maze, pig races, entertainment, a BMX show, a zip line, and fireworks on the weekends.
In December, there’s also ice skating, holiday-lighted train rides, and drive-in movies. Come February, the annual Peach Blossom Celebration brings you 80 acres of blooming fruit trees, along with guided trolley rides, walking and biking trails, and a train ride through the orchard.
But the Country Store, Bakery and U-Pick Gardens are great for adults all year round. Get the freshest produce here, and one of the farm’s famous peach pies, plus salsas, marinades and more—or sit down for a bite of grilled pizza or succotash from the garden.