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Rest for the Weary

After a day of hiking and biking, unwind with a hot rocks massage at Utah’s Red Mountain Spa.
By Jennifer Chininis |

I’m lying in bed, curled up in stone-colored, organic cotton sheets, watching Whale Rider on Oxygen. Next to the remote control there’s a bottle of water on my bedside table, but reaching for them seems like a chore. To my right, through the floor-to-ceiling windows framed by flat, canvas drapes, I can see the picturesque orange, pink, and red peaks of Snow Canyon State Park, set against the postcard blue sky.
A twinge of guilt washes over me, for I am staying at a spa in St. George, Utah—not just a massage-me-into-a-noodle spa, but a spa known for activities more adventurous than horizontal television-watching with an occasional remote control curl. Most guests at Red Mountain Spa are out climbing rocks, biking through mountains, and finding inner peace in a yoga class.

But this is the beauty of Red Mountain. Here, I have choices. I could be in the indoor pool, taking an aqua strength class. Or I could be lying in a hammock, sun beating on my brow, reading Middlesex near the little creek that runs through the property. Instead, I choose to relax in my zen-like room—amid the rattan furniture, slate floors, and artwork of pressed autumn leaves and flower buds—a nonactivity that has become the ultimate luxury. My brain reaches a transcendental state when I realize that my only responsibility left in the day is to report to the spa at 3 o’clock for a Red Mountain Honey Glow.

Lest you think I am a total sloth, I did get up at 7 a.m. for a guided hike over semi-rough terrain, alongside fellow adventure-spa enthusiasts, including a divorce attorney from New York City and a potter from Virginia. I found their work as fascinating as they did mine. We chatted up the guides—who all have great calves—as they pointed out various species of plants and explained how the Native Americans used them to live. We stopped for a brief moment to catch our breath, take a few swigs of water from the bottles strapped to our waists, and enjoy the view of the canyon below. Then we carefully inspected the petroglyphs and ruminated about their meaning before we hopped in the van and returned to Red Mountain to refuel in the dining room, Canyon Breeze.

The next two days resembled the first: early morning hike, mid-afternoon refueling, afternoon or evening at the spa. We socialized at happy hour—while enjoying a glass of wine and a cheese plate—with those who had spent their days similarly. Then, at dinner, we dreamed about getting back into bed, where organic cotton sheets and Oxygen—tonight, Girls Behaving Badly—waited.

HOW TO GET THERE

Red Mountain Spa
800-407-3002
www.redmountainspa.com

Red Mountain is located in St. George, Utah, about 120 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Most major airlines fly nonstop from DFW to Las Vegas; from there, the St. George shuttle (800-933-8320) can take you to Red Mountain (it is one of several stops) for $70 round trip. You might consider renting a car if you anticipate a day trip to nearby Bryce Canyon National Park or the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Driving directions are available from the spa concierge.

St. George also has an airport, which is served by SkyWest (800-453-9417; www.delta.com) and United Express (800-241-6522; www.united.com), but you will need to change planes. The spa can arrange a shuttle from the St. George airport.

WHAT IT COSTS

Seven-night packages start at $219 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. That includes all meals (excluding beer and wine); guided morning hikes; unlimited fitness classes, such as yoga and Pilates; unlimited use of facilities, including indoor/outdoor pools and fitness center. Spa services and other activities, such as kayaking or horseback riding, are extra.

WHAT TO BRING

Sunscreen, sunglasses, comfortable clothes, tennis shoes, and a pair of hiking boots. Don’t worry about getting dressed up for dinner—you can even dine in your robe if you’ve just come from the spa.

DINE OUT: When the weather is nice, guests enjoy chef Jeff Crosland’s cuisine outdoors.

LET’S EAT

This is not your typical tasteless, un-filling spa cuisine. Executive chef Jeff Crosland has created a diverse menu of healthy and flavorful Adventure Cuisine that includes PowerFuel foods (high-calorie, protein-rich selections, such as beef tenderloin with sweet potato pancake and sautéed spinach), Call of the Wild dishes (local organic herbs and indigenous greens and game, such as chargrilled bison with spinach risotto), and Green Cuisine (dishes free of any animal products, including butternut squash gnocchi with black bean sauce).

Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style in the dining room, Canyon Breeze. Breakfast may feature—aside from a cereal, yogurt, fruit, and juice bar—whole-wheat soy pancakes, warm fruit compote, and scrambled eggs with wild mushrooms and herbs. For lunch, enjoy a lean protein, such as turkey cutlet with pesto or poached fish, and sides like mixed vegetables and low-fat french fries. Don’t like what you see on the buffet? You can get a grilled chicken Caesar salad and a fruit smoothie in the Canyon Cafe.

Dinner is a sit-down affair, complete with soup and fresh salad bar, beer or wine service, and a breadbasket filled with lavosh, sun-dried tomato bread, and soon-to-be famous Ezekiel bread, which uses ingredients that make a complete protein, including grain and bean flours and milled barley and lentils. Select a lean protein (pork tenderloin), add a vegetable (butternut squash “pancake”), and finish with one of many fantastic desserts, including a delectably moist, tres leches-like almond milk cake. In fact, all breads and desserts were moist and delicious—the highlight of every day.

GET UP AND GO

The primary focus of Red Mountain is activity—whether you prefer a 5-mile hike, fire and ice facial, or tai chi. Typically, mornings begin with a guided hike in nearby Snow Canyon State Park—40 knowledgeable, enthusiastic guides lead guests on more than 30 different hikes for all fitness levels. Then the day is yours to create an itinerary suited to your tastes. Yoga, Pilates, and aqua strength are some of the classes included in the price of your stay; adventure seekers can ride horses, kayak, or rock climb for an additional fee. Red Mountain also has a comprehensive biking program, designed for diehards and novices alike. Day trips to the Grand Canyon or Lake Powell can be arranged if you don’t have a rental car.

The spa is, of course, the best way to unwind and relax after a strenuous day of exercise. Treatments range from honey avocado pedicure and coconut sugar glow to more rigorous Slickrock Survival Massage and LaStone Therapy, designed to ease sore muscles and improve circulation. Planning to improve on an already good thing, the folks at Red Mountain report a new spa is soon to be built.

In addition to physical activities, Red Mountain offers ongoing wellness programs and lectures—led by authors, fitness instructors, mind/body practitioners, and spiritual therapists—designed to improve your overall quality of life, whether through diet, exercise, or spiritual well-being. For example, July 5-9, author, teacher, and spiritual therapist Carol Tuttle leads “Manifest Your Ideal Weight & Optimum Health.”

Photo: Courtesy of Red Mountain Spa