5 Grounding Red Rock Destinations That Are Not National Parks

“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience,” Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. We can see the clear reward of time in the monolith red rock formations across our country, an energetic beauty that is beyond visual. An allure that has been recognized and harnessed by Indigenous peoples from the beginning, the unknown mystery of red rocks being a powerful tool to harness spiritual awakening, remains today. Is the euphoric sense we feel simply an appreciation of their naturally pigmented artistry? Perhaps, the rush of belonging and understanding is really experiencing a lost intimacy with this physical form of earth. However you choose to utilize this natural material to connect once again, here are a few regions to uncover that are not major National Parks.

Smith Rock

Positioned in central Oregon’s High Desert, Smith Rock is crowned with sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt rock, bringing a taste of copper hues to Oregon, despite its northern placement. Parted by the Crooked River that contrasts the intense rock walls with a sense of calm movement, this dog-friendly State Park is the perfect stop to harness serenity. It is hard to imagine you are in the Pacific Northwest or on earth itself when tracing your eyes down the river that is carved into the towering, jagged rock formations that reach for the sky. This location also offers infinite opportunities for movement meditation with over 650 acres of some of the country’s best trails, climbing, biking, and slacklining.

Red Rock Canyon 

Just 15 miles west of the Las Vegas strip, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a close escape from the striking Sin City. The 13 mile road that separates the large rock formations, provides vehicle access to many of the features in the area, including sandstone peaks, red walls, and trail systems. The further you walk into the Canyon, the scarlet walls transition to a deep, velvety maroon. I had never seen the crumbling, red mountains change to smooth, red and white striped walls so effortlessly, like the slow-motion wave of the American Flag. 

While visiting Vegas recently, I was able to break away from the city to simply meditate in the Red Rock region. I had my misconceptions about natural areas around this major city, but my assumptions of crowds and trash were replaced with surprisingly open parking lots, beautifully curated trails, and plenty of space for solitude.

Sedona Vortexes 

Vortexes are the intersections of natural electromagnetic earth energy, or “ley lines”, places that encourage healing and self-exploration, and it turns out that Sedona itself is one of them, accompanied by a few others across our globe, such as the Egyptian Pyramids, Machu Picchu in Peru, and Stonehenge in England.

Vortex sites can be “upflow” spots, located at some of the higher elevation spots in Sedona, such as mountaintops, where the energy is flowing upward, and the feeling is the same- energizing and uplifting. These are prime locations to expend energy through exercising, dancing, or stretching. There are also “inflow” vortexes in Sedona’s caves, valleys, and canyons that are known to help ground and calm busy minds and hearts through introspection. 

I found that I was drawn to these locations to simply be still. I remember laying flat, my back pressed against the sturdy rock, my hands touching the flowing natural water, and my eyes closed, feeling the warmth take over my body. Within moments, the world around me seemed to disappear, leaving only the sound of the singing birds and flowing water. Nothing else has felt so close to heaven. They say, “God created the Grand Canyon, but He lives in Sedona,” and I wouldn’t be surprised.

To learn more about the scientific side of vortexes, I recommend reading Scientist Pete A. Sander’s book on Scientific Vortex Information. He theorizes that vortexes can be explained based on topography, gravity, brain science, and superstring physics.

Escalante

Wedged between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon national parks, the charming town of Escalante, Utah provides underrated opportunities for a calm escape with unworldly views off the beaten path. Escalante is home to the famous Slot Canyons, its own Petrified Forest, and Grand Staircase, yet, still provides other destinations to discover for those who are looking to dive into research, to drive unmarked roads, and to experience sights that are lesser known, like the Cosmic Ashtray.

It can be challenging to find stillness and to have your own experience in the Southwest because of the region’s understandable popularity. I found Escalante to be a hideaway, like a secret place where time slows down, beyond the busy neighboring Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks. 

To find an escape to wind down in Escalante, stay at Escalante Outfitters! Connection while traveling starts with the presence to experience it, and I have learned the hard way that this presence requires a good night’s rest. The property offers rustic cabins with just enough- bedside tables with a glowing lamp, a heater for the colder desert nights, and a cozy bed that reminded me of the comfort of my grandparent’s cabin. I appreciated the underrated restaurant and store on site that features recreation gear, homemade pizza, salads, and organic fair trade coffee- which was vital during the long road trip.  

Mystic Hot Springs

Sitting on the Eastern crest of the rural town of Monroe, Utah is the “perfectly imperfect” Mystic Hot Springs- just the way the owner “Mystic Mike” likes it. Once entering the property, I immediately agreed with the reviews I read online about the 60s-70s aesthetic feeling. It’s no wonder that Mystic Mike calls this oasis “the best hippie hot springs in the West.” 

Before the property was what it is today, the Indigenous people that lived in this area were nomadic bands from the Ute, Shoshone, and Paiute tribes, who originally made their camps on the warm ground near the hot springs. 

Today, the property has wild chickens and a peacock roaming about the property, and scattered artistic vintage busses turned into humble nightly rentals. Behind the camping area, walls of mineral deposit and travertine-covered tubs and pools are pushed into the rust-hued hillside and fueled by natural hot springs. The temperature of the water is around 100 degrees fahrenheit; a sublime, warm soak in natural minerals that are known to help promote healthy skin and bones, and to soothe sore, achy muscles. 

Mystic Mike proudly describes his property as “imperfect,” similar to the sporadic yet harmonious structure of red rocks across the country. Mike and his team at Mystic Hot Springs understand that things are always changing, and they have learned to appreciate it for what it is at this moment. This worldview, to me, was grounding in itself- allowing room to grow while simultaneously acknowledging the imperfect story it took to get to this place where nothing could be more perfect.

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