Mohonk Mountain House and Its Historical Significance

Referring to the Mohonk property as a “house” does this property no justice.

The 1,325-acre resort boasts more than 250 hotel rooms, suites, and cottages in the Mohonk, historic building and the surrounding mountainside, all a stone’s-throw from the glistening Mohonk Lake. You’ll find 85 miles of hiking trails; canoe, kayak, cycling, golf, guided rock climbing, paddle board rentals and, come winter, countless miles of cross-country and snowshoe options. But this iconic locale nestled in the peaks of the Hudson River did come from humble beginnings.

Quaker twin brothers Albert and Albert Smiley found the spot when the only thing standing by the lake was an old, run-down tavern and hotel. They purchased it, and used the property as a mountain retreat for family and friends, but that humble building soon became too small, and the new structure was built between 1879 and 1910. Even after that, Mohonk’s increasing popularity led to several expansions, and now the “house” includes an indoor pool and spa, an outdoor ice-skating rink, and 28 tower rooms, which lends a distinctly medieval feel to the property.

Think Game of Thrones by way of upstate New York.

The place breathes history. It naturally ranks as one of the Historic Hotels of America, but it also was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986; from 1883 to 1916, Albert Smiley sponsored an annual conference at Mohonk focused on improving the lives of Native American populations. The property also hosted the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration between 1895 and 1916, which became instrumental in creating the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Mohonk Mountain House

The surrounding landscape naturally predated anything created by the Smiley brothers. The eponymous lake stretches for a half-mile, and measures 60 feet at its deepest, with the striking shoulders of the Shawangunk Mountains rising all around it.

Day-trippers have to pay an entry fee to access the hiking trails, and the lake is off-limits. But really, the region benefits from at least one overnight’s stay, all the better to witness the changes that affect the mountain from dawn to dusk. The main dining room serves shockingly good food, especially given its massive size, and the porches that overlook the lake perpetually pull you into one-more-hour of quiet enjoyment.

SEE ALSO: Acadia National Park: The First Eastern National Park

Even if your schedule only allows for a short visit, be sure to hike the resort’s signature route: the Labyrinth.

This short trail branches off the main route that flanks the lake, a quick left that you can easily miss. But don’t let its modest one-mile length fool you. This hike is strenuous, and includes rock and root scrambling and squeezing through “features” like the Headache before climbing up through a narrow fissure between the rocks dubbed Lemon Squeeze, which deposits you on the bald shoulder of a peak with staggering views of the resort and the surrounding valley. From there, you return to more mellow ground and hike up to the watch tower, where a series of stairs leads to panoramic views of the entire Hudson Valley.

New York City may be only 90 miles away, but it feels like centuries.

mohonk mountain house

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