There are some places you go where history seems tactile, and Mohonk Mountain House is one of those places. Even without the framed black-and-white photos lining the hallways and paintings of the property dating back to the 19th century, you can sense the many stories that have happened there as soon as you approach the sprawling Hudson Valley resort. You’ll find yourself driving up a curving mountain road after passing through a manned checkpoint, before emerging from the forested land and catching sight of a grand, castle-like resort astride a picturesque glacial lake. After dropping off your car and walking into a deceptively simple lobby, you’ll travel through to the other side of the hotel, out onto a wooden patio dotted with rocking chairs and, seemingly, back in time.
Being a part of the shared history of Mohonk Mountain House is a huge draw of visiting this destination. The resort dates back to 1869 when a local entrepreneur Albert Smiley purchased a modest, lakeside inn, Stokes Tavern, along with the surrounding 280 acres. Since then, Mohonk has grown enormously, evident in varying styles of the main building as well as through the scattered “summer houses” that dot the landscape. Over the years, the resort has garnered a number of accolades—including “Best Historic Resort” by Historic Hotels of America and as a National Historic Landmark site by the federal government—that attest to its longstanding presence.
That’s all very interesting, but you may be asking yourself: Why does this all matter if I’m considering staying here today? In short, it’s because it’s what makes the experience so unique. You can hike, boat, golf, play tennis and wander through gardens at other resorts, but here you’re able to take in over a hundred years of history while doing so, through informative signs, ancient structures and a few quirky traditions. (A large part of that is because it’s still run by the Smiley family that originally founded it in 1869.)
Outside of the resort, it’s hard to overstate just how astounding the views are. Whether you’re looking out from a rowboat in the middle of the lake or staring down at the resort and surrounding mountains from the 85 miles of trails provided for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, you feel like you’re standing in the middle of a Hudson River School painting. One must-do hike is the one up to a tower called Sky Top that provides jaw-dropping (and very high) views that stretch all the way down to West Point. Closer to the resort, the outdoor restaurant The Granary offers a classic picnic cook-out with barbecue and burgers on checkered tablecloths overlooking the lake below.
Inside, the rooms are historic and (incredibly) have wood-burning fireplaces. You can request logs be sent up to your room to be set ablaze in front of your bed. The Parlor is a classic, formal room that offers talks and concerts during the day and the former lobby on the first floor now hosts a lakeside breakfast and an afternoon tea service. (The famous architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable praised this room in particular.) The open and airy main dining room serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily—using locally-sourced ingredients provided, in part, by the company Farms2Tables. The modern American menu features classic fare ranging from steaks to pastas over three courses.
When the weather cools down, the mountain house transforms into a winter wonderland, making the most of the chilliest of seasons just as it does the warmer months. When the glacial lake freezes over, and the surrounding trees are dotted with freshly fallen snow, stepping out from the main building into nature feels like walking through a snowglobe. The on-site ski shop offers snowshoes, cross-country skis and traction devices for hiking—which all allow you to explore the trails in the area and take in their unique winter views. The Pavilion, an open-air structure with views of the lake and the mountain house, becomes a magical ice rink open to guests, strung with string lights and playing upbeat classic pop and rock songs. Indoor activities still on offer during the colder months include wine tastings and archery, and a snow-covered tubing hill in the woods provides some slippery thrills.
It’s important to note with the high price tag per night to stay at the property, that all meals, and a majority of activities, are included in the price of your stay. With all of the food you’ll be eating, over multiple courses, all day long, that adds up relatively fast. One aspect that’s not included in your room fee, that’s worth considering adding on to your stay, are the services at the newly renovated The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House. '
The Spa, which is connected to the main resort, was renovated this summer and provides a comfortable and upscale experience across 16 indoor treatment rooms. (The 2022 update features many thoughtful details, such as a custom-made carpet based on a lily pond found close to the resort.) In the winter, relaxing treatments like the Contrast Hydrotherapy Massage provide relaxation while approximating the rush of a polar bear plunge. For warmer months, it has one brand-new outdoor treatment room: the Lakeview Summerhouse. This wooden structure, perched on the edge of Mohonk Lake, is a one-of-a-kind setting to book a couple’s massage or a mindfulness session in a captivating natural setting. The brand-new addition to the property is also a nice reminder that the present can coexist beautifully with the past.