Off the Grid: Mohonk Mountain House

By Margie Lavender

There's a magical place right outside New York City. 

Lake Mohonk Mountain House. 

Albert Smiley purchased a small inn and 280 acres of land in 1869, and expanded on the historic resort hotel until 1910.  It sits on the Shawangunk Ridge, on the western side of the Hudson River.

Smiley continually expanded upon the original ten-room inn until it reached it's current state - boasting 259 guest rooms along with an indoor pool, spa, and outdoor ice skating rink. The resort itself is a crazy conglomeration, you can really see the additive quality of Smiley expanding its footprint over time.

The National Historic Landmark program wrote on the occasion of the site's landmark status designation, 

"Because of the Smileys' love of the outdoor life, the area around the hotel was treated as an integral part of the attractions of the resort. Much of this area was planned as an experiment in conservation of the natural environment, and as an educational tool for the study of botany, geology, and outdoor living"

I was lucky enough to spend a weekend at Mohonk with my husband recently and it really was magical.  It reminds me of the old idea of family camps - think Dirty Dancing! There are a multitude of programs to choose from during your stay.  You can drop in on a geology tour or an astronomy lecture.  And the whole place has a feeling of being at home.


There are endless hiking trails, sprinkled with "Summer Houses" or little structures meant for stopping on your way to take in the environment and views. 

Many of the trails lead you up  to the Albert Smiley Memorial Tower.

Influenced by his Quaker roots, Smiley used the resort as a gathering place for international leaders and political figures to participate in some of the earliest conferences on International Arbitration.  These Mohonk conferences have been credited as the predecessors to the Hague Conference movement, which let to the creation of the United Nations. It should then come as no surprise that five presidents have stayed at Mohonk: Chester Arthur, Rutherford Hayes, William Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and even Bill Clinton. 

The entire resort overlooks Lake Mohonk, a sky lake - named as such because all of the water that is in the lake comes from the sky, no run off or snow.

The grounds include beautiful gardens and greenhouses, even a forest maze.

This unspoiled retreat, only 90 miles outside of the city, should be on everyone's bucket list.