Dixie Outdoors: Shortcut up Red Mountain wicked yet rewarding

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Sore quadriceps, shaky knees and scraped palms are a worthwhile price to pay for a short and sweet, yet tricky adventure conveniently close by.

The official Red Mountain Trail, located in the Red Mountain Wilderness area, extends from a trailhead off Highway 18 for about 9.5 miles. While it is a beautiful desert trail for hikers and horseback riders, not everyone has the time to hike all day for the rewarding experiences of the exciting trails and spectacular views.

However, such bonuses are obtainable by embarking on a different route for a fraction of the distance. A trail located at 390 N. 100 East in Ivins, is a shortcut up to the prize of the full-length Red Mountain Trail. You must only climb slightly less than a mile before claiming your reward: a vast overlook of the entirety of Ivins, Santa Clara, sections of St. George, the outskirts of Snow Canyon, and even portions of the Arizona Strip.

It truly is a breathtaking view; that is, if you have any breath left. Yes — there’s a catch. Sure, the abridged version of Red Mountain covers less ground, but it’s also what the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve’s website states as “extremely strenuous.” In less than a mile, you’ll clamber over hundreds of boulders and loose rocks while scaling about 1,500 feet.

Oliver Hauver, a freshman pre-engineering major from Overton, Nev., and Kelton Harward, a junior music major from St. George, have hiked Red Mountain from the Ivins trailhead multiple times, and they both say the challenging route grants excitement, worthwhile exercise and bragging rights.

“You feel accomplished when you get to the top,” Hauver said. “The trail is not for the faint of heart…or leg.”

While you don’t necessarily have to be an avid hiker to make the climb, Harward said he wouldn’t recommend the hike to anyone in poor shape or with little hiking experience, as the steep, rocky trail can be especially strenuous, particularly during the descent. However, because of its precarious, sometimes unstable path, the trail lends a unique, fresh experience each time.

“The challenge sets it apart (from other hikes),” Harward said. “It doesn’t have a specific trail…Every time I’ve gone, I’ve made my own trail. If (you’re experienced), each time you can try and find something a little more challenging, a little more fun, and a little more risky.”

Because of its steep grade, Hauver said people with leg, knee or back problems shouldn’t attempt the hike, and neither should children or people afraid of heights. While the trail is exhilarating, it can also be fairly dangerous because a misplaced step or a loose boulder could send you on a 100-yard fall.

But, it’s this thrill that makes adventure seekers like Hauver and Harward enjoy climbing Red Mountain.

“It’s not a boring hike,” Hauver said. “You have to keep on your toes — literally — the whole time.”

As for myself, even though I typically despise unnecessary energy expenditure, I still enjoyed myself because of the intense climb. Sure, I had to stop about every 20 feet on my way up because I’m far from in shape, but, because I felt like I was actually climbing a mountain rather than trudging up dull switchbacks, I maintained a smile during the majority of my undertaking.

Also, as the mountain begins to level out, you’ll follow a rightward curve through a kind of dried-up desert oasis toward the mountain peak’s awesome overlook (your prize), with beautiful desert plants and sand. And the view on top, paired with a packed sandwich or granola bar, makes everything worthwhile.

Plus, it’s an ideal getaway for busy students since it’s a quick trip rather than an all-day venture. Hauver said fit individuals can easily complete the hike within two hours, while the less-than-athletic can make it back in about three and a half hours.

Above all, while signs and online reviews label this hike as “strenuous,” Hauver, Harward and myself would rate it as more of a moderately difficult hike. The trail may seem intimidating, with its steep ridges and loose footing, but as long as you’re at least somewhat physically capable and you ascend and descend with respect for the potential danger, you’ll find the hike to be fairly simple, exhilarating and rewarding.

To be prepared, bring water, well-structured hiking shoes, and common sense. Watch your step, keep a look out for loose boulders and coax your knees to stop whining, and you’ll survive.