In the middle of the Arizona desert, 65 miles northwest of Phoenix and 130 miles southeast of Kingman, Wickenburg (pop. 6,806) grew up as a gold-mining camp in the 1860s and has survived as a low-key resort community. A few crusty prospectors still search for a strike, and cowboys are often seen riding through town, which makes Wickenburg a pleasant place to get a feel for the Old West, especially during the winter months when temperatures are mild and the sun shines nearly every day. If you wander around the compact town, keep an eye out for Gila monsters, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes, but don’t worry: If you see one, it’s likely made of bronze, part of an art installation that has also populated the streets with metal renditions of Wild West outlaws and schoolteachers.
Wickenburg’s Wild West ambience and reliably good winter weather account for the number of dude ranches dotting the surrounding desert, most of which are intended for longer stays rather than passing travelers.
Right where US-93 intersects cross-country US-60 at Wickenburg’s only stoplight, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum (928/684-2272, daily, $12) gives a broad overview of regional history and contains a surprisingly good collection of Western art and sculpture (from George Catlin to Charles “Charley” Russell), plus the usual rocks and rusty relics.
Most of the places to eat and sleep are lined up along east-west US-60 (Wickenburg Way). For breakfast and lunch, try the Horseshoe Café (207 E. Wickenburg Way, 928/684-7377).