High in the heart of the Shawangunks  is the Mohonk Mountain House (1000 Mountain Rest Rd., off Rte. 299, 845/255-1000 or 800/772-6646, www.mohonk.com , $389–735 d, includes three meals and afternoon tea), an enormous castlelike affair on the edge of a deep-blue glacial lake. Built by Quaker twins Albert and Alfred Smiley in 1870, Mohonk is the last of the magnificent resort hotels that once lined the Hudson.
In its heyday, the Mountain House hosted a long line of distinguished guests, including Presidents Hayes, Taft, and Wilson. Albert Smiley was deeply concerned about the welfare of the American Indian, and from 1883 to 1916, numerous important Friends of the Indian conferences were held here.
From a distance, Mohonk is an ultra-romantic place, bursting with gables and chimneys, turrets and towers. Some of the loveliest scenic hikes, natural cave spelunking, impressive gardens (with English maze), mountain biking, and crystal clear lake swimming take advantage of what the grounds have to offer, with trails dotted with more than a hundred tiny gazebo-like sitting spots sprinkled here and there to provide a resting spot to enjoy the view or a good book. A beehive of activities is scheduled throughout the day, ensuring guests every possibility to tailor a visit to their interests.
A sense of family and pride is pervasive throughout the excellent staff, who offer warm smiles and assurances that your needs will be met. Bonfires (where staff offer pre-loaded s’mores roasting sticks), square-dancing, movies under the stars, log rolling competitions, and other classic vacation activities make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
To jump back into the present, hit the top-rated spa and outdoor mineral bath overlooking the mountains. Four season fun means snow-tubing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating in the gorgeous stone pavilion or on Lake Mohonk.
Mohonk is well worth a visit. Reserve a spot for a prix fixe meal—breakfast ($25), lunch ($40), or dinner ($41–44)—by calling 845/256-2056.
The adjacent 5,600-acre Mohonk Preserve (845/255-0919, www.mohonkpreserve.org , sunrise–sunset daily) is ideal for hiking. Twenty-eight miles of trails and 22 miles of carriage roads crisscross the preserve. Hikers must purchase day passes (adults $10, children under 12 free). The passes do not permit access to the Mountain House or its facilities.