During the pandemic, I was looking for an escape from the city to be close with nature. So, when friends in New York invited me to join them at the Amangiri resort in Utah, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. The remote 600-acre retreat that Forbes magazine called the “Billionaire Enclave in the High Desert” looks like a desert Shangri-La and offers 34 eco-suites in muted tones, blending harmoniously with the rustic mountains. Celebrities like Brad, Leo, the Biebers and Kanye are regulars, though the real star is the stunning natural landscape of the Arizona-Utah borders where the resort is built around 164-million-year-old rock formations.
The allure here is also the personalized back-to-the-wild adventures that allow city slickers to connect with nature. Fees vary for each activity and guests can choose from yoga at sunrise to guided desert and mountain hikes, hot air balloon ride, and horseback riding à la Lonesome Dove style, just like in the movies. Those keen on one-of-a-kind adventures can try rock climbing via ferrata routes with fixed anchors and ropes leading up the 5,000-feet high Studhorse Mesa, the resort’s equivalent of Mount Everest. I’m much more comfortable in 4-inch Prada heels than hiking boots; but being in the desert surrounded by the beautiful canyons and mesas inspired me to do the unthinkable: go rock climbing.
BACK TO NATURE
Before the 3-hour rock climbing expedition, our two affable guides gave us safety instructions, then handed each of us a backpack containing a helmet, body harness, gloves and carabiners clips. My arms and legs fumbled along the rocks to maintain balance during the strenuous climb, where half-way through, I didn’t think I could go further. But the desire to reach the summit channeled my mind to focus on the ascent and ultimately brought me to the top, where red Navajo mountain peaks seem to touch the immense blue skies. The following day, we enjoyed horseback riding across the desert, led by two friendly female wranglers wearing cowboy hats. Our soft chatter and laughter blended with the sounds of horses’ hooves on the dirt road. “I feel like I’m in a Western movie!” a friend declared, as we galloped into the golden sunset. The fun activities continued on the fourth day, when we were ferried on a private boat ride to Lake Powell, where we saw sights that made the area worth visiting, including a freestanding 290-foot Rainbow Bridge arch, striking buttes and hidden canyons. Later that afternoon, two new guides led us on a 3-hour hike at Buckskin Gulch. They told us about the landscapes and rock formations that were carved into shapes by centuries of wind and rain. On each excursion, the Amangiri chefs packed delicious lunch boxes with hot and cold drinks, along with silverware and napkins that the guides brought along for us.
The 34 well-appointed suites offer unobstructed desert vistas and modern amenities including WIFI, Bose speaker system, heated towels, a soaking bathtub, pool and jacuzzi. Our group of city slickers from New York and Los Angeles chose to stay in a private four-bedroom Mesa Home, replete with a crackling fireplace, an elegant dining and living room that opens onto a terrace and a 50-foot heated infinity pool. Every room has floor-to-ceiling windows and a private sun deck. Sunlight beams through the windows at sunrise and when I step onto the terrace, the morning dew felt like gentle kisses from nature. The mood is eternally calm and peaceful, far from the hectic city vibe left behind.
The restaurant is inside the Pavilion, the heart of the resort where guests check in. You’ll pass a library, a sitting lounge with a roaring fireplace and just beyond is the restaurant with expansive window views of the unspoiled desert on one side; on the other is the iconic Entrada sandstone pool, my favorite spot to enjoy the resort’s famous cast iron pancakes. Food is locally sourced, seasonal and pays homage to Native American flavors, think buffalo carpaccio and smoky pima grits. The chefs accommodate any food requests, so don’t be shy to ask. We did, and to our delight, Chef Josh and his team arrived at the Mesa House where we stayed and created a delicious 4-course Southwestern meal paired with wine.
From couple’s massages to hot stone treatments to revive and invigorate, the Amangiri spa combines western therapies with healing traditions of the Navajo, one of such is the Native American Ceremony. Before my 90-minute massage, Nick, the masseur lit dried sage leaves and gently waved them around me for cleansing and to bring good vibes. The treatment included a relaxing scalp massage and reflexology that felt so soothing, especially after rock climbing.
The Amangiri in Utah is a haven for those seeking an authentic experience with nature. Not only does the resort offer fun outdoor adventures, it also provides precious time to reconnect with friends and loved ones.
Room rates: Range from $2,500 + per night, meals included
Four-Bedroom Mesa Home: The concierge team will provide rates, depending on availability.
How to get there: The resort is approximately 25 minutes from Page Municipal Airport (PGA), which is the closest airport serving direct private jet flights.
What to bring: Comfortable sneakers for the many fun outdoor activities. The Amangiri Resort is located in the dessert, so the weather may fluctuate throughout the day. It is best to bring clothing that are easy to layer or remove when the sun heats up.