It was our second night at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, and my oldest daughter and I were headed to the s’mores station, which was set under sensationally clear desert skies. We spotted the fire pits from the open-air lobby, rounded the walkway toward the flames, then halted in our tracks.
“Javelinas!” Olivia whispered, pointing.
And there they were: a group of wire-haired javelinas, big and small, munching the grassy patch we needed to pass on our way to the s’mores.
“Shhh. Don’t bother them,” Olivia said as I tiptoed in their direction. We had learned earlier that day from the on-site rangers that these peccaries — not pigs, mind you — are herbivores and not particularly dangerous, unless you happen to be unlucky enough to come between a mother and her young. The shuffle of my feet startled the pack, and they scurried away.
“That was amazing,” I said, holding Olivia’s hand. “Wild javelinas! Right in front of us!”
Moments later we met the ranger running the fires that night. He signed us up for a s’mores kit and led us to our own fire pit while sharing that the javelinas are semi-frequent guests to the property. We set up our bench with house-made graham crackers, chocolate bars and gigantic marshmallows. Then, we stargazed as we roasted our dessert.
“Now this is amazing,” Olivia said.
The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain is ideally designed and placed to offer countless opportunities like this for families to connect with one another — and with nature. Set in a canyon of the Tortolito Mountains and just 30 minutes from Tucson and Saguaro National Park, Dove Mountain’s unique geographical surroundings make it ideal for explorers young and old. Guests can study saguaros right on the hotel’s grounds — these cacti are a natural marvel, often standing 50 feet in the air with arms stretched any which way.
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Those willing to venture farther can access 26 miles of trails from here, on their own or via an expert-led guided hike. This makes Dove Mountain the ultimate escape for anyone looking to get to know the Sonoran Desert while also experiencing the sense of luxury The Ritz-Carlton brand has come to be known for.
Even when guests are in their rooms, the desert’s beauty is unmissable. Ridge View and Mountain View rooms look out on the cacti-speckled landscape, while Canyon View rooms show off the resort’s pools and the silhouette of the Tortolito range. Our own Executive Suite, with a separate bedroom and living area, had plenty of room for a rollaway crib for our 11-month-old, plus two balconies for us to enjoy the scenery. But the Casitas are surely the optimal accommodation for families: Set at the far back of the resort, these 13 spacious suites offer a serene sense of seclusion and envious views of the desert. Large sliding doors give them an outdoor-living vibe (it’s best to be on the lookout for wandering critters, though).
It was this balance of outdoor time and comfort that impressed me most during our stay at Dove Mountain. In our three days on the property, we went hiking and birdwatching along Wild Burro Trail, which is great for all ages; spied petroglyphs left by the native Hohokam people; snacked on nachos by the pool after speeding down a waterslide and playing in the nearby splashpad; tried our hand at croquet and frisbee golf; pet the property’s resident tortoise; and enjoyed an elegant meal at Core Kitchen & Wine Bar. We didn’t leave the property once — there was little reason to do so. And families with toddlers to teens seemed to be doing the same.
Even in the midst of a pandemic, our stay at Dove Mountain felt safe. Dining venues have ample outdoor seating, and since so much of the resort’s programming occurs outside even in a typical year, keeping a safe social distance is rather effortless. Tee times are available for golfers — the resort boasts a 27-hole championship course — and anyone can have an alfresco burger and milkshake at Cayton’s Burger Bistro, the clubhouse restaurant. The pool decks are also delightful, with courteous (and masked) service at every turn. Even during our shorter visit, we fell into a routine of hiking in the morning, lounging by the pool for a few hours afterward, and having dinner before playing more outdoor games.
While the spa was offering select treatments by appointment, I opted to recharge with a solo hike on our last morning at Dove Mountain. Once I set foot on the natural wash trail behind the resort, I passed no one for an hour — it was serenity at its finest. And then, as I returned to the resort boundaries, I did spot something: another pack of javelinas, caravanning through the cacti and enjoying the same idyllic desert winter morning that I was.
The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain