The pandemic panic was slowly dissipating. Talks about possible dates for previously put off movie projects were back in session. However, still nothing was set in stone. Since my calendar was nothing but question marks I decided to take advantage of the schedule purgatory as National Parks were opening back up state by state. A hiking trip to Zion has been on my “someday” list for ages and now there was nothing standing in my way – especially since Red Mountain Resort, Southern Utah’s premiere adventure retreat, was again welcoming guests with open arms… Well, with air hugs, masks and social distancing protocols.
September is prime desert season. It is the fall equinox time of year just beyond the sweltering summer heat. The mornings are mild for hiking and evenings are sweater weather under crisp autumn skies. Escaping the wildfire smoke cloud over California, making mask wearing in my home state not just for COVID-19, was indeed part of the plan heading east. I recruited my friend Nancy O’Brien to join me for the road trip to Red Mountain. An actress, producer, writer and experienced outdoor enthusiast, she was also in need of a breather after spending quarantine in front of the computer doing rewrites on her upcoming horror film 3rd Floor.
Blending into a landscape of vivid red rock cliffs, Red Mountain Resort has everything you need to reignite your passion for adventure in a casual-luxe setting. Ideally located in St. George, Utah, Red Mountain Resort allows for customized adventures to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, with Snow Canyon State Park just a short hike or bike ride away. In addition to everything you would expect from a world-class destination, Red Mountain Resort offers unique fitness, nutrition, and wellness programs designed for life-enhancing changes that last much longer than your stay.
Amenities and services include:
- Modern Desert Oasis Rooms and Villas
- Complimentary Wi-Fi throughout Resort
- Flat Screen HD Televisions
- 3 Healthy, Mindfully Portioned Meals a Day
- Outdoor Adventure Concierge
- Fitness & Wellness Classes and Testing
- Guided Hiking & Biking
- Sagestone Spa & Salon
- Seasonal Outdoor Swimming & Whirlpools
- Indoor Pool (Not available during COVID-19 times)
- State-of-the-art Cybex Gym & Cardio Center
- Spa Boutique & Red Mountain Outfitters Clothing and Gift Store
- Spiral Labyrinth & Walking Trails
Getting there was easy. Traffic in and out of Los Angeles was cut in half due to COVID-19 keeping many people working from home and practicing distance learning. We were able to leave at a leisurely pace in the morning and made plenty of rest stops. Even with the clock moving an hour ahead into Mountain Time we made it to St. George and checked-in by late afternoon. Our Villa was a big 600 square feet providing two queen beds, a natural gas fireplace, balcony overlooking a welcoming pool, and a master bath with double sinks, shower and, my favorite, a whirlpool soaking tub.
Every Red Mountain Resort retreat package includes three meals daily. Thank goodness. Because after settling in we were craving something healthy and hearty to start our stay off right. Red Mountain’s Canyon Breeze Restaurant offers spectacular views from their outdoor patio and a socially distanced seating area around an indoor, double-sided fireplace. The menu clearly identifies most common allergens like soy, dairy, gluten, nuts, and shellfish. Plus, you can make your needs known to your reservation agent prior to arrival. Dinner alfresco was delightful with organic, grass fed meats and wild fish on the menu as well as plenty of plant based options. Wine and beer is available if that is the kind of relaxation vacation you are looking for. For me, it was more of a clean and calorie counting kind of stay, coming out of quarantine with a couple of pounds to lose and a lot of sanity to regain. That is not to say I skipped dessert. My favorite was the dairy-free/gluten-free dark chocolate truffle cake that was impossible to turn down. After a sunset walk around the amber glow grounds we meandered to a calming Candlelight Yoga class before heading back to our villa for a deep desert sleep.
Red Mountain Resort is a hiker’s paradise with trails literally right outside your door. The heart of Red Mountain’s outdoor activities is its daily morning hiking program. So, we were up bright and early for a tasty breakfast before our first Explorer Hike in the spectacular scenery. Nowhere else in the continental U.S. can you find the quantity and quality of trails for Red Rock hiking led by specialized guides who are enthusiastically committed to giving you the experience of a lifetime. The guides are friendly, knowledgeable, practice the “Leave No Trace” Program, and are trained in CPR and American Heart Association First Aid. They all seem to love what they do. Many are retired from other parts of the world, and walks of life, and consider their job “Plurking” – Play/Working.
The Explorer Hikes are a great way to warm up to an active stay. We took the time to admire the scenery with stops for photos and guide interpretations of petroglyphs through trails of terrain with red rock, sand & petrified lava. Explorer hike distances vary between 2.5 to 4 miles with an average elevation change of 350 feet. We worked our way up to Challenge Hikes, which are more aerobic, with trails that included slick rock washes and some uneven terrain. Distances vary between 3.5 to 5.5 miles with a maximum elevation gain of 765 feet. Challenge hikes were indeed, well, challenging. Water was essential in the dry, thin air moving at a faster pace. “Joan’s Bones” along a Snow Canyon trail reminded us all to stay hydrated in the desert. We fleshed out our active days with plenty of other fitness activities including Yoga Flow, Glute Camp, Weight Plate, Drums Alive and recovered with Stretch and MELT Method classes.
The highlight of our Red Mountain Resort stay was a guided trip to Zion National Park. We weren’t exactly sure what we were getting ourselves into. We had heard that we would get wet in The Narrows so we got waterproof cases for our phones at Red Mountain Outfitters, to take pictures, and dressed in water wicking layers. One of the scenic natural wonders of the world, Zion National Park is famous for its deep canyons, sandstone cliffs and stunning vistas. Our experienced guide led us though stark contrasts of lush forestland and colorful mountain peaks. We hiked nearly 10 miles along the Virgin River around waterfalls and along the edge of The Narrows but managed to not get too wet in the aftermath of an extra dry season.
The Red Mountain vans stopped for a dessert-first ice cream treat on the way back to base camp where a shower and a dive into the pool awaited. Dinner was especially delicious that night under a glowing, growing moon. Utah sure is pretty. Joseph Smith and those Mormons knew what they were doing when they picked this place. Though of course the Paiutes had it going on way before them.
Our Red Mountain retreat would not be complete without a visit to Sagestone Spa. After days of hiking and trying fun new workouts we were due for a customized massage. Whether you’re looking to unknot muscles, detoxify the skin, or simply surrender to a state of bliss, one of their skilled massage therapists will leave you feeling nothing short of fantastic. I requested something “Goldilocks” between sports and soothing. It was indeed just right. As I floated through the labyrinth in post spa aaahhh, I felt an ease and patience come over me. In these uncertain times, where we all have been uprooted and left unsettled, our plans postponed and dreams delayed, I have had to work extra diligently at cultivating calm and finding peace of mind. However, in this moment, I truly felt I was in my right place and there was no time to rush. The feeling was further supported by a full harvest moon sound bath, acknowledging and releasing the pent up stress of 2020. Ancient Tibetan singing bowls and chakra soothing crystal bowls washed over us clearing the old stuck energy and making room for the new. I had an overwhelming feeling that the best was yet to come.
On our last day, Nancy and I eased down to an Explorer Hike and opted to wander around the arts village of Kayenta in lieu of more fitness classes. We had a leisurely lunch on the patio at a sweet restaurant, Xetava Gardens, and purchased some local arts and crafts souvenirs. We then hit the road in the afternoon eager to meet our actor friend William McNamara in Las Vegas where we would all be shooting 3rd Floor when the COVID-delayed logistics all fall back into place.
Like a flower smiling toward the sun or a tenacious tree that sprouts through stone against all odds to thrive, I trusted the film would come to fruition, with the best team, at the perfect time.
Thank you Red Mountain Resort for the reassurance that all will be well.