Mohonk Mountain House: “One of Earth’s Last Great Places”
Located south of the Catskill Mountains on the crest of the Shawangunk Ridge, in New Paltz, New York, with its glacial lakes and eco-friendly environment is the Mohonk Mountain House, ranked by Condé Nast Traveler and National Geographic as “one of earth’s last great places”. Located on over 1200 acres of land, it offers a welcome escape from city life, a bevy of activities that could be compared to a “summer camp for adults”, and according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Mohonk has managed to maintain its 19th century character into the 21st century through its buildings, roads, land, and spirit.
150 YEARS OF HISTORY
The early history of the Mohonk Mountain House began in 1869 when two identical twin brothers, Quakers Albert and Alfred Smiley, were seeking a place in the countryside to retire that would offer the peace and tranquility for which the area was known. With $14,000 in savings, and a bank loan in the same amount, the brothers purchased a 10-room inn and thus the era of Mohonk had begun.
Because of the Smiley’s love of nature, much of the area was planned as an experiment in conservation of the natural environment, and an educational tool for the study of botany, geology and outdoor living. From 1883 to 1916, annual conferences sponsored by Albert Smiley brought together prominent figures to improve the living standards of Native American populations who had populated the area for centuries.
Today, with 259 guest rooms, 28 tower rooms, an indoor pool and spa, an outdoor ice-skating rink, and 85 miles of hiking trails and carriage roads, the property has hosted U.S. Presidents, naturalists, theologians, business leaders, artists, musicians and members of notable American families including John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie.
For 150 years, six generations of Smiley family members have devoted their talents to insure the continuation of its values and traditions while 5th generation Smiley family members currently serve as President and CEO respectively.
My Happy Place: From A Sunrise Hike to Sunset S’mores
Mohonk Mt. House has been an annual destination for my me and my husband for many years, but this year was even more special as our annual trek grew into a Boston Family event over the Labor Day weekend.
Whether sitting on a rocking chair on the porch and just staring across the lake or “stepping out of your comfort zone” to tackle the iconic Labyrinth Rock Scramble (also known as the Lemon Squeeze hike), Mohonk truly delivers a range of activities covering the spectrum from adventure to total serenity. Catering to the interests of kids to “kiddos”, our family group ranging in age from 11 to 80 (don’t tell), began each day with a morning hike…and then moved into a choice of daytime activities including yoga to golf, archery to Tomahawk throwing, horseback riding, lake swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding.
When the day comes to an end, there are wine tastings, a cocktail hour, and entertainment including an outdoor film at the Barn Museum, mountain music,a world class magician and much more, geared to soothe the soul and cap the days experience. A personal favorite of mine is Sunset S’mores. Although Mohonk is known for the majesty of its mountains and lake views, it is even more magical and transformative at night when a series of lights are strung throughout the hotel and on the little towers and pergolas punctuating the mountain trails and reflecting the lakes image. One strolls along these lighted pathways to arrive at a campfire setting perfect for toasting S’mores and enjoying the sounds of a local musician…raising this experience to the level of which memories are made.
And what about the food? All meals are included in the occupancy rate, served in the Main Dining Room where 3-course meals (and sumptuous breakfast and lunch buffets) sing the praises of the local Hudson Valley. Lunch and dinner can also be arranged outside, barbecue picnic-style at the Granary in the heart of Nature.
And if that were not enough, there is afternoon tea and all day treats in the charming gift shop, which offers a $2 ice cream (a steal for city folk). And last of all, don’t forget to take home locally made candles which smell like Autumn and homemade lavender honey…. a reminder of this get-away which is like no other!
A Destination for All Seasons
In summary, Mohonk Mountain House offers a retreat experience year-round, with each Season offering a unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Hudson Valley. Whether you prefer the warmth of Summer, the colors of Fall Foliage, the crisp beauty of Winter landscapes or the rejuvenation of Spring, Mohonk creates a palette of enjoyment not to be missed. Below are just some of the possibilities.
FALL: Autumn transforms Mohonk into a kaleidoscope of oranges, reds, and yellows. The hiking trails offer the perfect opportunity for leaf peeping and the crisp air and breath-taking scenery are a photographer’s delight. Scenic carriage rides and apple picking is available in nearby orchards and the award-winning Spa provides a cozy retreat for cooler evenings, with season cuisine featuring local ingredients and a premiere dining experience.
WINTER: When winter blankets the landscape with snow, imagine horse-drawn sleigh rides through the snowy woods, cozy fireside lounging, and all the festive decorations and special events of the Holiday season. In addition, the resort offers a full range of cold-weather activity, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating on the lake. These serene surroundings make it an ideal location for a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season and a step back into the “true spirit of the Season”.
SPRING: With the arrival of Spring, Mohonk awakens from its winter slumber with the blossoming of flowers and the return of migratory birds. As the snow melts on the hiking trail, it’s an excellent time for nature enthusiasts to explore the area’s diverse flora and fauna with Mohonk’s expert and highly trained naturalist trail guides.
It is also an ideal Season for birdwatching as the resort sits amid a migratory path. The vibrant gardens are in bloom again and there is a full program of activity for outdoor activity and leisurely walks.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into all the possibilities of Mohonk. I am one of many who have sung the praises of Mohonk over the years and am grateful to the Smiley family for all they have shared with their love of the environment, nature, and true hospitality.
Anne brings a wealth of knowledge to her role as The Three Tomatoes’ Beauty, Health and Wellness Editor. As a champion of health and well-being for all, she is the Founder/Publisher of GLOW Beauty, Health and Wellness magazine; previous Founder of Castle Connolly Graduate Medical Publishing, publishing educational review manuals for doctors to pass their board exams in 15 different medical specialties and co-Founder of MDPublish.com, publishing and marketing books for health professionals. A winner of the SMART CEO award for "entrepreneurial spirit with a sense of give back to the community," Anne sits on many Boards for women's health, with a particular passion for Veterans and her current
role as Special Advisor to Operation Warrior Shield, "healing their hidden wounds". www.operationwarriorshield.com.