The Emerald Hues of Sprucedale

Guest ranch promises an authentic Western getaway

By J. Adam Burch and Stacey Lane

Arizona is a cache of hidden scenic treasures. Travelers have discovered the best­kept-secret destinations, sometimes by simply making a wrong turn. Some families return repeatedly over decades to revivify the priceless memories that illuminate the shining gem that has coalesced from the jade and emerald hues of northeastern Arizona.

Surrounded by the Apache National Forest, the Sprucedale Guest Ranch is draped with the aromas of the ponderosa pine, aspen and spruce trees that embrace the sunlit, multicolored wildflowers and crystal-clear streams. Lush meadows are decorated by the presence of horses, deer, elk and bighorn sheep that graze nearby seeming to wait for those looking for a piece of a simpler past.

Dudes of all ages come to experience the laid back, authentic Western life and to be close to nature. Owned by the Wiltbank family since 1941, the Sprucedale Guest Ranch has been the source of wonderful memories for guests from all over the world in search of a sense of the real West. Spectacular trail rides are the Wiltbank family trademark, as they take great pride in raising and training their own string of horses.

There is an unspoken magic that dances throughout the ranch, which includes making lifelong friends in a comfortable, storybook setting. Cell phones, televisions and the internet are replaced by genuine smiles and warm hospitality. The rustic log cabins are simple, clean and cozy, furnished with quilted blankets and wood-burning stoves for the cool mountain nights.

Amid the tranquil beauty, the repeat guest speaks loudest. Cabin neighbors Jeff, Corinne, Nick and Gianna Canivez reminisced: “We came here ten years ago when the kids where around ten and seven,” shared Jeff Canivez. “Our oldest will be leaving to become a naval officer soon, and our youngest just turned 18 and is between apartments. We wouldn’t get the chance to do it again. It has been so long since we had been here that we were surprised when their eyes just lit right up.”

In the decade since the family’s last visit to the White Mountain Range in eastern Arizona, Sprucedale Guest Ranch had miraculously survived a devastating forest fire. Although the areas that skirt the remote forest road still bear the charred memory of  three years ago, Sprucedale Guest Ranch remains nothing short of magical.

At the Sprucedale Guest Ranch a milk cow may greet you before breakfast. A day’s activities can include trail rides, meditation, taking photos, hiking, mountain biking, or just sitting on the porch petting a barn cat and watching the wildlife.

As a family-owned, working ranch, equestrians who dare may be lucky enough to round up cattle and learn more about the ranch experience. The cool evenings and summer rains allow for bonfires and camp stories the old-fashioned way; someone may even ask you to dance or sing. Children and adults of all ages are what make up the happy and fun­loving staff at Sprucedale Guest Ranch. The well-trained staff will make your family feel welcome while making their jobs look easy.

To learn more, visit or call 928-333-4984.