It’s day two at Red Mountain Spa in southwestern Utah, and I’m hitting the wall. My quads are exhausted from a six-mile morning hike and my abs screaming from three hours of afternoon exercise classes. I am tempted to bag tomorrow’s dawn patrol trek and afternoon mountain bike ride for downtime snuggled up with a good book in the villa’s plush furniture or deep-soaking in the oversized Jacuzzi tub, but the staff’s contagious energy and enthusiasm – and yoga bodies – inspire a change of heart.


I have come to Red Mountain with my friend Jan for a girl’s getaway weekend to jumpstart a new, healthier version of me. Nothing much, just a fifty-pound-slimmer, fitness-loving, adventure-goddess-beautiful, calmer version of me. The spa’s 4-day/3-night Girlfriends Spa Road Trip Package includes all the necessary components: welcome gift & spa treatment; accommodations in a stylish villa suite; healthy yet delicious gourmet meals; complimentary bike; daily guided morning hikes; unlimited fitness classes; cooking demonstrations and nutrition classes; healthy living lectures; and full use of the resort’s pools, whirlpools, walking trails, strength training and cardio equipment.

A new breed of adventure spa, Red Mountain focuses as much on perspiration as relaxation. Outside, it’s red rock fantasyland; a primordial landscape of crimson cliffs, black lava and big blue skies where daily guided hikes, rock climbing outings and canyon-hugging bike rides exercise my body. Inside, it is pure seduction; where fluffy bathrobes, soothing spa treatments, healthy living and self-discovery classes expand my mind and recharge my spirit.

Fellow guests are a convivial collection of toned 30-something California yummy-mummies and self-assured urban professionals sporting designer fleece and hiking clothes, a healthy smattering of baby-boomer Earth Mothers beaming peace, beauty and wellness, a couple of hard-bodied Iron-Man-in-training Yuppie males and a few retired couples.

In the gym, I meet a perky New Hampshire mother here at the bequest of her husband, who is home caring for the kids. “Finding time to workout at home with a 16-month-old baby and two year old toddler isn’t easy,” the perfect-bodied 20-something New England beauty tells me. “This week I’ve hiked Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, I’ve kayaked for the first time ever, enjoyed delicious meals served and cooked by someone other than myself, learned yoga and have caught up on my sleep for the first time in years.”

With shame, I look in the mirror at my soft writer’s body and ratchet up the time and resistance on the Cybex elliptical trainer. I firmly resolve, then and there, to release all thoughts of spending the visit sleeping in, reading by the pool and floating from one indulgent spa treatment to the next. I don’t even object later that evening when Jan suggests we attend the lecture “And Before I Knew It The Bag Was Empty” by visiting doctors Chris and Kara Mohr, both movie-star examples of healthy living.

At breakfast Jan and I share a table with sisters Ginger Clark and Sherry Uyeda, traveling together for the first time. Separated by years and miles, the two are here to reconnect and provide moral support as they face the shared challenges of caring for their 91-year-old mother. Later that day, they receive the heartbreaking news from siblings that their mother has been hospitalized and diagnosed with cancer. “It’s tempting to rush home,” says Sherry. “But we decided that mom would want us here, together, hiking, riding bicycles, laughing, crying, and, for the first time, getting to know one another as friends, rather than sisters,” adds Ginger.

I knew this restorative hotspot tucked up against one of the Southwest’s most stunning landscapes is considered one of the best destination spas in the country. I also knew that the adventure resort would challenge me physically and send me home lighter, healthier and stronger. That much I knew.

What I had not realized was that three weeks later I would be calling Ginger and Sherry to see how their mother was doing. Or that Jan and I would be plotting a return visit, daybreak treks and all.



Getting there: Red Mountain is in southwest Utah near the town of St. George, about a two-hour drive northeast of Las Vegas. You can fly into either the local St. George airport (via Skywest/Delta Connections and United Express) or Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. Shuttle service from either airport is available and can be arranged through the spa.

Accommodations: The resort offers a selection of 82 newly renovated guest rooms ranging from deluxe and double queen and king bedrooms for single or double occupancy, as well as 12 spacious villa suites, in nine buildings. Each guest room is equipped with television, and telephone with Internet data port.

Rates: Winter rates start at $209 per person per night for inclusive room, three daily meals and program activities including guided morning hikes, unlimited fitness classes and use of pools, whirlpools, fitness center and other facilities.

Spa Services: Sagestone spa offers an extensive menu of treatments including massage, bodywork, skin care, and salon services. For maximum satisfaction and value, the Sagestone sampler combines a Swedish massage, facial, body treatment of your choice, manicure, and pedicure. Treatments and services are offered on an a la carte basis with a variety of bundled packages also available.

Outdoor Recreation: Red Mountain offers (for a fee) guided excursions to nearby Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, multi-sport kayak adventures, horseback riding and rock climbing. Also offered are archeology and geology walks, night sky astronomy talks and golf clinics at nearby The Ledges Golf Club, named by Golf Digest as one of the top 10 new public golf courses.

Healthy Living Classes & Activities: For those interested in information on important health topics and spiritual expansion there are daily lectures and activities with resident and visiting experts on everything from balanced hormones and detoxification to sunset celebrations and sacred spiral walks.

Who goes: The spa’s emphasis on outdoor recreation combined with quality pampering tends to attract a younger (quite a few in their thirties) more adventurous guest than a more traditional treatment based spa. During our stay we met sisters, mother-daughter duos and a fair number of men, most accompanying wives or girlfriends, but a few solos training for athletic events or jumpstarting a personal training program. Teens 12 – 17 are welcome when traveling with an adult at the discounted rate of $179 per night.

Climate: Red Mountain Spa enjoys a mild, dry desert climate at 3,000-feet elevation. The average high/low temperature in spring is 69/35; summer, 95/62; fall 86/59; and winter 53/35.

Information: Phone: 800.407.3002 U.S. toll-free; Web:

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".