Step Back in Time!
Now that summer is over and the days are getting noticeably shorter, I’m in the hygge mood again! Autumn is my favorite time to travel around New York State and explore the beautiful landscapes and charming towns. It is a nice escape and change from the busy, hot summer in the city. One of my all-time favorite places to go is Mohonk Mountain House, a lakeside resort on the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County, NY, 90 miles north of NYC.
This year, Mohonk Mountain House celebrates its 150th birthday. It is still owned by the descendants of Alfred and Albert Smiley, twin brothers who bought the lake and a 10 room inn back in 1869. The Smileys were so taken by the natural beauty of the surrounding wilderness, that from the very beginning, they made efforts to preserve as much of it as possible. They bought adjacent lots and farmland as protection from development, and the initial 280 acre lot eventually grew to 1200 acres! In the 1960s, a trust was established by Smiley family members and friends, the Mohonk Preserve, which protects an additional 8000 acres of the surrounding, unique landscape for future generations.
The hotel itself has grown to some 250 rooms, with many additions over the years featuring a variety of architectural styles, contributing to its whimsical appearance. There is a local legend that the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining” is actually inspired by Mohonk because Stephen King is a frequent guest there!
The house overlooks Lake Mohonk, a glacial lake 1200 ft above sea level, that stretches a half mile long, where you can go swimming, fishing, or kayaking. The hike around the lake offers stunning views of the hotel and surrounding forest.
There are about 85 miles of hiking trails in the area. My favorite, and arguably the most famous one, is the Labyrinth — a bouldering trail that leads to Sky Top Tower, built in memory of Albert Smiley. Not for the faint-of-heart or those with a fear of heights, the Labyrinth is still one of the most breathtaking hikes I’ve ever done. On a clear day, it feels like you can see for hundreds of miles.
For the risk-averse visitors, there are countless gentler walking trails, as well as beautiful gardens on the property. I love exploring the hedge maze, and finding all of the lookout points around the lake!
However, I would be just as happy sitting in a cozy chair and spending all day just taking in the views.
It has become a wonderful tradition to come up to Mohonk each year in the autumn to clear my mind and take stock of the year as it approaches its end. I feel grateful that this place exists now as it did 150 years ago, and continues to be protected for future visitors. I can not think of a better source of inspiration to get me through the dreary winter months ahead!