Mohonk Mountain House’s heated indoor pool // © 2016 Mohonk Mountain House/Jim Smith
Feature image (above): Located in New York’s Hudson Valley, Mohonk is a National Historic Landmark. // © 2016 Mohonk Mountain House
Sometimes, trends catch up with ideals: After 147 years of operation, the Victorian castle that is Mohonk Mountain House is right in the crosshairs of today’s luxury traveler. Rated the No. 1 spa resort in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler, the Hudson Valley resort is now receiving the brand recognition it deserves, with its environmental pioneering and focus on healing of all kinds.
Although Mohonk is one of the cases where a family-owned property succeeds brilliantly, it was never just about money. From 1895 to 1916, one of the twin Quaker founders, Albert Smiley, hosted the annual Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration (precursor of the Hague Conferences and the United Nations), for which he received a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. The tradition continues today, with gatherings on local and international issues.
The original 1869 purchase of 280 acres and a 10-room inn just outside New Paltz, N.Y., 90 miles north of Manhattan, blossomed into 7,500 acres a century later, when the Smiley family set aside more than 5,000 acres as a preserve, the Mohonk Trust. Environmentally, Mohonk has always been far ahead of its time — it is heated and cooled by a geothermal system, with 48 480-foot deep wells tapping the even temperatures below the earth’s surface.
Generations of guests have arrived at Mohonk to enjoy the 85 miles of trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, canoeing, ice skating, horseback riding and horse-and-carriage rides. Also on offer is tomahawk throwing, archery, rock climbing, a nine-hole golf course and swimming and boating on Lake Mohonk. There’s a complimentary junior naturalist experience for kids ages 4 to 12, and the resort hosts dozens of themed programs, including culinary experiences and music festivals.
Ten years ago, the property added its 30,000-foot spa wing with 16 treatment rooms and a spectacular pool; a solarium with a stone fireplace; glass-wrapped verandas for men and women; and signature treatments. The Mohonk Red Massage, for example, combines Swedish, Lomi Lomi and Thai stretches, named in honor of the Mohonk Red witch hazel that grows on the property. There is also a well-equipped fitness room, which is used for everything from Pilates and yoga to tai chi; a full-service salon; and a shop offering products in line with the ideals and quality that Mohonk represents.
Not to be missed is the informal open house held in the Smiley Family Parlor, also originally used by the family as a Quaker meetinghouse. Here, Sandra Smiley shares stories with guests, and they, in turn, discuss their memories — some going back more than 100 years to grandparents who visited Mohonk in the early 20th century. No matter how guests have moved or changed, however, the National Historic Landmark has remained a constant, with its 261 guestrooms and 138 wood-burning fireplaces.
Families are common at Mohonk, and there are specials for kids 12 and under to stay and eat free with parents on specified dates. Also available are solo traveler packages and discounts for baby boomers. Additionally, the resort hosts many weddings and reunions, and a new family and conference center is in the works. Weekends usually require a two- night minimum stay, and holiday weekends require a three-night stay.
Also included in a stay at Mohonk is an eclectic and international range of dining, from carved meats to Japanese selections, as well as lavish buffets for breakfast and lunch and table service at dinner. Clients should know that reservations start with dinner the first night, not lunch, which for two, a la carte, is more than $100. However, guests may stay until dinnertime on their last day and eat an included breakfast and lunch, while continuing to enjoy the facilities of the resort. If they leave before lunch on the final day, the fee for first-day lunch is waived instead.