January 12, 2015

Red Mountain Resort Review

For some people, the perfect vacation is all about pure relaxation and indulgence.  But many of us weirdo fitness types want more than that.

We dream of a vacation that includes healthy food options, new or challenging physical activities to try, a casual, tranquil atmosphere, and perhaps most importantly, scenic outdoor spaces to explore.

Yet perhaps some of us are old or spoiled or cranky and maybe we don't freakin' want to go camping any longer in order to explore the great outdoors?

At least not the kind of camping where you sleep on the hard ground (which inevitably slopes unevenly so you end up in a heap at one end of the tent). I'm middle aged. If I need to pee in the middle of the night, I do not want to have to find my way in the freezing cold by flashlight to some creepy smelly campground restroom that is probably infested with spiders and covered in flesh-eating bacteria and surrounded by hungry bears.

Nah, some of us prefer to have our scenic beauty accompanied by massages and maid service and meals prepared by someone other than ourselves.

So, if you're looking for an active healthy vacation, is Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah, the place to find it? We vacationed there for four days as 2014 brought to a close. Red Mountain is often cited as one of the more budget-friendly resort options. (Not that it fits into every budget of course). Being self-indulgent enough to be captivated by the "resort" idea, but also being cheapskates, we were curious what we'd find there.

Note: I was not comped in any way for this review, damn it, so I have absolutely no incentive whatsoever to be diplomatic about what was wonderful and what was not.


We TOTALLY LOVED this place!!

Happy Campers!

Seriously, I have started plotting and scheming and daydreaming (well, mostly the latter), conjuring up a wild plan in which I organize some sort of group coaching workshop or event and bring a group of companionable souls here someday. What an awesome setting to take a step back and do some brainstorming, exploring, experimenting, partying, planning, etc? So, adventurous Cranketeers, mark your calendars for "someday" and we're all gonna have a blast! Anyway...

The Weather

I mention this aspect upfront, because we apparently had very unusually cold weather for December. Normally temps in this part of Utah are in the 50's (Fahrenheit, sorry loyal Canadians); we ended up going on morning hikes in the 20's.  Like an idiot, I didn't pack properly (no hat, gloves, hiking boots, long underwear, etc.,). There is an on-site store where I could have bought everything I'd forgotten--but that would have been admitting a costly screw-up! So instead I wore socks on my hands and layered and I did have a puffy jacket, thank goodness. So I was fine.

However, we eventually bailed on one of the hikes because we just got tired of heading out into the cold first thing in the morning and wanted more time to check out some of their other fitness options. And it was too chilly to spend a lot of time simply relaxing outdoors.

Absolutely no competition for the hammock.

Most times of year, what you'd worry about in timing your visit is the heat! So spring and fall are popular options; apparently very pleasant. And I wouldn't rule out winter again either, because even when unseasonably cold it was still a blast, and probably less crowded than normal.

The Activities

There is an awesome variety of things to do, and if you go for a package deal, most of them are free! You can spend all day attending events and classes if you are the active and curious type.  The only downside is that if you want to chill for a few hours, you are inevitably missing something interesting and have to try not to feel guilty about it.

The only chillin'  I got was the temperature kind;
there was just too damn much to do all day.

Classes range from familiar fitness classes and cooking demonstrations to the seriously woo-woo. Tea-leaf readings or mandela magic or intuitive energy readings anyone?

Hiking is of course a highlight; they have daily guided hikes, with three levels of challenge, from easy-peasey to fast and furious.

Even the intermediate hikes are brisk, which I loved, because what I hate most about any group activity (like Viking River Cruise excursions) is the endless standing around part. These hikes? Not so much a problem.

The resort is located in Ivins Utah, right next to Snow Canyon State Park, so there are plenty of great hikes nearby.

You pay extra to be taken to Zion, a spectacular nearby National Park; it's a must-see if you haven't been.  (But we had, and just went for the freebie hikes instead).

The morning hikes are scheduled to deliver you back in a timely fashion to yoga or stretching classes, then after lunch there are a multitude of other classes, demonstrations, lectures etc.  There are several options to choose from at any hour of the day.

In addition to a standard (but great) yoga class, I tried some weirdo-sounding options that I'd never heard of: Chi-ball stretch, MELT, and Drums Alive.  All were interesting and worthwhile. The last one, I kid you not, involves pummeling stability balls with drumsticks while executing dancey type steps. A little kooky, perhaps, but oddly invigorating.

Fortunately, since everyone is a traveler, there are few "regulars" who know what they are doing yet, and it is a very comfortable environment for a spazz like me who doesn't know right from left and struggles with following even the simplest directions.

There are also free bikes available (if you have a package) and a number of dedicated bike paths adjacent to the property.

There are even more intriguing activity options like rock climbing and mountain biking and kayaking and hanging out with wild mustangs, but these were extra on our package so, um... cheapskates, remember?

The Food

We loved the food!  Breakfast and lunch were buffet style, though you could also have cooked to order breakfast dishes without forgoing the buffet, so there was plenty to eat.

Dinner was off a menu and was accompanied by an amply-stocked soup and salad bar. There were always several dishes that sounded great so choosing was hard. The dinner entrees were artfully prepared and very tasty, and the desserts were excellent as well.

And unless the chefs were lying through their teeth about the calorie counts (which seemed unlikely), it was amazing what awesome meals you could eat pretty much guilt free. As I recall, most entrees were less than 400 calories, and  there was an orange creme brulee for dessert for well under 200 calories--and it was totally delicious.

Calorie counts were listed for dinner entrees, but you had to do some guessing at the buffets. Note: due to the buffet availability, it would still be totally possible to pork out and over-eat here. I vastly prefer the freedom to scarf irresponsibly if I choose, to the notion of a calorie controlled environment. This is not a "fat farm." But others might appreciate fewer over-consumption triggers like all you can eat buffet tables full of tasty options.

The dining rooms could be bustling or empty depending on the time of day, and you need to make dinner reservations, but we never had to wait more than a minute or two for a table.

The one downside?  While it was very possible to eat low-carb or primal, there were probably fewer buffet options for that style of eating. There were rarely any vegetables available at the buffet for breakfast, for example. And sometimes the lunchtime food bar protein options were limited (but always present).

Additionally, if you are trying to subsist mainly on protein and veggies, there are a ton of tempting healthy carb options to curse at. There were all kinds of whole grain concoctions and fruits and spuds and tortillas and breads and bean dishes.  I have started to add more healthy carbs to my diet, thank god, but it was still rather challenging to avoid massive temptations on the carb front.

In keeping with the "YOU decide what's healthy" philosophy, wine and beer are available, yay! However, these do not come with the packages and prices were not cheap. Since we drove there, we did some BYOB strategizing ahead of time and enjoyed a cheap cocktail hour in our room.  It wasn't clear to me if we could have brought our own booze to dinner? But no one else seemed to be doing it so we thought perhaps not.

The Facilities

Alas, I didn't think to bring a helicopter to shoot from,
 so this image is swiped from Red Mountain's site

Some of the amenities are, sadly, seasonal.

 No outdoor pool this time, sorry!

But even though we hit unusually wintry conditions, there was still plenty that was open and available.

In addition to the fitness studios where the classes are held, there is a well-equipped gym which we both took advantage of. It was uncrowded and had pretty much everything I needed when I went--tons of strength training and cardio options.  Except, sadly, the elliptical was not my favorite kind (no incline adjustment, or at least not one I could figure out, but that may have been user error).

The labyrinth and Inspiration Trail are right on the property and were peaceful and lovely.

Another highlight was the indoor pool, which is a nice large sized pool which I had entirely to myself on our last morning, which was New Years day.  This meant I could minimize lap swimming (which I loathe) and do a bunch of dancing, splashing, jumping, and other ridiculous frolicking. I had a relatively new playlist on my mp3 player, and a ton of caffeine, so it was delicious.

I emerged from my cocoon of warm water and steamy air into the cold day, wet-haired and raccoon-eyed and somewhat delirious, but a very happy sort of delirious.

You can also enjoy an outdoor hot tub, but it is not the private naked kind; rather it's the communal kind where other people might already be there.  For a big resort property, it would be nice if there were a few more of these sprinkled around, because I find even Very Nice People are unwelcome additions to my hot-tubbing experience.

However, it was strangely empty at 8am on a snowy morning.

Oh yes and there is a spa, where you can get massages of all sorts and various other spa-ish fare.  Our package came with a massage (heavenly) and a pedicure (meh, I'm not the pedicure sort).

The Rooms

I thought our room was perfectly fine; great even.  But it was not one of those super-high end resort rooms with acres of empty space, and we did not fork over extra for a view.  So the more upscale among you might not feel sufficiently spoiled with a low-end room.  But it was plenty big, and I never really got the point of paying for vast expanses of carpeting and monster-sized bathrooms.  We had plenty of space to strew our stuff around and it did not feel crowded.

I was going to take picture after all our crap was packed up, but forgot, so let's just pretend I got a dye job and had a facial at the spa which miraculously transformed me into a tranquil Resort Model pondering deep philosophical questions over herbal tea.

So yeah, the decor was sufficiently subtle and tasteful so as not to alarm or offend; everything was clean and shiny.  The only dumb thing was that the overall look of the room was dump-ified unnecessarily by a worn-out dresser. A lot of paint had worn off the top surface and not in an arty-farty, on-purpose way. It needed refinishing or replacing.

There was a deep, high-capacity bathtub with a shower, double sinks, a mini-fridge, and a coffee maker. There was a microwave a few doors down in the laundry room, though none in the room. Pets are allowed with an additional fee, hooray!

The TV was large and functional and had no problem bringing us Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin for New Years eve. (We were too old and antisocial to attend the on-site New Years Eve party).

The People and The Vibe

Employees: Almost without exception, the staff members at Red Mountain were incredibly friendly, helpful, warm, and accommodating.  The hiking guides and dining staff stood out in particular, but everyone from the cleaning gal to the receptionists to the class teachers seemed to be genuinely approachable and knowledgeable and professional and eager to help in any way they could.

Fellow Guests:  A really nice bunch!  OK, there were a couple of "fitter than thou" types, humble-bragging about their previous trips and athletic achievements, but mostly: mellow and friendly and approachable and very, very happy to be there.

Females way outnumbered males, perhaps because men can be totally dense and clueless about anything that involves a "spa" type experience. Doesn't seem to matter how rugged the activity options or how good the food is; dudes just seem more prone to cringe at the notion of "healthy" cuisine on vacation, and must quake in their boots at the thought of accidentally ending up trapped and twisted into painful asana in a yoga studio with new age music torturing their tender eardrums.

The guys that were there seemed to be mostly "good sport" types accompanying their wives or girlfriends. But they sure seemed to have a great time, or else they knew to shut up about any televised sporting events they might be missing. And sheesh, if you are a single straight guy looking for outdoorsy gals? YOU MUST GO!!! The odds are so heavily in your favor.

But the many single women in attendance seemed quite happy and comfortable.  Dining options included a community table, and even better for introverted types, there did not seem to be any pressure at all to join it if you wanted to dine alone. It seemed like at least a third of the tables were occupied by women dining contentedly solo, reading or doing things with their laptops or phones. The group hikes seemed like a great low-key way to be quasi-social.  You could chat if you felt like it, or huff and puff in peaceful silence.

The were a variety of ages and body sizes and fitness levels; some people seemed to be fitness newbies trying to get a jump start on weight loss and exercise efforts, while others were uber-fit marathoners looking for new ways to torture... er, challenge themselves.

Mercifully, there were no children anywhere in sight. Well, perhaps there may have been a teenager that crossed my path once but it did not appear dangerous.  Fortunately I didn't panic or scream and it left quietly, probably as scared of me as I was of it. (Note: any child-unfriendliness depicted in this paragraph is my own; I have no idea if kids are openly welcomed or subtly discouraged. As a childless curmudgeon, I just personally appreciated that Red Mountain was not a Disney theme park).

Prices and Packages

We went for one of the packages; there are various options, but this was a 4 day, 3 night package, which included all meals and most activities, plus a massage and a pedicure. Then we ended up extending an extra day a la carte.

Our package price was $235 per person per night, which yeah, is not cheap! And there were some add-ons we didn't figure in like the spa gratuities etc. so it ended up being $265 a night each. So it is not a screaming bargain, but compared to many resorts and travel adventures it is indeed at the low end of the scale, if you've ever been tempted before and you've done some research.

However, because we decided to extend, we discovered that the a la carte room rate this time of year was only $155 per night TOTAL, not per person, and came with breakfast for both of us and use of the facilities. (But not the classes or bikes or guided hikes or spa stuff or the lunch buffet or the amazing dinners).

This way cheaper room-only option is not something they highlight on their website.

This brings up a dilemma, right?  To really get the most of the "resort" type experience, it is probably best to pay a bigger amount upfront and feel encouraged to take advantage of every damn thing you can because it's paid for and therefore "free." It really is a wonderfully indulgent feeling.

Professionally guided hikes (2 guides for each group!)
Do not come cheap.

And if it's your first time, and especially if you're flying in, rather than driving, I'd definitely go with the package option. It just wouldn't be the same to weigh every activity and constantly feel pressured to justify it. Plus, you gotta eat, and the lunches and dinners will set you back typical resort prices, which would add up fast.

However, if you've been before and are driving in, it's very tempting to think about going a la carte. You could drive to some of your own hikes or do just the nearby ones, eat off-site as well as on the premises, enjoy all the facilities, and do just the classes and activities and spa services that are most appealing.  (We had champagne and junky takeout from Applebees of all places on New Years Eve when we were on our own dime, and had a grand ol' time).

Again, bottom line?  Red Mountain Rocks!

Yet Another Bloggy Disclaimer Aimed at Regular Readers: 
(If you just googled in to learn about Red Mountain, feel free to ignore.)

Sorry, More Adventure/Healthy Travel Coverage to Come!
So yeah, as some of you have noticed, I travel a fair amount.  I am often either tagging along with my go-getter corporate spouse to exotic locations like South Africa (or Frisco Texas!), or we are vacationing somewhere I could never afford if my income were the sole determining factor.

I often blog about these trips when I get back, and I realize I feel kinda guilty doing it. These trips fall into my lap, I haven't "earned" them. And who wants to read about someone's 13th travel adventure of the year? 

Yet there are many on-the-road type challenges to healthy living and I spend a lot of time thinking and scheming about them. And there are decisions to be made on where and how to best spend an active healthy vacation. Since the whole "on the road" aspect of my life doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, I hereby acknowledge:

My extended travel absences and blog-slacking will no doubt continue! And whenever I get back, healthy (or not so healthy) travel is probably gonna be a part of the blog.  You've been forewarned and thank you for your patience!

What's your favorite kind of vacation? Would any of you consider a health resort? 


  1. It sure looks lovely there. I'm glad the two of you enjoyed it. Why feel guilty about it? Just enjoy.. and we'll live vicariously through your fine blog posts. You do take great travel pics, Crabby. Looking forward to the next trip.

    1. Wish I could take you with me Hilary; your photos would be stunning!

  2. We did a similar "girls" week at Green Valley in St.George this October. It was pretty damn wonderful! Would definitely do it again if you had a Cranky Fitness getaway. The hiking trips were the highlight, for sure, but we also had fun with the different classes including water aerobics (weather in 80s by afternoon,then). Thanks for the review of Red Mountain.


    1. I heard from a fellow Red Mountain guest that Green Valley was a more "upscale" version, which was honestly hard to picture. You must have had a wonderful time too and would love to have you along on a Cranky Fitness getaway Lyn!

  3. I love reading about your travels. I'd consider a health resort only if I could draw the line at what to do. I can only stomach being so healthy.

    1. Plenty of sedentary activities and lovely desserts and other opportunities to ditch the "health" stuff. But I know you Leah, I suspect you'd be out in the wilderness hugging the boulders and having insightful conversations with the cactus!

      And if I ever host a resort-type workshop, EVERY SINGLE ACTIVITY will be optional and entirely avoidable. I know my target demographic and they do not take well to being corralled. (nor do I!)

    next time Im coming too.
    (can I smuggle in a case of diet coke?)

    1. We can set it right next to my Quest bars and Two Buck Chuck, Carla!

  5. Apologies if I have two posts - my first submit didn't seen to post.

    I toyed with a similar trip (I was looking at a few places near Ojai) for my 40th, which I never ended up doing. Most places I googled were horrendously expensive. So it's nice to read a detailed first person account about whether dropping that much dough could be worth it or not.

    I definitely think it WILL be worth my while at some point. Someday.

  6. So sorry about the comment gremlins, they seem unusually active of late. And thanks for persevering! I highly recommend this for a splurge, it really is a great combo of healthy & indulgent. (And from SoCal, (if I remember correctly) it's not a horrible drive, which might open up the money-saving a la carte room option!).

  7. A Cranketeer Getaway? I am so in. :-D (I'm with Carla; I'll smuggle in the Diet Pepsi and/or Coke Zero.)

    And I love reading about your travels, so no guilt required on my behalf. The resort thing is a lovely idea and I've now mentioned it to hubs for future reference. Thank you for the excellent review post!

    1. Yay! A Cranky Fitness Retreat could not happen without you! But also hope you can drag... er, persuade hubster to come with you sometime, I think you guys would love it.

  8. Ok, I've got your someday workshop on my calendar - can't wait! I hope you do keep telling us about your travels. I love seeing things through your far more observant eyes, and keep adding to my endless list of places to go someday. I may, on that note, disappear for a few weeks. We board a plane for Costa Rica tomorrow & are going to do a coast-to-coast ride. Not the 4200 miles it took to get from Seattle to Boston. Costa Rica has very intelligently placed its coasts only 300 miles apart. Plus, someone else is organizing the whole thing. Only we may not get much web access while pedaling so I may have to catch up here when we get back in February.

    1. DRG, that sounds like a total blast!!! Have a wonderful wonderful time and please take photos and report back!

    2. Yes, please, report back. How many mountains are involved?

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

    3. Actually, Mary Anne, not many. We are going to be in the north & the organizer has said there will not be much climbing. Based on what I see on maps, I am not counting on that!

    4. "Much" is not a word of any precision.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

  9. I'd love to do something like this with my girlfriends. Husband...it would be OK for a day or so, but I think he'd be antsy to DO SOMETHING ELSE and that would harsh my spa resort mellow. I'm glad you are blogging about your trips - it's great for me (you're doing this for me, right???) so I can realistically plan an adventure!

    1. Ah, so maybe that's why there were so few guys? Wives and girlfriends decided they'd be too whiny after a day or two so they left 'em at home! I think you'd love it Shelley!

    2. Yep, my husband probably wouldn't be all that excited by this, though I might could talk him into it.

  10. This looks like just my kind of place! WOW!!! I think I love everything about this. Thanks for all the detail and I seriously cannot believe the price this time of year. How can you beat that? I'll be sure to pack all my winter gear though, just in case :-)

    1. I've seen you work out Allie... you'll be charging around so fast you could be warm in a bathing suit! But packing a little more than that would probably be wise... :)

  11. I've been wondering when you were going to bring up the "trip" for all of us again. Don't think that we forgot about you mentioning it awhile back!!!
    I'm in but PLEASE let it be during warm weather because I'm a wimp!!!
    That place looks awesome!

    1. The cool thing about having you with us Kim is that if any of us pooped out on the hikes, you could just toss a couple of us over your shoulders and soldier on!

      Will keep weather in mind... and did I mention there will be WINE? Jus' sayin...

  12. First, i love vicarious travel adventures. Second, i love the tips about how to stay healthy away from home. Third, i am actually going to be going away for at least 2-3 trips this year, so i could use the advice! Fourth, i would love to go to a place like that, so it's nice to know what to look for if it ever happens.

    1. thanks messymimi! You keep giving me vicarious kitties to enjoy (without having to clean any litter boxes!) and I'll provide the vicarious travel adventures. :)

  13. I'm looking at this and feel my nasal passages opening. Thank you! (TMI?)

    1. Not tmi at all! The place was kinda a "breath of fresh air".

  14. It doesn't sound like my kind of thing, since one of my goals is to Stay Home Enjoying my Days Off, but I surely enjoyed your review. Many of the individual elements appeal to me: food! hikes! hot tubs! yoga! gym! But all packed together into a few days? For lots of money? Even if there were a similar place nearby (not researching this) I wouldn't be attracted by it. Also I am reminded by the picture of the hotel room that hotels have carpets, and mattresses and pillows without hypoallergenic covers, so: Not Healthy for me.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  15. I've always enjoyed my travels out west!! Other than the California coast, if the rocks were red, it was a special location!

    Glad you guys had such a great time!!

  16. This I would love! The hiking, the yoga, the pool, the spa, the food. Sign me up.

    Thanks for sharing your travels. I enjoy it every.single.time!

  17. All of it! I didn't think it sounded expensive at all, really, considering everything that is included in the package. If I ever have the opportunity to do a spa with someone who might join me, I would definitely consider this option. Although the desert is not my favorite place, it's also not a deal breaker either. Thanks for the great post, Crabby. I enjoyed it immensely. :-)

  18. I LOVE Red Mountain Spa. I have been there twice and cannot wait to go again...but need to save my pennies to do so. I have visited solo both times and even as an introvert, I found myself having a great time with the other guests and the staff. It is an awesome place to visit.

  19. I totally hear ya about camping. I don't recall at what age it stopped being fun to sleep on the cold ground in a sleeping bag, feeling every rock I didn't clear well enough, the moistness that is inexplicable waking up in the morning with damp clothing smelling vaguely musty from wherever the bag had been stored all year/s, the coughing out the same dampness that invaded my lungs as I slept fitfully on said rocks, and the utter joy of trying to slip on shoes and something semi-warm to crawl out of my tent much like a mother giving birth to an irritated infant as I run to a putrid outhouse to sit on a throne of ice to make my bladder happy. And the joy of all my clothing smelling like campfire smoke upon returning home. I remember camping being utter joy as a child, but now it's just a hassle. I still do it, just for the places I want to see, but it's never quite like it once was.

  20. Crabby, I totally love your trip sharing entries! Always! Every single detail and picture.
    If you guarantee that meals do not come with whatever that green thing is on your plate, I will talk my cutie into accompanying me. He will balance out my "do I LOOK like I want to socialize?" charm and personality.

  21. Red Mountain looks beautiful! If only I lived in America! Loved the post anyways. It was a good look at budget accommodation for the requirements that you desired.

  22. Dear Cranky Fitness -- can you compare this spa and your overall outcome, to Deerfield Spa in the Poconos Mountains, East Stradsbourg Pennsylvania, New Life Hiking Spa in Killington Vermont, and The Oaks at Ojai in Ojai California? I'vve been to Deerfield and New Life, and now am deciding between Red Mountain and the Oaks... thanks!!! Steffilard


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