Biking and Climbing at Red Mountain Utah
By Jean Miller Spoljaric
Even though I’m back in New York, I can hear the echo from Snow Canyon calling the adventure junkie in me to return for more.
After the time that I had and the people I met, I’m craving more! In five action-packed days, I hiked, biked, and climbed some of the most beautiful mountains ever in St. George, Utah.
I was lucky enough to call the Red Mountain Resort and Spa home and to enjoy a few spa treatments at The Sagestone Spa to soothe my soul and help relax and re-energize my weary muscles.
While most people go to a spa to relax and detoxify themselves from impurities, I like to think of a spa as the perfect mix of detox and re-tox.
I spent my first evening doing yoga in Snow Canyon, surrounded by the beauty of the red rocks at sunset. It established a connection for me with the earth and universe and provided a perfect foundation for my psyche.
I found myself, almost unavoidably, soul searching. The natural beauty of the red rocks seemed to pull inner thoughts, hopes and dreams from within my soul like a counseling session without the couch.
The twinkling night sky reminded me of my favorite childhood game, ‘Lite-Bright.’ Once the colorful plastic pegs were removed from the dark-colored paper, you gazed through to the light that sparkled from behind. The sky was filled with twinkling stars; some appeared almost close enough to reach out and touch.
Snow Canyon in One Word: Pristine
Contrary to its name, winter visitors will rarely find any white stuff at this 7,400-acre desert park. Named after Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, early Utah leaders, Snow Canyon offers many miles of hiking and biking trails, technical rock climbing, horseback riding, year-round camping, wildlife viewing, and unbelievable photographic opportunities.
All of this is set against a stunning backdrop of towering Navajo sandstone cliffs in red and white, and peaks and valleys of rugged, jumbled black lava rock interspersed with serpentine sandy washes.
Before hiking or biking in a desert environment like Snow Canyon, make sure you’re prepared. Carry at least one liter of water per person. I recommend a water backpack, such as a ‘camelback.’
In this environment, it’s important to stay hydrated.
Even though the trails in Snow Canyon are properly marked, one should not hike alone as there are some areas that are tricky and treacherous.
Surely, most of us would rather enjoy the night sky viewed from a hot tub than to spend the night alone in the cold with an injury and no tent.
This desert climate was chilly in the morning but warmed during the day in this November visit. Dress in layers because you will be peeling them off and on several times throughout the day. There are trails for all levels of hikers.
Here’s is a list of some of my favorite Snow Canyon Trails:
Take it Easy Hiking Trails:
Johnson Canyon (Open November 15 to March 1 only) — I hit this trail on opening week. They close it for part of the year to preserve wildlife, flora, and fauna, so it was a rare treat to experience the beauty of Johnson Canyon.
It’s an easy two-mile, level hike that offers some rocky slopes and steps. It boasts the only riparian area in the park with a trail that winds through lava flows and red rock to an arch spanning some 200 feet.
Jenny’s Canyon (Closed March 31 to June 1) — It’s only one-half mile and the terrain is level with a few slopes and steps. The trail leads to a narrow, sculpted canyon.
It’s a great trail for the person without a lot of time. Easy in and easy out, and you still make the connection with nature.
The Sand Dunes — It’s a half-mile of easy, fun terrain of deep sand with slopes. Don’t ride your bike on this one! The trails lead to large expanses of red sand that makes for an excellent play area for children of all ages.
The one afternoon I was there, I watched with a smile on my face as kids rolled all the way down the hill and staggered to their feet from the dizzying effect. I hope their eyes and mouth were closed, but when you’re a kid, who cares?
Pioneer Names — Again, an easy one-half mile, fairly level challenge with some steps and slopes. The crescent-shaped trail passes pioneer names written in axle grease that date back to 1883.
It is this trail where you might come across some rock climbers and, if you look closely at the flat wall of rock, you will see metal hooks buried in the rock. It made me feel like I was part of the ‘wild, wild West’.
Step it up a Notch!
Hidden Pinyon – I loved this trail! It’s only 1.5 miles and moderate in ability level. It offered a little bit of everything, from rocky slopes and drop-offs to sandy areas. This self-guided nature trail introduces geological features and native plants.
Three Ponds – 3.5 miles with moderate terrain. Note to self: Don’t bike this either; the sand is a killer! I made a wrong turn and ended up here on my bike and it was no fun.
It’s got some rocky slopes and deep sand. The trail winds through sandy washes to the mouth of a 40-foot canyon. Potholes eroded in sandstone catch seasonal rain, thus, giving the trail its name.
Petrified Dunes Trail – Only one mile, and moderate in terrain, but don’t let this one fool you! With some steep slopes and uneven surfaces, this trail will get your heart pumping. The Dunes Trail crosses massive sandstone outcrops where you can explore sand dunes frozen in time.
Do take time out and truly enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Climb to the top of the Petrified Dunes for an amazing view and, if you’re as fortunate as I, you will come away with that ‘ I’m lucky to be alive’ feeling.
Hop on a Bike and GO!
West Canyon Road is located in the heart of Snow Canyon. It’s about seven miles one way and, for the most part, level with a few inclines.
Most of the roads are either paved or gravel with some sand surfaces. The trail follows a maintenance road winding past washes and towering cliffs to the mouth of present-day Snow Canyon.
The insiders’ secret is that after the road appears to dead-end and the paved part ends, stay left onto the dirt pathway and follow it another two to three miles and you’ll be glad you did!
It’s quiet solitude and I was so happy to be cruising on my bike. I pushed on towards the beauty of the white, towering rocks that sat deep within Snow Canyon.
Once I made it to the end, I had a sense of completion and I allowed myself a few minutes with the world alone, connecting on many different levels of life and universe and becoming one with each other.
The best part of Snow Canyon was the variety of trails. You can take it easy or you can go from one trail to the next and really challenge yourself. For me, the challenge to push myself just past my limit is always the way to go! It raises the inner senses and makes life worth living.
The feeling of being alive and breathing in the fresh Utah air was invigorating. Then, a nice dinner with a glass of wine… or two, followed by a hot bath and bed always feels more rewarding.
Coyotes and Wild Horses
A visit to the Coyote Gulch Art Village in the little town of Kayenta is a must. Kayenta is a desert community nestled beneath the majestic red cliffs of Ivins, Utah, only seven miles west of St. George.
You’ll discover an eclectic mix of art, jewelry, gifts, photography, gourmet food and entertainment.
Kayenta is also home to Windhorse Relations, a wild mustang horse ranch. My visit to the horse farm proved to be a mix of inner excitement and inner calm. I learned to respect these wild animals and, in return, they respected me.
Wild Horses Couldn’t Keep Me Away
“A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves – strong, powerful, beautiful – and it allows us the capability of escaping our mundane existence.” – Pam Brown
“The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire.” – Sharon Ralls Lemon
My trip to Windhorse Relations to M.E.E.T (Mustang Educational Experiential Training) the wild mustangs was both informative and spiritual.
If you are an animal lover and wish to experience the unconditional love of these strong and powerful, yet gentle animals, then you must visit Windhorse.
I knew I earned the respect of Topaz when he allowed me to ‘hook on’ and give him a hug. I became one with the gentle steed and I felt his heart beating next to mine.
Windhorse is all about teaching people to create willing relationships through non-verbal communication, self-awareness, self-empowerment, and leadership.
Later, when I found myself in a ring with Beryl, I needed to stay focused and hold my own; to not spook him. I thought for a moment about all the things that could go wrong, but after a deep breath and another ten minutes, I was in control.
As fear disappeared, respect prevailed and a relationship of trust developed. Beryl followed my lead and I created a special bond with this horse.
The best part of my visit was feeling the power of the herd as I stood in the middle of the corral and the horses circled me. I felt the wind in my face as the dust stirred throughout the air.
Seeing their flared nostrils and listening to the heaviness of their breathing made me take a deep breath and feel the life inside of myself.
People and Places
Red Mountain Resort & Spa offers a diverse team of wellness professionals. They encourage you to share your time with them as you find a new perspective, learn valuable skills, and continue your journey toward a healthier lifestyle… connecting mind, body, and spirit.
Windhorse Relations – The ladies of Windhorse are dedicated to these wild animals; a true love story! Windhorse Relations is a not-for-profit corporation. Since its founding in 2001, the organization has relied entirely on volunteer support. Fortunately, both locations in Utah are on properties that have been generously donated to them.
Home Away From Home
Find yourself between a rock and a soft place at the Red Mountain Resort and Spa. Red Mountain made it all possible for me to enjoy my time in Utah to the fullest. Few places on earth match the beauty and tranquility of the red rocks surrounding St. George, Utah.
You’ll find a vast selection of healthy living activities, dining, spa, and recreational services at Red Mountain Resort & Spa. It was no shock to me that many of the guests are return visitors.
Keep in mind that The Red Mountain Resort is a ‘Pet Friendly’ destination. For those who can’t bring their own beloved pet along, The Pound Puppy Program provides the opportunity to hike with a shelter dog.