Quiet Destinations

Estivation and Rejuvenation at Red Mountain Spa

I learned a new word when I visited Red Mountain Spa in Utah’s Mohave Desert this past August — estivation. It’s a state of inactivity similar to hibernation, but it occurs during the hot summer months when some desert animals estivate to conserve energy.

[photo] FPQ Founder, Allan Ishac, spent a week enjoying these miraculous red rock vistas

FPQ’s Allan Ishac spent a week enjoying
these miraculous red rock vistas.

I was darn close to slipping into full estivation after a pulse-slowing, mind-stilling Sagestone Massage at Red Mountain. Reclining on an impossibly comfortable cushioned lounge chair, wrapped in my plush, ankle-length robe, staring out at dramatic sandstone cliffs through a massive arched window, I was primed for a full week of the spa’s delicious dormancy.

Red Mountain Spa is located in St. George, Utah, nestled within the copper-hued moonscape at the entrance to Snow Canyon State Park. The park provides a stunning backdrop for the spa’s impressive menu of fitness activities and wellness offerings, all of which helped earn it a Conde Nast Traveler’s pick as a “Top U.S. Destination Spa” in 2007.

[photo] From virtually every guest room at Red Mountain Spa, you wake up to the sun illuminating the coppery landscape

From virtually every guest room at
Red Mountain Spa, you wake up to the
sun illuminating the coppery landscape.

I visited Red Mountain to do an FPQ review, but also to decompress from a busy summer of travel and the minor turmoil of recent life changes. I arrived with the intention of finding quiet time to write. I also wanted to experience the early morning desert hikes that draw so many guests to Red Mountain.

The three-hour guided treks begin at 7:00 a.m., to get a jump on the laser-lashing effects of the sun (I had a fanny pack holstered with two large water bottles and drained both eagerly on every walk). The 100° plus temperatures did nothing to detract from the sensational views, as we scampered over slick rock, crested the surrounding mesas, and trudged through sandy washouts. Incidentally, slick rock is an ominous misnomer — the local sandstone bluffs might have been slippery for the metal-shod horses of pioneers pulling wagon trains across the West, but the surface is actually quite tacky and easy to traverse, even on steep inclines.

[photo] A typical day begins with hikes through this inspiring desert terrain in Snow Canyon

A typical day begins with hikes through this
inspiring desert terrain in Snow Canyon.

These vigorous, daily walks certainly burned calories, with the delightful side effect of slowing my mind and quelling the urban anxieties I’d brought with me from New York. After each walk, I took part in a Desert Stretch class under a misted gazebo that kept my muscles loose and pliable for the yoga classes that followed.

I was pleased to learn that Red Mountain has the highest percentage of male guests (more than 30%) of all destination spas in the country. Men’s Journal voted it the #1 men’s spa in the U.S. This probably has to do with Red Mountain’s many active offerings including mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding, nearby golf, and one of the most extensive hiking programs in the Southwest. As someone who frequents spas, I have a hard time understanding why more men – often strung out by demanding careers and stressed out by financial and family obligations — don’t avail themselves more of spa vacations like that at Red Mountain. Here it’s possible to find an ideal balance of serious fitness activities and restorative pampering. And Red Mountain is one of the more affordable of the nation’s luxurious destination spas.

[photo] Before and after a spa treatment, guests spend time decompressing in these contoured loungers with the Mojave Desert in view

Before and after a spa treatment, guests spend
time decompressing in contoured loungers
with the Mojave Desert in view.

A rejuvenating highlight of my stay was a 17-mile mountain bike ride over well-maintained bike trails in Snow Canyon (the spa maintains a sturdy fleet of Gary Fisher mountain bikes). I saw no one during my two-hour ride and stopped frequently to marvel at the near-total midday silence. The day was impressively hot but the sun’s rays seemed to bake the tension out of my body. And when it was over, I returned to the geodesic dome of the Sagestone Spa and Salon at Red Mountain for a 50-minute Homme Facial. The skilled hands of my therapist restored moisture to my parched skin and left a somnolent smile on my lips. It was one of four treatments I enjoyed at the spa — a sampling of desert pampering that incorporated native botanicals, mineral-rich clays and essential oils derived from the Mojave.

The rolling footpaths throughout Red Mountain’s 50-acre property are landscaped with indigenous plants, and I found several inviting hammocks hung between shade trees where I briefly snoozed in the late afternoon. I also enjoyed a slow, meditative walk through the property’s large labyrinth, situated in a blackened lava field. Two hundred yards away lie the contemporary adobe-style guest buildings that accommodate up to 150 guests in the high season (November-April), many rooms with terraces. During my final night at Red Mountain, I was outside stargazing on my east-facing terrace when a broad-winged owl sailed silently by, not three feet from my upturned face.

[photo] Allan experiences the spa’s impressive labyrinth in the shadow of massive sandstone bluffs

Allan experiences the spa's impressive labyrinth
in the shadow of massive sandstone bluffs.

While many guests were at Red Mountain to dutifully count calories and drop pounds, I found the cuisine imaginative and bountiful, and ate rapaciously. Unfortunately, I visited during a restaurant renovation, so I missed the chance to sit outdoors on the slate terrace of the spa’s Canyon Breeze Restaurant. But it was easy to see that with 300-days of sunshine (and cooling misters in full operation), that a highlight of this spa experience would be quiet, alfresco meals with the peak of Red Mountain looming over the terrace from the west.

[photo] While biking or hiking through Snow Canyon, it’s possible to immerse yourself in stunning serenity and silence

While biking or hiking through Snow Canyon,
it's possible to immerse yourself in
stunning serenity and silence.

I met wonderful people at Red Mountain Spa, many who’d come to renew and recharge after leaving a difficult job or a marriage, some to sow the seeds of a healthier lifestyle incorporating diet and exercise, and others simply for the bliss of daily spa treatments. I met a few heroic souls who were there for a week of recovery after a serious life crisis. The desert wilderness surrounding Red Mountain Spa is the perfect place to regroup and recover, to find sanity when the chaos of the outside world seems too much, to walk in solitude with the silent red rock absorbing the depth of your feelings without judgment.

To learn more about Red Mountain Spa or to book a rejuvenating vacation, visit www.redmountainspa.com. Tell them Allan at FPQ sent you.