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A castle in the CatskillsA castle in the Catskills

New Paltz, New YorkNew Paltz, New York

Nestled in the Hudson Valley area of the southern Catskills, New Paltz, New York, is the perfect place to escape from it all. Spend your days exploring a nature preserve where waterfalls tumble over rocks, and forests blaze orange and red in fall. Then sleep in a world-famous castle perched above a gorgeous, glacier-carved lake. The entire scene is backed by Shawangunk Ridge (“The Gunks” or “Shongun” to locals), a mountain ridge that attracts rock climbers from across the globe. New Paltz is an eclectic mountain town where trendy restaurants, coffee shops, and pubs mingle with vintage clothing stores, peace flags, hemp shops, and outfitters. Dress it up, dress it down, or just get out there; New Paltz lets you have your weekend your way.

  • In the Hudson Valley area of the southern Catskills, the Mohonk Mountain House rises above Lake Mohonk. Jim Smith Photography.
  • The Solarium features rich woods, a fireplace, and wall-to-wall windows. Jim Smith Photography.
  • Formality still reigns in the Mohonk Mountain House Main Dining Room. Ken Hayden Photography.
  • Take a kayak, rowboat, or paddleboat out onto the lake to enjoy the fall colors. Photo courtesy Mohonk Mountain House.
  • Carriage rides are a fun way to see the lush grounds. Photo courtesy Mohonk Mountain House.
  • Roasting marshmallows at an evening bonfire around the lake brings families and friends together. Photo by Dana Gallagher.
  • Mohonk Mountain House on a fall day, as viewed from one of the many hiking trails. Photo courtesy Mohonk Mountain House.
  • Choose a Traditional, Victorian, or Tower Room like this one (some feature balconies and fireplaces). President Theodore Roosevelt stayed in room 571; writer Stephen King prefers room 666. Ken Hayden Photography.
  • Friends frolic at the indoor swimming pool. Photo by Dana Gallagher.
  • You can ride a mountain bike on the many trails in the preserve. Photo by Johanna DeKrey.
  • The Mohonk Mountain House property is home to both a golf course and botanical garden. The 110-year-old Scottish golf course, a historic landmark course, is designed in the old-links tradition of St. Andrews. Photo by Dana Gallagher.
  • The lake is the perfect place to learn how to fish. Photo by Dana Gallagher.
  • Explore the Mohonk Preserve, home to waterfalls like this one, Awosting Falls. Then remember your visit with a fine-art photograph from G. Steve Jordan Gallery, on Main Street in New Paltz. Photo by G. Steve Jordan.
  • Cross-country skiing is a popular winter pastime. Jim Smith Photography.
  • Each September, athletes test their mettle in the Survival of the Shawangunks Triathlon. Participants carry their own shoes as they swim. Photo by Tom Nolan, courtesy SOS.

Fly to Stewart International Airport, just 20 nautical miles north of the New York Class B airspace. Stewart has two runways, one of which is nearly 12,000 feet long (the airport is a former Air Force base and will host a big airshow in September 2018, featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds). If you’re hungry, you can grab a salad, burger, or sandwich at the Galaxy Café and watch the airplanes before you hop in your rental car and head 25 miles north to New Paltz.

Rock climbing instruction is offered by Alpine Endeavors at many locations around the preserve. All technical equipment is provided and guides are New York State licensed. Jim Smith Photography.

Founded in 1677 by French Huguenot refugees from Mannheim (now southwest Germany), the area was governed for over 150 years by 12 Huguenot partners and their heirs. The spectacular glacial lake is named Lake Mohonk, after a Native American word that means “Lake in the Sky.” About 150 years ago, twin Quaker brothers Alfred and Albert Smiley purchased 2,800 acres around the lake for $28,000. An eight-room home on the property was used as a small resort for friends and family. It became so popular that it was enlarged many times between 1869 and 1910, growing into the spectacular Mohonk Mountain House, perched like a castle above the reflective lake. The Smiley brothers envisioned a peaceful retreat where people could enjoy the beauty of nature. Past guests include Presidents Taft and Roosevelt, the Rockefellers, and the Vanderbilts; today’s guests include numerous Hollywood luminaries.

The 267-room Victorian castle of American chestnut, pine, and cherry has 138 working fireplaces along with modern amenities like Wi-Fi. Choose from an almost unlimited menu of activities including 85 miles of hiking trails; kayaking, rowing, or paddleboarding on the lake; swimming in the lake or indoor heated pool; strolling or touring the spectacular gardens and maze; browsing the library; tennis; lawn games; mountain biking; tomahawk throwing; rock or ice climbing; archery; basketball; billiards; disc golf; carriage rides; golf; fishing; skiing; ice skating; snowshoeing; yoga, meditation, and nutrition classes; horseback riding; nightly movies; and an award-winning spa. Choose rooms or suites in the Mountain House or the Grove Lodge, or stay in a cottage. The Main Dining Room features panoramic views, dramatic cathedral ceilings, and original woodwork from 1893. Sip cocktails in the Carriage Lounge, dine at the “Chef’s Table” in the kitchen, visit the old-fashioned soda fountain, or go al fresco at The Granary.

New Paltz is a college town with fun, independently owned shops. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Of course, Mohonk Mountain House isn’t the only place to stay in New Paltz. Maplestone Inn Bed and Breakfast is a stone farmhouse that dates to 1790. Bowl or play croquet on seven acres of lawn and enjoy a three-course gourmet dining room breakfast by the fire. The eco-friendly Moondance Ridge Bed and Breakfast incorporates the feel of a spa experience. On site, you’ll find gardens, a labyrinth, sauna, Reiki therapy, pond, and reflection area on this nature preserve, a certified wildlife habitat.

In the New Paltz village, you can stroll Main Street and visit antique, book, and gift shops. The Mohonk Mountain Stage Co. offers drama, poetry, comedy, and children’s programs in a variety of venues. Each September brings the Survival of the Shawangunks Triathlon, wherein participants change competition modalities seven times instead of the usual two, and must be self-sufficient, for example carrying their running shoes as they swim. They may be pushing themselves to the limit, but you can take your pick of fun activities in New Paltz, or just sit back, relax, and drink in the beauty of this New York paradise.

From its earliest days, the resort promoted values of stewardship, reflection, and renewal. Between 1883 and 1916, the resort hosted annual conferences to improve the living standards of Native Americans. And from 1895 to 1916, the hotel hosted the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration, 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. Photo by Steve Miura.

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Crista Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to aopadestinations@gmail.com.
Topics: US Travel

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