Relax, recharge and enjoy stunning nature and food at Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah.
It all began when my out-of-state bestie, Joan, called to say that she really, really missed me (sweet) and would I please find us a fun girlfriend getaway, preferably someplace healthy, relaxing, and convenient. This sounded like a spa vaca to me except for the fact that we are such totally opposite people. Joan is a veg-head who does her best thinking in a downward dog position. Her buzzwords are spiritual, chakra, crystal, and mindfulness, while I’ve been known to inhale food cart hot dogs smothered with everything – including nitrates, am all about hiking, and challenging myself, sandwiched between lots of great food and wine. As you can imagine, this made our trip planning a wee bit difficult until I came across Red Mountain Resort’s webpage with ”Choose to push your boundaries or gently take in breath and space as you need it. ” Bingo!
While reading RMR’s laundry list of accolades garnered over the years (Voted #1 Destination Spa by Travel & Leisure, Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, named “Fodor’s Choice Establishment”, World’s Best Award by Travel & Leisure Reader’s Survey, etc.) I remember thinking, if it’s even half that wonderful, it could work for us. After last week’s visit I am happy to report that is it really IS ALL THAT and more! Plus, its ideal location, perched in the center of Southwestern Utah’s breathtaking red rock country, meant that it was only a short flight to Las Vegas and then a three-hour shuttle ride to the resort.
Our Girlfriends Getaway package included 3 nights in a luxe villa, tastefully decorated in soft desert-tone colors. We immediately plopped on the humongous couch which became ground zero for our fireside chats. Two big rooms, two TV’s, and two full spa style baths ensured no bickering. Our villa was next to the pool and outdoor Jacuzzi, which we promptly commandeered since it was usually empty in the evening.
There’s nothing quite like girlfriends reconnecting while relaxing in the warm bubbling water, sipping vino under the starry, starry night, while nibbling on healthy hummus, guac and chips. Trust me, it so doesn’t suck!
We appreciated the many thoughtful touches: the pretty fruit and herb infused water that made drinking your 8 glasses a day a breeze, the villa’s complimentary washer/dryer allows you to fly with carry-on only, the kitchen’s willingness to accommodate virtually any dietary need, the golf cart drivers who will whisk you around the property, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a RMR backpack and water bottle. We loved ordering room service, warming up our meals in the microwave for a decadent dinner in bed!
But the best amenity was the incredible service offered by the sincerely friendly, well-trained staff. I never tired of hearing “My pleasure. Is there anything else you need?” in response to a thank-you. After spending senseless hours trying to put together a spreadsheet with all the best classes, hikes, and massages, I admitted defeat and wandered over to the concierge desk, where unflappable Marcy, with a few strokes of her keyboard and a couple of calls, made quick work of it all as she cheerfully organized a stellar itinerary that included everything I wanted, plus some things that I didn’t even know I wanted, before handing me my personalized activity chart. Love her!
A typical day for me began with chowing down at the buffet breakfast in preparation for the 8:00 am hike. Offerings included fresh fruit, roasted potatoes, apple turkey bacon, spicy sausages, huevos rancheros, muesli, and freshly baked pastries. The 3-4 hour hikes are classified as Beginners, Intermediate, and killer Endurance Hikes. I opted for the intermediate ones that worked out perfectly. I was tempted to try one of the advanced hikes until I saw them actually running over the rocky mountains which was way to Rambo-ish for me. Most hikes took place in Snow Canyon State Park, which doubles as RMR’s 7,000-acre backyard. The guides were all enthusiastic and professional, offering helpful hiking tips, such as instead of side stepping down a steep hill, although counter-intuitive, point your toes straight down to prevent a sprained ankle. They each had their own areas of interest which added to the fun.
Giuseppe would stop frequently to share his vast knowledge about the indigenous flora and fauna, handing us stems of the Ephedra plant to chew on for quick energy, while Megan pointed out spots where “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” were filmed and where Katy Perry shot the desert scenes for her Rise video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdw1uKiTI5c
FYI: Bring your oldest pair of hiking boots since it’s virtually impossible to clean off the red-hiking dust, which I grew to consider my own Red Badge of Courage. And dog lovers can check out the Pound Puppy Hike where RMR partners up with the Ivins City No-Kill Animal Shelter. Each guest gets a handful of treats and a leash attached to a friendly dog that is more than happy to join you for a rollicking hike.
We always returned by 11:00 am, in time to take a stretch-type class to avoid sore muscles. Stretching has always been my fitness Achilles heel since I was born unbendable. When others (like Joan) easily strike a “Downward Dog” pose, I strain for a knee bending “Down Puppy”. I reluctantly joined a Total Stretch class on the fitness balls, which was taught by Kristin, the wellness coordinator. I was blown away by how limber I was afterward so I immediately booked her for a one-on-one. Kristin not only adapted a dozen stretches for me, but she also printed out a sheet with detailed instructions so I can do these at home.
By now I’d was ravenous so I’d meet Joan, who spent the morning “mindfully” walking in circles at the labyrinth, at Canyon Breeze Restaurant for a bountiful buffet lunch which included a salad bar, a steaming pot of soup and about 6-8 mains dishes including healthier versions of burgers, lasagna and chili plus a tasty dessert. Next to each dish was a bowl displaying the recommended serving size with the nutritional breakdown of each item. Shhh, don’t rat me out but I have to admit that after trying the unbelievably scrumptious choco/coconut/cranberry chewy cookies, and found out they were under 100 calories, I snuck out a couple for our bedtime snack!
Refueled it was time for afternoon classes. With a roster of 50+ classes, it’s hard to decide until we asked some of the repeat guests for their favorites. The ones that got the most votes were:
Best for tapping into your inner rockstar: Drums Alive (which turned out to be a total blast!)
Best kick-your-butt class: most any class taught by Rebecca (who takes no prisoners) but in particular the TRX-Boot Camp
Best for reliving the old days: Thriller Dance
Best for chillin’: Candle Light Yoga
Best new style: MELT. Melt is a hands-off, bodywork method that helps reduce pain and aging. Classes cover the whole bod, just your face or one on hands and feet with a special mini- class on bunion prevention.
Since Joan and I are both in the “waiting for the wisdom to kick in” side of 50 we were going to try the MELT Anti-Aging Workshop but instead we heeded the call of the Jacuzzi.
It wasn’t until the last day that I realized that I never stepped foot into the gym which is loaded with state of the art fitness equipment such as a new Life Fitness SYNRGY 360 system which addresses core stability functional movement and over just getting pumped.
There are tons of outdoor adventures to choose from including rock climbing, horseback riding, canyoneering and kayaking. I had two “off-campus” quests that are both must-dos! The first was the full day guided hike through Zion National Park. I was finally able to convince Joan to leave her rock circle (her ears perked up once I told her that Zion means “place of peace and relaxation” in Hebrew) for this, which she later said was the highpoint of the trip! With the changing of the leaves in full force, the towering sandstone cliffs, gaping canyons, lush forests, and spectacular vistas the park was ridiculously beautiful.
As unforgettable as the Zion hike was I can’t stop talking about my second adventure, Sunset Rappelling. I lucked out since not only was I the only one who had signed up that day, but also when I scored Marc Hansen as my guide. This lean, mild-mannered, middle-aged, ex-hippy looking guy, sporting a waist-length, graying ponytail, turned out to be an accomplished yoga slackliner, which is similar to tightrope walking at dizzying heights. He was extremely patient as he explained everything I needed to do, reiterating often that among all the flotsam and jetsam of ropes and pulleys he strapped on me, he also attached a safety line so he could catch me if I fell.
For some reason, I completely trusted that he had me (even though I probably outweighed him) and I had absolutely no hesitation about stepping backwards off the edge of the 150-ft. high, Cougar Cliff. It turned out that, per Marc, “I was a natural and totally rocked rappelling!” We quickly proceeded to tackle 3 other cliffs of increasing difficulty. I was so stoked that I almost belted out my own, wildly off-key version of Perry’s Rise song but managed to rein it in. For an incredible adrenaline rush, I give this 3 thumbs up!
Made it back just in time for dinner and to regale Joan with every minute detail of my outing. Dinners are more gourmet affairs offering about six entrées with seafood, chicken, beef, or vegetarian options and then a few exotic dishes such as Molasses Seared Cervena Venison served with Pepita Cinnamon Dusted Yams and Danish Blue Cheese. Joan and I spent many a night debating which tempting desserts we wanted to share. She usually picked the most decadent chocolate creation while my fave was the Banana Bread Pudding with warm Bourbon Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice-cream that weighed in at a very reasonable 263 calories. Since Joan and I like different wines we each bought a bottle that they will store for you to finish another night.
The food was scrumptious and I never felt remotely deprived, so kudos to Exec-Chef Chad Luethje, who has cooked here almost a decade. I strongly suggest signing up for one of his healthy cooking demos. To reduce your fat intake Chef Chad suggests cooking with 3 parts Canola oil to 1 part EVO stored in a spritz bottle. Each spritz equals 1/4 t. of oil. Chef also shared his fave kitchen utensils: a good microplane that he uses for shaving citrus zest, spices, chocolate and Parmesan cheese for intensifying flavors. plus three basic knives: a cleaver, a serrated knife, which he uses to peel fruit and veggies, and a paring knife. He recommends the Victorinox Swiss Army brand for good, inexpensive knives. When I asked him what the most popular menu items are, he said many guests love the Green Curry Halibut, Mango Habanera Shrimp, a vegan Cauliflower Potato Korma, and any dish using their special grass-fed beef, which is flown in from Uruguay.
I loved their “Guilt-free Peanut Butter” and managed to wrangle the recipe out of Chef Chad for you to try.
Carrot Peanut Butter
2 parts steamed carrots
1 part organic peanut butter
Puree all in Cuisinart until smooth. Cover and keep in fridge up to one week.
Once I got over the non-trad color of this calorie reduced (almost two-thirds less calories and fat) I loved this spread. It still tastes really peanutty, the lighter, fluffier texture totally works, plus carrots are packed with important antioxidants and vitamins.
Joan and I both liked to book a late spa treatment, for the perfect ending to the day. Joan couldn’t stop yammering on about how “renewed” she felt after her Himalayan Salt Stone Massage which combines a traditional warm stone massage with sage and cedar oil. She was torn between that and “Our Vibrational Sound Therapy” which starts with a cup of specialized tea and a foot bath and includes singing bowls to set the stage for deep relaxation. After a wonderful but tiring day hiking in Zion, I was delighted with my Plain Jane, in-room massage by the talented Nicole. She knocked on my door toting a sturdy massage table that she set up in front of the hot fire. After she expertly kneaded my aching muscles with fragrant oils, I loved that rather than having to get dressed and walk back to my room I could just slither off the table and fall into bed for one of my best night’s sleep ever!
About Red Mountain Resort
Nestled in Southwestern Utah’s red rock bluffs, Red Mountain Resort’s 82 southwestern-style rooms and 24 suites take full advantage of the scenery: red-rock cliffs, majestic canyons, and black lava flows in a region that’s home to three parks (Snow Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. This one-of-a-kind active destination retreat inspires guests to pursue health, wellness, balance and joy through its comprehensive selection of fitness classes and programs, outdoor and hiking adventures, nutritious cuisine and personal discovery seminars. The award-winning Sagestone Spa & Salon provides an array of unique spa services. Red Mountain Resort is conveniently located 30 minutes from St. George Municipal Airport and two hours from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, allowing visitors an easy commute. For reservations and information, call toll-free at 877.246.HIKE or go to https://www.redmountainresort.com.
Janice could be the love child of Indiana Jones and Julia Child. She was a specialty food consultant in NYC with a client list that included Tavern on the Green and Dean & Deluca. A culinary trendsetter, Janice has visited almost 100 countries searching out gastronomic adventures. She might be found sharing a smoked monkey dinner with Shuar Indians in the Amazon jungle or “running with the dogs” while truffle hunting in Marche, Italy.To keep things in balance, Janice also writes about her Girlfriend Getaways, including everything from luxurious city penthouses and Michelin starred meals to bespoke travel in remote destinations.You can follow her travels at www.janicenieder.com