NEW PALTZ, N.Y. (WIVT/WBGH) – For 154 years, the Smiley family has been hosting guests at their all-inclusive resort nestled in the Shawangunk Mountains near New Paltz, New York.
The Mohonk Mountain House is a retreat that combines modern luxuries with an historic dedication to peace and wellness.
Dawn is breaking over Mohonk Lake. The light is still lit on Sky Top Tower and the boats are still moored, awaiting the day’s activities. The 265-room hotel sits two miles from the gatehouse entrance, as visitors make their way to a place of extraordinary scenic beauty.
“Once they enter, there are signs that say, ‘Slowly and quietly please.’ That’s really a carryover of the full intention. We want people to come here and as soon as they come through the gatehouse, just slow down, relax and let go,” said President Eric Gullickson.
The Mohonk Mountain House was first opened in 1869 by twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley and has remained in the Smiley family ever since. The Smileys built carriage roads, bridges and hiking trails and planted trees and landscaping, all with the goal of bringing the restorative power of nature to their guests. The iconic symbol of Mohonk are the Summerhouses, built of local red cedar. There are more than one hundred of them scattered across the property, each providing a unique and spectacular view.
“The ancestors really wanted you to stop and contemplate a view, a specific vista. To be framed in some cases within the structure. So, you would sit down in a seat, and you’d look through the framing of the Summerhouse and you would see a very specific and intentional view” said Gullickson.
Albert and Alfred Smiley were Quakers, heavily committed to social concerns of the day. Over the years, Mohonk hosted major conferences devoted to nature, theology and peace. That tradition continues today with a focus on mindfulness. The spa offers 16 treatment rooms, fitness classes and an indoor swimming pool. Outside is a heated mineral pool and a nature path for some forest bathing on the way to massage services in the new Lakeview Summerhouse.
“We’re surrounded by so much beauty and so much gorgeous nature, between our forest, our lake and our mountain. The spa really brings that into our treatment menu through using botanicals, using beautiful moss wraps, glacial water so our guests can be one with nature while they’re having their spa therapies,” said Spa Director Margaret Lora.
Hiking has long been a favorite endeavor of Mohonk guests, with 85 miles of trails, none more famous that the challenging Labyrinth rock scramble including the strenuous Lemon Squeeze leading up to Paltz Point, home to Sky Top Tower from which you can see six states on a clear day. There’s a beach with docks, a raft and diving board for a refreshing swim plus tennis courts, mountain bikes, horseback riding, golf and more for exercise and leisure.
“It’s really an intentional effort to ensure that people are making that connection with nature and understanding its relationship to being peaceful and relating to those important aspects of life,” said Gullickson.
The rooms are modest with old world touches such as fireplaces, original artwork and balconies to take in the stunning views. Televisions are provided only on request. As an all-inclusive, guests receive three meals a day in one of several dining areas, including the Main Dining Hall, the Carriage Lounge and the outdoor Granary overlooking Mohonk Lake. A continental breakfast is served daily in the Lake Lounge. The kitchen is a buzz of activity and guests can participate on Wednesdays with the Chef’s Table, enjoying a nine-course tasting menu with wine pairing in the heart of a fast-paced kitchen. Audrey Billups has been the Executive Pastry Chef for seven years.
“I do try and take a refined, simplistic approach to all of my desserts. They’re visually stunning and really tasty and that’s what I pride myself on,” said Billups.
Each evening features entertainment or a lecture in the Victorian Parlor. There are lavish gardens near the hotel for guests to wander and enjoy. At one time, they produced food and flowers for the resort which operated as a self-sufficient city. To this day, Mohonk has its own security team and fire, water and sewer departments. All so that guests can feel safe and secure and relax.
“It’s really maintaining that ability to offer that to hundreds of people, thousands of people, not only in the past, the present, but the future too. For generations to come,” said Gullickson.
The National Historic Landmark is open year-round with leisure activities and wellness programs that renew the body, mind and soul.
Mohonk Mountain House’s Main Dining Hall was recently named the number two Hotel Restaurant in the country by USA Today along with four other awards in the all-inclusive, eco-friendly, family resort and destination resort categories.