Escape to Red Mountain
Inside a desert retreat perfect for adventure, wellness, and rejuvenation
Written byCarolyn Miller McCusker
On a summer afternoon in southwestern Utah, I stand still, awestruck by the dramatic rock formations soaring before me. The landscape looks doused in paprika and cayenne pepper – the desert temperature red-hot. The only sound is the pulsating buzz of cicadas in the mesquite trees, the soundtrack for my three-day stay at Red Mountain Resort.
New Offerings for 2020
Check out the resort website, www.redmountainresort.com, for new programs that fit a “New Year, New Discovery” theme, such as the “Weight Loss & Living Mindfully Retreat” and “Metabolic Booster Retreat.”
Fly from San Francisco or San Jose International Airports to St. George Regional Airport and take a free 30-minute shuttle to the resort; fly to Las Vegas International Airport and take a pre-arranged shuttle (the resort provides shuttle company info); or, rent a car for the two-hour drive to the resort.
Desert Oasis Double from $690 with varying rates for Luxury Villas and specialized Retreat Packages.
The holistic wellness retreat nestled into the outskirts of Saint George, Utah, has enviable proximity to three scenic parks – about a mile from Snow Canyon State Park, with 7,000 acres of red rock canyons, cliffs, and lava caves; and an hour from the world-famous Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. With surroundings of such epic natural beauty, it’s no wonder that the destination resort is a haven for both outdoor enthusiasts and those needing to relax, recharge, and return home refreshed.
I jump at the invitation to step off the grid and decompress for a few days. Upon arriving at the resort, guests receive the weekly roster of activities or can request a customized retreat experience in advance. Whether you seek outdoor adventure, exercise from a menu of 50 weekly fitness classes, or hammock naps and leisurely swims, the resort caters to both wellness and adventure-seekers.
Wellness is one of the biggest trends in the travel industry, with projections for it to grow twice as fast as general tourism and reach $919 billion in 2022, according to the Global Wellness Institute. But Red Mountain was ahead of the trend, providing guests health and well-being practices for over 20 years.
“Now we see a trend in guests being more open to spiritual concepts,” says Red Mountain Resort General Manager Tracey Welsh. “They are into the personal discovery realm and are embracing opportunities to explore their energy and selves.”
After unpacking in my tasteful Southwestern-style suite—the resort has 82 rooms and 24 villa suites—I hop on a complimentary bike and cycle the short distance to the resort’s cocoon-like Sagestone Spa. Soon, I am swaddled in a crisp white sheet, laying on my back in a heated bed, under the spell of the Sleep Stone Massage, designed to promote a natural way to sleep better and calm an anxious mind. The dreamy 75-minute treatment starts and ends with deep breathing to balance my chi, or energy, and soothing chimes from Himalayan singing bowls. My masseuse gently stimulates my acupressure points and focuses on stress areas: scalp, hands, feet, and abdomen. Probiotics, flower essences, and essential oils are infused into the massage, treating the body from the outside in, while an oral tonic relaxes the nervous system from the inside out. The gentle voice of my masseuse wakes me from my lavender-infused slumber. After sipping green tea to coax my head out of the clouds, it’s time to think about dinner.
Often, we equate wellness with deprivation at mealtimes. But the cuisine at the resort’s Canyon Breeze Restaurant is about satisfaction, not sacrifice. The feel-good food is delish, and there is an impressive list of wine and signature cocktails. I feast on roasted chicken in balsamic jus, mashed potatoes, and a tomato and Poblano pepper side. No deprivation here! Dining solo is embraced, but if you want company, request a seat at the community table, where I bonded over Sauvignon Blanc with two Bay Area women. Meals aren’t a formal affair, so feel free to dine in your yoga pants and T-shirt.
My second day starts with a visit to the Wellness Center, where I meet shaman Brittney Marie, trained in the ancient healing arts of Shamanic Energy Medicine. The idea is to help clients mentally and spiritually clean house, get rid of the negative stuff so that they can live their best, authentic life. We discover my “chakra” or spiritual energy center, identify my spirit animal, and Brittany shares tools to help me replicate the same serenity when I return home. I am surprised by the power and intensity of my 90-minute session. Afterward, I walk the resort’s spiral labyrinth and inhale the solitude and silence of the desert.
That evening, I switch gears. For adrenaline seekers, the resort arranges a guided experience for both serious rappellers and novices to take advantage of the dramatic terrain surrounding the property. (I fit into the latter category, even though I’ve rappelled a few times.) Expert guide Todd Perkins, of Southern Utah Guiding, meets me at the resort and we set out in his pick-up truck to nearby Green Valley Gap, a massive plateau of sandstone with flat mesas, canyons, and caves – a popular playground for climbing and mountain biking.
My two-hour session begins with a review of safety measures, checking my gear, and learning the basics of rappelling. With over 30 years of experience under his belt, Todd expertly clips my line into the pre-existing anchors secured in the sandstone rock. Now it’s show time. I take a deep breath, step backward over the ledge, and begin my controlled descent. Under the stunning pink and apricot hues of the desert sunset, I rappel three straightforward routes starting at 30 feet, then 60, then 90. What an incredible rush! And, yes, I sleep very well that night.
On my last morning, I awaken early to hike the trails that thread through the red and white Navajo Sandstone of nearby Snow Canyon. The resort pairs me with an expert guide, Al Moore, whose passion for the natural beauty and history of these unique surroundings is contagious. Along the trail, Al easily identifies the names and sounds of the birds and bugs that flit and buzz over the desert terrain. During our water breaks, he delivers a geology lesson on the eons of Earth’s history and the origin of erosion patterns decorating the giant rocks. Not for the first time during my stay, I am in awe of this magical world, unlike any I have seen.
Musician, poet, singer-songwriter, and filmmaker Michael Franti and his ER nurse wife turned social entrepreneur, Sara, believe in the power of giving back on a grand scale. The pair will be recognized for their philanthropic dedication this month at one of the Bay Area’s most beloved fundraisers—Holiday Heroes at Oracle Park.