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3 weeks agoupdated May 01, 2024

Mohonk Mountain House: Hudson Valley’s Historic Retreat

This family-owned five-star retreat offered a digital detox before there was a digital world.

By Becca Hensley

Tapered into New York State’s verdant Hudson Valley, the historic Mohonk Mountain House stands like a majestic guardian built to watch over the terrain. I arrive at the artful retreat in foggy weather. The great house, a ponderously dramatic Victorian mansion, pokes through the mist with turrets, towers, castellations and archways. Balconies line the facades, jutting out as if reaching for the adjacent glacial lake, surrounding forests and craggy mountains.

Castle-like, it embodies a breathtaking mélange of architectural elements – Gothic Revival but also Queen Anne and Folk. At first sight, the retreat conjures a scene from a novel – perhaps something written by Daphne Du Maurier. I half expect to glimpse a face in a spire’s window, but instead I see laughing and relaxed demeanors, unwound guests and ruminative couples snuggled into rocking chairs, tea cups and wine glasses aloft as they drink in the view with a thirst that can only be called soulful.

[See also: The Most Historic Luxury Hotels in the US]

Mohonk Mountain House exterior
The resort started as a humble 10-room inn / ©Mohonk Mountain House

“We’re so sorry you can’t see the lake,” emote various staff members as I check in, but I’m bedazzled by the mystic haze outside, which delivers me into an otherworldly state of being before I step through the front doors. Within rustically elegant interiors meld period antiques with modern conveniences. Eye-catching photos, paintings and framed herbariums adorn walls.

Throughout lavish velvet settees, oversized doors, inviting staircases, columns, rugged wooden elements and panoramic windows set a cozily suave, country house ambiance. Old-time ski lodges, bygone Adirondack Camps or National Park cabin resorts come to mind. But Mohonk is something all its own.

Mohonk Mountain House lake view
The imposing facade looks perhaps like something written by Daphne Du Maurier / ©Mohonk Mountain House

Encompassing some 8,000 acres of unspoiled preserve land and 1,200 acres of prodigious Mohonk Mountain House land, the retreat likely looks much as it did a century ago. Owned and operated for five generations by the extraordinarily accomplished Smiley family, who’ve managed parallel careers as renowned composers, psychologists, philosophers, artists, writers, musicians, scientists, athletes (and more) while acting as hoteliers, Mohonk fuses simplicity with sophistication and unpretentiousness with luxury.

As champions of their land and its largesse, the Smiley family has kept their mission on point for 155 years. They seek to offer travelers a sanctuary for repose, a place to fortify not just body but mind and spirit, too. As if prescient, the resort adopted digital detox before a digital world existed. That is, they immersed guests in the concept of mindfulness; they provided a place where nature could initiate the pivot, where simple pleasures might heal. In a phrase, Mohonk awakens peace within.

[See also: Inside Southall Farm & Inn: Tennessee’s New Eco-Luxe Retreat]


Mohonk Mountain House rooms
Each of the 259 luxurious, Victorian-intoned rooms comes with a stunning view / ©Mohonk Mountain House

Mohonk Mountain House began as a 10-room inn. It now welcomes guests to 259 luxurious, Victorian-intoned rooms, each awash with contemporary flourishes and all with a view. The two top suites, the bi-level Mountain View Suite and the Lake View Suite have master bedrooms with living rooms and a queen sofa. My favorite, the Lake View Suite vaunts a divine claw foot bathtub positioned by the window to frame lake vistas. For those traveling in a larger group or looking for additional privacy, the six-bedroom Grove Lodge lies just steps from the mansion.

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Absolutely overriding any preconception you might have about something that’s all-inclusive, Mohonk follows the long beloved American plan. That includes: three meals a day, cookie time in the afternoon, countless activities, access to the indoor pool and grounds, 85 miles of hiking trails, wellness classes, nightly entertainment – and a ticket to readjustment and wellbeing.

Meals are innovative, modern, delectable, complex and captivating. Stay for a month and you’ll never be bored. Executive chef Jim Palmeri, executive sous chef Steve Anson and executive pastry chef Audrey Billups team up to create menus that change every day, dishes that can be adapted for dietary restrictions and children, and plates as enticing for epicureans as picky eaters.

The Main Dining Room, cavernous and affable, reminiscent of an upscale campground’s dining hall only 10 times fancier, draws from Hudson Valley’s acclaimed local producers. Breakfast, brunch and lunch are momentous buffets (which include special live cooking stations), while dinner, a sit-down affair, offers a three-course gourmet menu. Pro tip: we found out you can actually order extra options in each category and turn it into a six-course meal – that’s especially recommended if you did the new Via Ferrata route. Don’t miss sweets by Audrey Billup; whether at breakfast, tea and cookie time or after meals, her artistry knows no bounds.

Room service is included as is a lighter, faster breakfast in the Lake Lounge for those with early morning activities. A tradition in summer, The Granary takes meals outdoors by the lake for indulgences such as lobster bakes and barbecues. Order up fancy coffee and ice cream drinks at The Old Fashioned Soda Fountain. Sip micro-brews, craft cocktails and other libations in The Carriage Lounge.


Smiley Mohonk Mountain House
Owner Nina Smiley leads up the wellness experiences / ©Mohonk Mountain House

Essential to the Mohonk Mountain House experience, the offerings of its award-winning spa work in concert with the setting to be a portal to transformation and well-being. Enveloped in an ethos of mindfulness led by meditation expert Nina Smiley, the spa presents a wide range of reset opportunities including meditation, forest bathing, yoga (try the night class beneath the stars), cold plunges in the lake and massages outdoors in the evocative Lakeview Summerhouse. From the spa menu, supported by organic and sustainable brands, choose results-driven treatments such as a Pietro Simone facial or location-inspired rituals such as the moss hydrating exfoliation.


Lake summerhouse Hudson Valley New York
The resort’s many summerhouses make perfect spots to take in the scenery / ©Mohonk Mountain House

Abundant with options, this all-inclusive resort excels in gastronomy, wellness, tradition and storytelling, service and a mind-bogglingly immense range of activities. It’s a vacation spot for all ages and all generations. Guests can simply read a book and rock in a chair, hide away in a summerhouse or courageously conquer the resort’s new Via Ferrata – one of just a handful in the United States.

In season, go to Mohonk to canoe, ski, fish, golf, ride horses, throw an axe, shoot an arrow, scramble over rocks, practice yoga, swim, spa, forest bathe, play tennis or drink a martini. Bring your family or come alone. Possibly my favorite place to decompress? The summerhouses, little rough-hewn gazebos that pepper the lake’s shoreline. Some perch on the lake’s lips, others accessed by a bridge or rocky trail high above the lake seem to hover in the air. Most of all, at the castle just breathe, smile and take in the view. It just might change your life.

[See also: Manoir Hovey: A French-Canadian Retreat with a Game-changing Spa]

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