The majestic 19th-century Mohonk Mountain House crowns a lush and secluded ridge in upstate New York, and sits on a lake that mirrors the sky. If there were any place in the world to inspire an international peace conference, this is it. And 100 years ago, it did.
It may have had to do with the family that ran it, too. It’s the same family that runs Mohonk today — named Smiley, no less — and its founders were devout Quakers and social activists. They loved nature too, and laid out their property like a landscape painting — creating striking vistas and meandering mountain paths that still characterize the modern Mohonk experience.
That is to say: if you don’t like the outdoors, this isn’t the place for you.
There are no televisions in Mohonk’s guest rooms (though there is complimentary WiFi throughout the resort). But there are suites with wood-burning fireplaces, balconies overlooking the lake and valley, and Victorian details befitting original 18th- and 19th-century buildings.
A kind of castle with chalet sensibilities, Mohonk has two stone towers in which you’ll find its most romantic rooms: vast rounded chambers that seem to float in the morning fog. It’s a pity that there’s so much to do at the resort — you’ll barely get to enjoy your room.
An all-inclusive resort, Mohonk has 85 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. There are tennis courts, stables for horseback-riding and carriage rides, and a nine-hole golf course. There’s rowing on the lake, of course, and a stunning outdoor pavilion for ice skating. There are guided nature walks that will have you sucking on sassafras twigs plucked from the forest, and a “Junior Naturalist Experience” that will leave your kids (4-12) smarter than you are when it comes to the environment.
And the environment is a theme that carries throughout the resort, all the way to its newest addition: The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House, rated the second-best spa in the country this year by Conde Nast Traveler. Made from local timber and quartz excavated from its own building site, the spa, with 16 treatment rooms, has a 2,000-square-foot green roof and a geothermal system to heat and cool the building by the temperature of the earth.
Needless to say, the spa’s products are natural and organic. You’ll have one of the best massages of your life if you choose the Indigo Herbal Poultice Massage, which uses a steamed muslin pouch full of indigo, a local herb, to coax the tension from your body. A swim in the heated indoor pool or outdoor mineral pool is a must — also, curling up by the fire in the solarium with all the herbal tea you can drink.
That won’t be your last cup of tea at Mohonk to be sure. One of its most charming traditions is the daily serving of afternoon tea and cookies in the parlor. Taken onto the lakeside porch and enjoyed in one of the wooden rocking chairs, it will be one of your most memorable cups.