The Lake Illyria Estate

Neighboring 23,000 acres of National State Park Minnewaska

Mohonk Preserve
The Trapps in the Mohonk Preserve

Mountain Climbing at Mohonk Preserve

Mohonk Preserve is New York State’s largest visitor- and member-supported nature preserve with 165,000 annual visitors and 8,000 protected acres of cliffs, forests, fields, ponds and streams. It is located on the Shawangunk Ridge, a section of the Appalachian Mountains, 90 miles (140 km) north of New York City in Ulster County, New York, USA. The Preserve maintains over 70 mi (110 km) of carriage roads and 40 mi (64 km) of trails for hiking, cycling, trail running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and horseback riding. It is also a major destination for rock climbers, hosting 50,000 climbers each year who enjoy more than 1,000 climbing routes.


The origins of the preserve date to 1869 when twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley purchased Lake Mohonk and established the Mohonk Mountain House. On Feb. 26, 1963, the Smiley family, friends, neighbors and supporters formed The Mohonk Trust to protect the area’s unique natural landscape for future generations. The “property” of The Mohonk Trust on that day in 1963 consisted of $100, a gift from Mabel Craven Smiley. Land was acquired by the Mohonk Trust over the years, and it became the Mohonk Preserve Inc. in 1978. According to their 2012 IRS Form 990 their assets today exceed $20 Million. Through the support of members, donors and partners, the preserve has become a center for outdoor education and a conservation advocate, especially for natural lands in the Shawangunks and the Hudson River Valley. Its mission includes land protection and stewardship, sponsorship of environmental education programs which according to Preserve officials have served more than 100,000 children over a thirty year period, and maintenance of biological, weather, and natural history records spanning more than a century.

In 1986, Mohonk Preserve and Mohonk Mountain House together were designated a National Historic Landmark.

The name “Moggonck” appeared in early boundary records referring to the “high hill,” the crag now named Skytop where the Smiley Tower is located. The spelling change from ggto h was probably done for aesthetic reasons. The word Moggonck was possibly derived from the Lenape maxkwung, ‘place of bears,’ or from the Munsee maxkawenge, ‘hill of bears.’


Bonticou Crag in the Mohonk Preserve

Headquarters of the not-for-profit Mohonk Preserve are in Gardiner, New York. Most of the land is in the town of Gardiner, but there is also land in the towns of Marbletown, Rosendale, New Paltz, and Rochester. Preserve lands extend for nearly eight miles from Rosendale to Millbrook Mountain. More than 75% of its funding comes from contributions, memberships and investments. Grants from land conservation organizations, including some from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program, and funds from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund amount to 23% of income. It was the first land trust established on the northernShawangunk Ridge. The Preserve’s mission is to protect the Shawangunk Mountains by inspiring people to care for, enjoy, and explore the natural world. To accomplish its mission, the Preserve conducts programs in four key areas – environmental education, serving both school children and adults; land protection, saving high-priority land on the ridge; land stewardship, balancing the protection of land and wildlife with opportunities for recreation; and scientific research, creating a “living laboratory” on the land. The land is home to more than 1,400 plant and animal species, including the peregrine falcon and 2,000 acres of rare dwarf pitch pine. Restricted deer hunting is allowed with the aim of preventing ecological damage due to overbrowsing. There is a day fee of $12 for hiking and $17 for cycling and rock climbing. Annual memberships are available. Free one month memberships were offered to Ulster County residents in the spring and again in the fall of 2014. Hours of operation are from sunrise to one hour past sunset.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve adjoins the Preserve lands to the south, and protects another 12,000 acres (49 km2) of former property of another member of the Smiley family as a state park.

Mohonk Mountain House

The Mohonk Mountain House, also known as Lake Mohonk Mountain House, is a historic American resorthotel located on the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County, New York. Its prominent location in the town ofNew Paltz, New York is just beyond the southern border of the Catskill Mountains on the western side of theHudson River. Mohonk Mountain House is a member ofHistoric Hotels of America, the official program of theNational Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Historic Landmark Program’s “Statement of Significance”, as of the site’s historic landmark designation on June 24, 1986, states:

Begun in the 1870s as a small resort for family and friends by the Smiley brothers, it became so popular that it was enlarged many times. Because of the Smiley’s 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.


The historic resort is located on the shore of Lake Mohonk, which is half of a mile (800 m) long and 60 feet (18 m) deep. The main structure, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986, was built by Quaker twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley between 1879 and 1910. It has 259 guest rooms, including 28 tower rooms, an indoor pool and spa, and an outdoor ice-skating rink for winter use. The picturesque setting of the resort on the lake was featured in a print by Currier & Ives.

The property consists of 1,325 acres (536 ha), and much of it is landscaped with meadows and gardens. It adjoins the Mohonk Preserve, which is crisscrossed by 85 miles (140 km) of hiking trails and carriage roads. The Smileys conveyed the majority of their property to the preserve, and have received recognition for the stewardship of their land and their early environmental awareness.

The property has been owned and operated by descendants of the Smiley brothers since 1869. The Smiley brothers envisioned a peaceful retreat where people could enjoy the beauty of nature in a truly spectacular setting. From its earliest days, the resort has maintained values of stewardship, reflection, and renewal.

The Smiley family’s care in preserving the Smiley brothers’ vision resulted in a National Historic Landmark designation in 1986, and a United Nations Environment Programme Award in 1994 in honor of “125 years of stewardship”. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “Through its buildings and roads, its land, and its spirit, Mohonk exemplifies America’s history and culture. Mohonk has since managed to maintain its 19th century character into the 21st century.” In the 21st century, the resort also retains an emphasis on eco-friendly, environmentally green practices.

Recreation and other activities

The LEMMON SQUEEZE! A really fun hike which includes squeezing through all sorts of rock formations:

Hiking trail

Resort guests may ride horses; go boating on the lake; fish; play tennis, golf, disc golf, croquet, or shuffleboard; tour a historic barn and greenhouse; take carriage rides; swim in the lake or pool; receive spa treatments; do yoga or meditation; visit the fitness center; listen to concerts and lectures; hike 85 miles of trails; stroll through formal gardens and a maze; ride mountain bikes; or go rock climbing. Winter activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice-skating. There are a variety of additional activities available as well. The resort also offers dozens of regularly scheduled group activities each day.

Many of these recreational activities are provided as part of the room rate. In addition, the resort hosts more than 40 themed programs each year dedicated to different topics, including specialized entertainment, music, demonstrations, tastings, presentations, and workshops. Sample theme weekends have included jazz, ballroom dancing, and New York Times?’ Will Shortz‘s crossword-puzzle workshop. The resort’s eco-friendly 30,000-square foot spa offers numerous rejuvenating treatments, an indoor heated swimming pool, a comprehensive fitness center, and a yoga/motion studio. There is also a gift shop that carries artisanal gifts, apparel, accessories, snacks, and beverages. The resort is open year-round.

There is a library in the main building; several books written by regular Mohonk guests are included in the collection. The hotel also has special rooms for viewing television and using the internet, and wireless internet access is complimentary throughout the resort.Supervised children’s activities are available for adults who want privacy or free time to explore the resort on their own.

All overnight guests at the Mohonk Mountain House are on the “Full American Plan”. Three meals and afternoon tea are provided daily as part of the room rate. Guests checking into the resort are first offered tea and cookies in the late afternoon, followed by dinner, and breakfast the next morning. Check-out time is 1:00 p.m; lunch on the day of departure is included. Guests may substitute a pack lunch so that they can have a picnic after leaving the hotel. The main dining room provides guests with a view of the Catskill Mountains to the north. In the summer a barbecue lunch buffet is available at the outdoor “Granary” perched on a cliff overlooking Lake Mohonk. Day guests may make advance reservations to purchase meals in the hotel, receive spa treatments, spend the day hiking or horse-riding on the hotel’s grounds, or engage in selected activities.

Notable guests and important conferences held at Mohonk

Water Fountain

The Mohonk Mountain House has hosted many famous visitors including industrialist John D. Rockefeller, naturalistJohn Burroughs, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft,Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur, and Bill Clinton. Guests have also included former First Lady Julia Grant, author Thomas Mann, and religious leaders such as RabbiLouis Finkelstein, Reverend Ralph W. Sockman, ReverendFrancis Edward Clark. `Abdu’l-Bahá, the eldest son of Bahá’í Faith founder Bahá’u’lláh, stayed there in 1912 during the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration as part of his journeys to the West.

From 1883 to 1916, annual conferences took place at Mohonk Mountain House, sponsored by Albert Smiley, to improve the living standards of native American Indian populations. These meetings brought together government representatives of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the House and Senate committees on Indian Affairs, as well as educators, philanthropists, and Indian leaders to discuss the formulation of policy. The 22,000 records from the 34 conference reports are now at the library of Haverford College for researchers and students of American history.

The hotel also hosted the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration between 1895 and 1916, which was instrumental in creating the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands. Those conference papers were donated by the Smiley Family to Swarthmore College for future research.

In the media

The Mountain House was featured on The Today Show on September 28, 2006 for a teambuilding adventure for Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry. It was mentioned as a key point in the Stephen King novel The Regulators, the epilogue of which is a letter written on Mohonk Mountain House stationery.

Mohonk Mountain House has been featured on The Travel Channel‘s Great Hotels andAnthony Bourdain: No Reservations, as well as the television program America’s Castleson the A&E Network, among other programs. The resort was the setting of the 1994 film,The Road to Wellville, starring Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Broderick.

The historic resort has been featured numerous times in major national newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes. Oprah‘s O magazine has featured it twice, including highlighting the spa’s mindfulness eating seminar using meditative awareness for weight loss.


Seen from Skytop observation tower

Mohonk Mountain House has received dozens of awards from magazines and news outlets. Condé Nast Traveler has given it nine awards since 2008, including “Number One Resort Spa in the United States” (2013). Travel + Leisurehas given the resort seven awards since 2009, including “Number Two Hotel Spa in the United States” (2013) and “Number Six Hotel Spa in the World” (2013).

Mohonk has received numerous and repeated awards from spa magazines, including Spafinder Wellness, Organic Spa Magazine, Spas of America, and Spa. Fodor’s listed it as one of “10 Best Spa Trips” for 2012, and in 2010 named it as one of 10 Best Hotels for Kids and Families. In 2011, Every Day with Rachael Ray listed Mohonk as one of “Our Eight Favorite Resorts”. The resort has received awards from Wine Spectator Magazine andWine Enthusiast Magazine, and it has also garnered numerous awards and commendations for being green and eco-friendly.

Image Gallery
Glacial Cliff Garden Fishing Gazebo
Skytop Tower Tower Door Fishing Gazebo