New York's Mohonk Mountain House is one of America's oldest resorts and one of its toughest—and priciest—bookings. Want to go, but can't stay over? We'll show you how.
mohonk mountain house in new paltz new york
Credit: Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

New York's Mohonk Mountain House is one of America's oldest resorts and one of its toughest—and priciest—bookings. Want to go, but can't stay over? We'll tell you how.

Less than two hours north of Midtown Manhattan, New York's Shawangunk Mountains are renowned for their unique ecosystem. You'll find here an unusual, appealing blend of squat, windblown pines, crystal clear, high-elevation lakes, cold, dark caves, earthy, murky bogs, fields of flowering shrubs, wild berry bushes, and soaring, almost-white cliffs that offer endless views of the Hudson Valley, the Catskill Mountains, and on clear days, all the way across to the Berkshires.

If you're thinking this sounds like a great setting for a weekend getaway, well, the Smiley family was a good 150 years ahead of you—it's up here on this ridge, which tops out at about 2,300 feet above sea level, that you'll find one America's oldest, and best loved resorts, the still-family-owned Mohonk Mountain House.

No ordinary hotel, is the very Victorian Mohonk—it's a private park up in the sky, a world on its own, a Disneyland for outdoor lovers, the 2,200-acre spread containing almost 90 miles of extremely varied trail. Built in distinct phases over the years, the iconic hotel sits on picturesque Mohonk Lake, there are manicured, classic gardens in season, there's an old observation tower, a landmark in the region, way up at the top of the property.

The perfect place to wander on a fall weekend, right? Absolutely. One of the best places, actually, in this part of the world. That's one of the reasons why drop-in guests will typically find themselves turned away at the gate, more than a mile away from the hotel—Mohonk operates as an all-inclusive, to the tune of more than $700 per night at busy times; mobs of casual interlopers that could potentially turn the place into Times Square on sunny weekends are not so much welcomed.

Except, of course, those in the know. While an overnight stay is always a memorable experience, not being able to make the time (or spend the money) shouldn't keep you from experiencing one of the country's most special places, at one of the best times of year to be here. How? Easy—go for lunch, or breakfast, or dinner—whatever works for you. You can't just show up, but they do take advance reservations; if it's your first time on property and you're bringing a family, breakfast is a great idea. It's casual, it's relatively affordable, and you can fuel up simply and quickly for a a day's adventure on the vast, highly photogenic property. Adults pay $42.50, kids $24.95—during peak fall foliage, be prepared to pay a few bucks more.

The food is what you'd expect at a high-end hotel breakfast, done buffet style—made-to-order omelets, a waffle bar, housemade pastries, plenty of breakfast meats, fresh fruit and strong coffee. Once you've eaten, you can stick around all day, if you like, all the way up to afternoon tea (also included) and the evening's entertainment.

Lunch, dinner, brunch packages and even spa packages are available as well; if you're more interested in the grounds than the hotel itself, a hiking-only pass, with no drive-on privileges, is available at the gate on the day of your visit (no reservations) from $22 for adults, $16 for children, with a slight upcharge on weekends.