Mohonk Mountain House has been on our radar for quite some time as a destination to explore for both tranquility and adventure in the heart of the Hudson Valley. This Victorian castle resort made for the perfect Fall retreat to escape the daily grind and disconnect from the realities of a stressful year. The magnificent natural setting of Mohonk is only 90 miles north of New York City and is surrounded by 40,000 acres of pristine forest with farm-to-table cuisine and an award-winning spa.
Mohonk remains open during COVID-19 and takes every precaution necessary so that guests feel safe and comfortable. Their enhanced health and safety protocols provides peace of mind along with the same level of service and hospitality their guests have come to expect. Upon arrival, a quick temperature check at the gate and gentle reminders about mask and distancing policies throughout the property reassures guests while enjoying all of the splendors Mohonk has to offer.
RELAX ON THE BACK PORCH & TAKE IN THE SIGHTS
Upon arrival to Mohonk, we promptly checked into our room which was conveniently ready early. The interior of the mountain house is so beautifully preserved and offers guests a peek into the past. It felt as if we were tiptoeing through history as we walked through the grand hallways, authentic staircases and 19th century parlors to our room. All guest accommodations are fully updated and furnished with functioning wood fireplaces and balconies to take in the iconic views of the Hudson valley.
The crisp autumn air in the mountains enticed us to lace up our hiking boots and explore the expansive property. We began taking in the sights on the historic two story porch, a piece of the house which dates back to 1899 and quite honestly held a similarity to what you might find in Tolkien’s Rivendell. Guests will find plenty of rocking chairs on the porches to take in the serene glacial lake which was carved millions of years ago by an iceberg when this region was still underwater. The tranquil views and the sounds of nature whistling in your ear can be had at any point in the day to center you. There is something about just sitting and rocking in this beautiful setting that sets your mind at ease and balances your soul.
Once we had taken in the view from the porch, it was time to venture out and do some more exploring. Mohonk Mountain House offers plenty of outdoor activities for all, from the lone hiker to family fun activities like rowing, archery, tennis, or even tomahawk throwing. Mohonk also boasts over 85 miles of hiking trails, ranging from beginner to advanced levels of difficulty. Several trailheads are accessible right from the porch and many are even available to day-trippers further down the property.
FOREST BATHING & MINDFULNESS AT MOHONK
After our brisk scenic hike on Eagle Cliffs we met up with Nina Smiley, the Mohonk Director of Mindfulness Programming. Nina married into the Smiley family (the multigenerational owners of Mohonk) and graduated from Vassar College with a doctoral degree in psychology from Princeton University. She’s also the co-author of The Three Minute Meditator, Mindfulness in Nature, and the CD Mini-Meditations That Will Enhance Your Life. We had booked a “forest bathing” session with Nina to kick off our stay and center ourselves in nature (don’t worry, you don’t have to strip down).
The term “forest bathing” or “shinrin-yoku” has been used in Japanese writings and research to describe the sense of well-being that comes from being outdoors immersed in nature. Our mindfulness-in-motion walk with Nina guided us through wooded trails, alongside timeless cliffs and the crystal clear lake while following a guided meditation designed to de-stress and re-center our consciousness.
After a brief grounding meditation, we began our walk taking each step slowly and deliberately. We focused our gaze on elements of the surrounding environment to pick up nuances we hadn’t noticed before. We felt the rock formations and appreciated the plant life. We took deep breaths and gazed in wonder at the environment around us. The result was a feeling of peace and oneness with nature that we can go back to whenever we’re feeling overwhelmed.
It turns out Mohonk Mountain House has been providing opportunities for mindfulness and recreation and renewal of body, mind, and spirit in a beautiful natural setting for nearly 150 years. Guests would flock to the property, adorned in victorian attire seeking the same solitude and adventure that we crave today. We definitely recommend exploring the many opportunities for wellness and mindfulness throughout your stay, ranging from Mindfulness in Minutes to enhancing insight and awareness through meditative hikes and forest bathing sessions.
EXPLORE MOHONK & HIKE THE TRAILS
With over 85 miles of trails, there is no shortage of places to explore around Mohonk Mountain House. To start out, we chose the Eagle Cliff hike which is a 1.7 mile intermediate loop easily accessible from the house. It’s beautiful in either direction and offers sweeping views of the valley cliffs. The tradition is to begin by the Tennis Courts and return along the bluff overlooking the Lake which offers some of the most expansive views on property.
Mohonk is also famous for its aptly named Lemon Squeeze which lies within the Labyrinth Rock Scramble. This is a very challenging hike that is well worth the effort. The Labyrinth itself is a 1-mile-long circuitous rock scramble where hikers navigate gigantic boulders that once crashed down from this commanding cliff side. You will find yourself unexpectedly squeezing through small crevices, crawling under tight rock formations and climbing up wooden ladders in tight spaces.
The entire journey is an adventure that tests your mental and physical stamina. The final ascent up a long ladder and through a tight crack in the rocks rewards hikers with panoramic views of the Hudson Valley ― and if you have enough energy left, continue across the small bridge and up to the historic Sky Top Tower. The Sky Top Tower is an internationally renowned landmark of the Hudson Valley and can also be reached via a multitude of trails for every level of difficulty.
Sky Top Tower was originally built in 1921 and was “erected in grateful memory of a man [Albert K. Smiley] whose exalted character and useful life stand as a beautiful example to mankind.” Exactly 100 steps lead to the top, which offers exhilarating views reaching to six states.
GO ROCK CLIMBING WITH ALPINE ENDEAVORS
The next morning we booked a rock climbing session with the guides over at Alpine Endeavors. Mohonk Mountain House guests have exclusive access to several rock climbing routes for a variety of difficulty levels and partners exclusively with Alpine Endeavors who maintain a shed on property with all the gear you need for an amazing day out on the rocks. They also offer an extensive lineup of day trips all throughout the Gunks for climbers not staying at Mohonk.
Alpine Endeavors is comprised of experienced, passionate climbers who are both trained guides and instructors. Their guides are state licensed, skilled in first aid, and trained and/or certified by the American Mountain Guides Association for one or more of the various disciplines; Single Pitch Instructor, Rock Instructor, Rock Guide, and/or Alpine Guide.
We met our guide Jaron right on the back porch of the house which was super convenient for getting out on the rocks early. A short hike from the house up the lower portion of the rock scramble and we were at our basecamp for the day. From there we opted for an intermediate set of climbs ranging from 5.3 – 5.5 in difficulty. Our guide Jaron was well versed in the area and was able to point out and guide us along some really incredible routes. We climbed from left to right and hit several routes including Finger licking good (5.3), Petie (5.4), Peties spare rib (5.5) and Lake view (5.5).
In addition to being our guide, Jaron was also a great climbing coach ensuring that we felt confident and comfortable scaling some pretty epic cliff faces. All the climbs in the gunks are traditional, meaning the lead climber is placing gear into the rocks along the way. This ensures you never fall further than your last piece of gear. We were grateful to have Jarron leading each climb as well as setting up a top rope for us, thereby mitigating any real risk of falling. As you climb, the key is to use your the strength of your legs to push yourself up the mountain. Once we made it to the top, we were treated to some of the best views in the Hudson Valley.
DINNER & BRUNCHING AT MOHONK
Daily meals are included in your stay which makes your experience that much more special. Mohonk’s historic Main Dining Room features panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains, dramatic cathedral ceilings, and original woodwork from 1893. Most overnight packages include three meals daily and reservations are required for most dining experiences. We highly recommend brunch in the main dining room, especially after a long early hike. Reward yourself with mimosas, bloody mary’s and the signature Mohonk brunch options which will not disappoint. Other lunch options that we took advantage of was the ‘grab and go’, which allows guests to choose their meal from various stations and take to the outdoors for a picnic of your choosing.
REJUVENATE AT THE SPA AT MOHONK
The Spa at Mohonk offers guests an opportunity to further their relaxation and unwind with over 80 unique spa and salon services. Tranquility and mindfulness are top of mind for the Smiley family at Mohonk and their offerings at the Spa carry the tradition forward. We opted for the Timeless Traditions Massage and the New Aromatherapy Wellness treatment, which incorporates traditional massage techniques along with stretches used in the late 1800s. Both treatments relieve muscle tension as well as emotional, physical and environmental stress, improve circulation, and allow you to deeply relax.
There is truly something for everyone at Mohonk ― you can choose from a variety of relaxing spacations — or simply spend your days hiking, climbing and exploring in the picturesque mountain scenery.