I have always wanted to stay at the beautiful Mohonk Mountain House resort in New Paltz, New York. But at an extravagant rate of $500/night, all meals included if that justifies anything, even if I had choked up the money, my husband would have nullified my reservation. But I am determined to make my way to New Paltz for I have heard that the mountains there are amazing.
As determined as I am to get the places that I would like to go, I found several loopholes other than staying at the hotel in order to explore the resort grounds. You can dine at their buffet ranging from $35 – $60 per person depending on breakfast, lunch, dinner, or Sunday Brunch. Meals give you privileges to the grounds and the house. Sign up for one of the spa treatments, which I am sure judging from the price of their meals, will not be a small sum. Finally, the route that we took, pay $50 for a family of four day pass. You get privileges to the grounds, but not to the house.
We arrive at the Day pass parking lot, where the ticket booth will give you a band to wrap around your wrist to indicate that you do not get any house access. And, be prepared, instead of parking at the upper parking lot where the guest park, you park at the lower parking lot where you have the wonderful privilege of walking 2.2 miles extra to get to their famous tower on the cliff.
Luckily, my son pointed us toward an extraordinary shortcut that would take us through steeper grades and rocky paths. Definitely not a route to take if you are wheelchair bound or have any physical limitations. The Fox Path, more interesting than the open parallel to the auto route trail, would shave off 45 minutes from the hike.
- Parking Lot
- Huguenot Trail
- Whitney Road
- North Lookout Road
- Fox Path (red dotted line on the Mohonk map key)
- Sky Top Road
- Sky Top Tower
Along the way, there will be many ledge overlooks viewing the Catskill Mountains. A perfect private picnic perched along rocks boulders jutting out onto rocky cliffs. Hawks flying overhead in search of food. A small Lily Pond filled with lily pads and a pagoda.
On that day, a boy had managed to capture a huge friendly frog. And by friendly, I mean how many wild frogs have you seen in someone’s palm sitting comfortably showing no signs of legs struggling to get free?
Daddy, “Why can’t I bring him home”, the boy pleaded with him.
I teased him that he would need a big backyard and a pond for the frog.
He was so cute, he replied “but I have a big backyard and a pond that would fit him!”
In the end, he unwillingly released the frog.
By the time we arrived at the tower, my youngest son was demanding his cheese and cracker snack. Seems the climb was enough to burn off the lunch he had not too long ago. We enjoyed another scenic view sitting at the benches before taking the final climb up the tower.
From the Sky Top, you will see stairs with a posted, “Labyrinth Do Not Enter”. It is a confusing sign though. It conveys the message that the narrow stairs are not safe to travel. But as we hover over the stairs trying to access how unsafe it was, a group of 20+ college kids came rumbling up the stairs. It seemed it was totally safe to travel! So we descended down and upon looking up, noticed there wasn’t any signpost warning going up, only for those going down. Maybe because the stairs were narrow, Mohonk was just trying to keep the traffic in one direction.
This detour turns out to be the best side trip on this hike. Climbing 90 degrees straight down along boulders, we were rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the skyline. We kept a tight watch over the boys though. The sheer drop from the cliff edges here go straight down the mountain. There is also a short bridge that goes over a deep crevice. There are no rails to protect against the crevice neither. From the bridge, we noticed all the way down into the chasm, staircases. We assumed that it must have fallen into the crevice, but later on surprising heard voices coming from the crevice.
The Crevice Hike is among the daredevil hikes in the Mohonk area. It travels from the Mountain House, up steep forest, to the Crevice from which we stood. Within the average human width crevice there are a set of stairs, and then a 90 degree ladder with widely separated rungs and a final push requiring forearm strength to lift yourself up to the cliffs. This last part would require at least the length of a 10 year old boy to make the journey.
In other words, although my boys begged to make the hike down the mountain through this challenging path, my youngest nearly 7 year old, just wasn’t tall enough to climb down the gaps. Another opportunity to return back to these mountains.
If you would like to visit the grounds of the Mountain House and the small but beautiful gardens, you can make your way down “Sky Top Path”. The roads are a bit confusing here, you will know if you are on the correct path if you see the Mountain House and it’s Lake. If you do not see that, then you must be on Sky Top Road, from which you came from the Parking Lot. Turn and go around until you can see the Mountain House in view and then descend. The path runs along the ridge down a series of switchbacks, parallel to the lake.
My eldest son, had from the beginning of our hike when he heard that we had to make an extra 2.2 miles, declared he didn’t think he could make the hike. During our hike back to the parking lot, I noticed my two boys were way ahead of me.
I yelled out to Mathew, “Hey what happened to I’m tired. Seems to me you have more in you than you think you do”.
He replied. But it wasn’t loud. It came out like a murmur.
He looked at the floor for a quick second, as if the view looking forward would distract him from realizing his day’s achievement.
If there is anything that I have showed my son today, it is that he has more strength in him than he himself could see. I simply took him up a mountain. The lesson itself, though, was priceless.
Share with the Author: What is your best detour hike?