My in-laws gave my wife and I a free weekend at the Mohonk Mountain House for our 10th anniversary a few years back. It's one of the last remaining old resorts in the Catskills and Shawangunks area of New York state, just outside of the college town of New Paltz, and about 100 miles north of New York City.
Mohonk is surrounded by some of the best hiking and rock climbing on the east coast. The Catskills are about 30 miles to the north and you can see all of the peaks on the Devil's Path Trial, the most strenuous backpacking trail in the Catskills region, from the front porch of the hotel. In addition, the famous Gunks climbing area in Minnewaska State Park (below) is located just a few miles (by hiking trail) from the hotel or about 15 minutes by car.
But the trails around the resort itself make for fantastic hiking and are easily accessible by people of all ages and fitness levels.They are based on a network of carriageways that linked the great hotels of the Shawangunks region together in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Guests would ride in horse and buggy through the forest and over mountains to call on their friends at neighboring resorts.
Today the carriageways are mostly used by hikers, but some horseback riding and mountain biking is also permitted on a limited basis. The carriageways form a dense network of trails linking Mohonk with the Minnewaska Preserve and provide an wide variety of destinations including lakes, waterfalls, peaks, and wild meadows. This is mostly day-hiking territory, but limited camping is available nearby.
The carriageways themselves are fascinating construction marvels, considering they were first built in the 1800's, by hand with local labor. Most are about 5-8 yards wide, graded and covered with gravel or wood chips. They have large, reinforced stone foundations made from local mountain talus and hug the sides of mountains as they wind through the region's valleys and over its streams.
If you are interested in visiting Mohonk Mountain House, day passes are available that provide access to the carriageways and to the resort's world famous gardens. You can also hike in and access the carriageways from Minnewaska State Park for a small fee.
Excellent maps of the carriageways and all of the trails in the Shawagunks and Catskills regions are available from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. I always carry these when I'm hiking in the area.
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