A friend of Indagare reflects on her many visits to Mohonk Mountain House in the Hudson Valley.
I began visiting Mohonk as a little girl in the early 1970’s. My parents were very progressive when it came to organic food, and Mohonk hosted the annual Natural Foods Convention for many years. The place seemed like a completely magical castle, full of mystery and history with no end of corners to explore. I always felt like I was the first one to discover these hidden spaces.
Forty years later, some of the magic has faded, but not that much.
The hotel itself is a rambling, crooked, slanted-floor behemoth that seems to span a mile from end to end. There are (as far as I know) four sets of staircases spaced throughout. Depending on your room, it can be a bit of a hike to get from your floor to the dining area or spa. This long walk might seem taxing, but if you take the time to look around, you will always see something new. The walls on each floor are lined with photographs: some from the early years of the property (it once housed a school), and others of the region’s gorgeous land, lake and sky throughout the seasons.
Mohonk has a raw, distinctive and organic soulfulness similar to many high-end retreats (like Fogo Island Inn, for example). But Mohonk attracts a more low-key crowd and the overall atmosphere differs from the world-class sophistication found at other five-star resorts. For instance, the staff is made up of locals and the service can be sub-par (if I hadn’t been coming here forever, it’s possible I wouldn’t be able to roll with it as I do). The hotel is no Four Seasons, but guests should be prepared for the same prices minus the swank and polish. That said, it’s worth it.
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Mohonk is an all-inclusive resort, so if you arrive on a Friday, your meals are covered from dinner that night through Sunday brunch. The food is plentiful and wonderful and each time I go, it gets better (it used to be truly awful, but it now ranges from satisfying to sometimes sublime). In the warmer months, there is an outdoor barbecue lunch, which is a nice change of pace. The indoor dining room is absolutely massive, with seats by the windows on the western side being the best of all. It’s very reminiscent of dining at the prow of a great ocean liner but with views of mountains rather than sea.
In addition to the years I spent there as a little girl, I have been returning to Mohonk at least once a year for the past 15 years, typically to celebrate my son’s birthday. He is a natural-born rock scrambler, and “the gunks” as they are called (short for Shawangunks), provide some of the world’s finest rock scrambling and technical climbing. There is a wonderful trail called the Labyrinth that takes you from the hotel to “Skytop,” the peak of the property. As you near Skytop, you encounter a steep, dark crevasse (nicknamed the lemon squeeze) outfitted with ladders to grant you access upward: think Khombu Icefall but vertical, not horizontal. When I was little, it was a seamless skedaddle from lake to Sktytop. Now there is a logjam at the base of the lemon squeeze that is reminiscent of the final ascent to Everest (without the empty oxygen bottle detritus). This year, for the first time since I’ve been coming here, I did not hike the Labyrinth. Still, I highly recommend it: it’s challenging, but super exciting and empowering.
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The spa at Mohonk is a fairly recent addition, as is the outdoor ice rink. I’ve never been to the resort in winter so I can’t comment on the latter, but the spa is world-class: the facilities and practitioners are as good as any I’ve encountered anywhere. If you plan to go on a weekend, be sure to make appointments well in advance. The indoor pool is also fabulous and kept at what I consider a perfect temperature: easy to get into, but never uncomfortably warm.
I tend to go to Mohonk in the fall, but I have gone in the summer. The lake is great for swimming and the resort has canoes, pedal boats, rowboats and paddle boards. There are magnificent gardens that are most spectacular in the summer as well, plus a huge greenhouse, a barn with a stable full of horses and a barn museum, tennis courts, endless trails for running and hiking and mountain bikes available to rent.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call Mohonk the 8th wonder of the world, but there is no place like it anywhere, of that I’m sure.
Located in the Hudson Valley, Mohunk is 90 miles north of New York City. The nearest airport is Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York; from there, guests can arrange for a rental car to drive to Mohunk Mountain House (25 miles). Buses and trains are also available to nearby stations (like Poughkeepsie, New York, a 30-minute drive from Mohunk).
Interested in booking a trip to Mohonk Mountain House? Contact the Bookings Team for assistance. www.mohonk.com
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