A Gift: Red Mountain Trail
A rigorous hike up Red Mountain, desert plants, a horse trail, miles of protected wilderness, an amazing gift of an awe-inspiring view over Snow Canyon State Park, OHV approved trail, back country wilderness
by Donna M. Brown
A gypsy soul.
WHAT: A difficult, but worthwhile hike on land managed by the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that will take you clear to Ivins if you’re in great shape. From the SR-18 trail head it’s about a two-mile hike to the Snow Canyon viewpoint (I like to call it a gift of nature — a reward for all that climbing) that will just plain knock your socks off.
WHERE: I entered the trail from State Route 18 in Southern Utah about 12 miles from St. George, UT. From I-15 Exit 6 take Bluff Street north/ State Route18. Travel 3.7 miles to Snow Canyon Parkway and continue straight on Bluff Street/ SR 18 through the intersection. Continue north for another 11.4 miles. Turn left onto a gravel access road leading directly into the trailhead (the turnoff from SR 18 is marked with a large highway sign).
WHEN: Spring and fall are the best times to hike this beauty. This is high desert and it does get very cold in the winter; however, the Southern Utah heat takes over in the summer and it gets hot, hot, hot. If you do go in the summer, leave early in the morning. Depending on your hiking ability, this trail could take two to five hours.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Take plenty of water and snacks to boost your energy.
Red, Rocky Medicine for the Soul
I am the first to admit, I’m a little overweight and out of shape. My desire to be healthier is really what led me to the Red Mountain Trail. I lived in nearby Enterprise, UT and was recovering from what seemed like one debilitating family crisis after another. I searched my soul for a way to heal the still-fresh wounds inflicted by the sudden deaths of four immediate family members over a brief period and arrived at this:
“Nature is the best medicine; it doesn’t work unless you take it.”
That’s when I began to explore my surroundings with a renewed sense of appreciation for the beauty that surrounds me. I started to keep a photo walking journal. I documented every adventure I took in some of the most beautiful country in the world. I used the photos for inspiration and shared them with friends and family members through social media. I immediately began to feel better.
On the day I decided to head out on Red Mountain Trail, I intended only to poke around a bit. I took one bottle of water and all the enthusiasm I could muster for an adventure.
The trail started out very rocky. Huge boulders presented a challenge for my tired soul and I accepted the challenge with a new enthusiasm. It was steep. I allowed as how this probably was not the best hike for fat old ladies to take (I was 52) and hiked on anyway. The scent of desert sage filled me. Wildflowers lifted my spirit and seemingly my body to each new level. Just as I was ready to give up and turn back, I encountered a bouncy young couple. The two were clearly tired, but they grinned and nodded when I asked in that out-of-breath pleading tone, “Please tell me there is a reward at the end of this trail.”
The young lady nodded and they both grinned from ear to ear. “There is a wonderful surprise up there,” she said. How could I stop? I moved on. My refreshing walked turned to a vigorous hike and suddenly a mission. How much further could it be? I hiked on. When I was sure I would not make it to the wonderful surprise, I stopped to rest beneath a huge juniper tree where I would contemplate my motivation for killing myself on steep rocky terrain. I plopped down right there. Yes, right there on top of a cactus. My water supply was getting low. My bottom side was pierced in places I had forgotten I even had. It would have been the perfect excuse to turn around. I did not.
If the surprise they promised was a cactus up my butt, my mission was accomplished. I felt sure there had to be something more. I put my headphones in, found the most inspiring music I could find and hiked some more. At last, I reached the turn of to the Red Mountain Overlook. By this time I doubted anything could be worth this hard adventure, but I pushed on. The trail became smoother. I found myself in soft, red sand. Then I saw it. I had reached the top of the trail. I had literally reached the edge. The pain drained from my legs and was overcome with a calm. Snow Canyon State Park sprawled before me and I literally fell to my knees. I knew why I had done it. I needed to see the beauty in this hard old world, a gift afforded only to those who are willing to look — I mean really look for it.
I sank into the soft, cool sand and thanked myself for having the courage to search for something beyond sadness and heartache. The view was a gift, but so was the sense of accomplishment I felt for having achieved a goal I didn’t even know I had when I parked at the trailhead and got out of my car.
I was tired. I was thirsty. I was starving. I was completely content with the euphoric sense of power I felt at having overcome my spirit’s challenge.
I don’t recommend taking this trail unprepared. On the way back down I drank the last few drops of water I had and found a shady spot to rest (a spot where no cactus would grow). I started to feel the little pains I ignored before. My adrenaline drained from me. A friendly hiker who had walked clear from Ivins, UT must have thought I was dead when he stumbled upon me. He shared his water with me, gave me an energy bar and admonished my stupidity (in the nicest possible way) for setting out on such a trek without the proper supplies. I would not do that again; but, I knew what he did not understand was that the only supply I really needed was a burning need to clear my head, heart and soul of sorrow and pain. Red Mountain Trail did that for me. The memory of that journey is fresh in my mind (it’s just about gone from my bottom now). I reflect on it often. I like to think of it as a slow release medicine as nature continues to treat my afflictions with sharp, proud memories.
Red Mountain Trail is a gift. There really is a reward at the top.