the joyful traveller

Let Mother Nature Do Some Nurturing During These Challenging Times

They say there is no place like home, but there is something to be said about a “get-away day,” to recharge, regroup and release stress that accumulates over time.  Especially in these times.

A tankful of gas, a bagel and a cup of coffee was all we needed on the drive up the Thruway/I-87 to exit 19, west through the town of New Paltz, looking out for the turn off for the Mohonk Mountain House.  At the entry gate, we checked in with our day pass and ahead of us lay a whole glorious getaway day.  

The Mohonk Mountain House itself resembles a European castle which already made us feel worlds away.  With the day ahead of us, we opted to explore the easy hiking paths that were covered with a few inches of bright white snow. A visit to the ski shop provided us with wrap-around shoe cleats that kept our footing secure along the two hiking loops we chose: a 90  minute gentle climb up to the Sky Top Tower and another 45 minute easy hike around the icy Lake Mohonk.  It was blessedly quiet, the air was refreshingly clean, both providing a much needed balm for the soul.

This was at all not surprising since the original founder and visionary of Mohonk, Albert Smiley, sought to create a place of recreation for visitors to “preserve paradise for guests, a place to rejuvenate away from the stresses of work and city life.”  And this was way back in the late 1800’s!  The Mountain House, which seems to grow in stature the higher up the path we went, features a variety of architectural styles, so it’s hard to pin it down to one term, but its fairytale exterior would make it a perfect complement to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts setting.

Located in what is affectionately known as the “Gunks,” Mohonk Mountain House sits in the Shawangunk Mountains, considered one of the “last great places,” on earth by The Nature Conservancy. Its owner and creator established carriage roads and trails throughout the 300 acres of what is primarily untouched wilderness. And, on this day, it was truly a winter wonderland.  At Sky Top Tower, the reward at the end of our first hike, with its views of six states, we can see what Smiley saw decades before to inspire him to create this paradise. Words can only do so much; the pictures here say it all.

On the drive home, I wondered if it was enough, would this get-away feeling last?  It has, and with our cell phone photos as reminders, we can easily replay the day.  The ease with which we made the trip up to Mohonk for this healthy dose of the outdoors, gives us the idea to return for some healthy indoor Spa therapy.


Besides hiking, day pass guests are able to take part in more rigorous experiences such as cross country skiing, ice skating or snowshoe hiking.  Inside experiences include a visit to the spa (reservation required*), a gourmet meal, or cookies and tea at 4pm, or just plain curling up with a book in the quiet of the library.

*Spa day guests: The Spa at Mohonk is currently open and accepting day guests, but with very limited availability. A Spa reservation includes any spa treatment or private yoga/meditation session of your choice, access to spa amenities from 8am – 6pm, including outdoor heated mineral pool and indoor relaxation verandas, full day access to the Mountain House and 85 miles of scenic hiking trails, 4pm Afternoon Tea & Cookies, Greenhouse and Victorian Gardens and evening entertainment at 9pm.

Health and safety precautions: Mohonk has reduced its guest capacity for all guests – overnight, day guests and those visiting for brunch/lunch/dinner.

For prices and activities available, click on the following links:

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