Mountain Views

The view from Sky Top above Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY

We are nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic but decided we could sit home no longer, so Pat the planner came up with the idea of spending a couple of winter nights at Mohonk Mountain House. The resort is a roughly three hour drive for us, located in the Hudson River valley about 90 miles north of NYC. It was founded in 1869 and has been run since then by successive generations of the same family, the Smileys.

Looking across the frozen lake at the hotel while heading up to Sky Top.
Another view from Eagle Ridge on the opposite side of the property.
These would be sweet lakeside seats in summer.

As is clear from the images above, the hotel is massive, and also a mishmash of architectural styles that befits a place with such a long history. In the first image, our room was in the block in the right-center of the image. We were in the upper-right most room in that block looking out at the frozen Lake Mohonk. The rooms aren’t large, which isn’t unusual given the age of the hotel, but they are comfortable, and in the section we were in the rooms still have working, wood-burning fireplaces. The bell staff will bring enough wood to the room for a single fire, but you can ask for refills as often as you like. Actual firewood, not a Duraflame composite log. Pretty amazing, and we of course took advantage of it.

Rocking chairs on the balcony.
Lake view at twilight.

Mohonk is an all-season resort but given we went in the winter season the outdoor activities were limited to skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoe trekking. In summer there is everything from swimming, boating and fishing, to tennis, archery and plenty of scenic trails and gardens. There is also a golf course right below the hotel, which you can play for no extra charge – but suffice it to say the hotel rates are not low. Neither of us skate, so we opted for the snowshoes figuring we at least know how to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe we will try cross-country skiing in the future. It took some getting used to walking with the snowshoes, but overall it was fun. There are multiple trails between the hotel’s large property and the adjacent Mohonk Preserve. We newbies did what we often do, which was pick the steepest trail for our first trek. We went up to the highest point called Sky Top. The main trails are all groomed and those that are deemed too dangerous in the winter are closed. We ultimately covered three different trails over our two-night stay, one twice. The views were spectacular, and for February we had great weather. Sky Top features a memorial to the hotel’s founder, Albert Smiley. It is the dominant feature.

Sky Top as seen from Eagle Cliff trail across the lake.
At Sky Top.
Hotel as seen from top of Eagle Cliff at the end of the frozen lake.
Panoramic view looking west.

So, to address the elephant in the room, what was it like going during the pandemic? Since most of our activities were outdoors, or we were relaxing in our room, we felt pretty safe. The hotel was strict about adhering to protocols indoors. Masks were required at all times, except when dining in the dining room, which we did do twice. It was the first time time we dined indoors since February 2020. Most restaurants feel too cramped, and the food around us is too average to be worth the risk. But this dining room was huge, with high ceilings of probably 50 feet. At 50% capacity it didn’t feel crowded. We reduced exposure to others by dining fairly late at 7:30. (The hotel draws a lot of families so those with kids eat early.) We also only went to dinner; lunch and breakfast were in our room. That was like getting takeout. Someone would deliver the food and hand you a bag, just like GrubHub. Many resorts with meal plans serve indifferent food. Not this place. The food was almost uniformly outstanding, and quite creative. Dinner was three courses with plenty of options for each course. It reminded us of a place we stayed at some years ago in Chile, Tierra Atacama. Overall, we had a great time and would consider a return trip in the summer.

Bread baked on premises.
Closing view.

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