Barely ninety minutes north of the bustle of Manhattan, New York's Shawangunk Mountains are known for their unusual look and feel - a weird and wonderful mix of almost bonsai-like scrub pines, chilly ice caves, atmospheric bogs, fragrant fields of huckleberry and wild blueberry bushes and dramatic silver-white cliffs offering endless views. The surrounding towns - each one completely different than the next - are some of the most interesting in the state; in between you'll find the oldest apple-growing region in the country.
Topping out at a mere 2,289 feet above sea level, the Shawangunks (you can call them the 'Gunks if you like) are so much more than just a run-up to the more dramatic Catskills, located just one valley - the narrow and fertile Rondout - away. For starters, those cliffs comprise the busiest rock-climbing destination in the country. And, perhaps best of all, the Gunks are where you'll find the very-Victorian Mohonk Mountain House, one of the last truly great mountain house hotels in North America.
Mohonk isn't just a hotel, not by a long shot. Now more than 150 years old, this is a world unto itself, a private preserve in the sky, the resort grounds a manicured Magic Kingdom for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting nearly 90 miles of whimsical trails, around and above the picturesque Mohonk Lake.
Inside, a never-ending effort to bring the resort into the 21st century while preserving its classic vibe means renovated rooms, strong wireless internet, a better-than-ever dining room and an excellent cocktail lounge, a full slate of classes and activities and a full-service, destination-worthy spa. Of course, you can always just cozy up by the fire and let it snow - winter doesn't get much sexier than this.
How to go There are many ways to explore Mohonk, beginning with the purchase of a day pass, which allows unlimited access to the grounds, starting at $20 per day. A popular way to go is to reserve a meal in the dining room, which includes access to the grounds and hotel for the full day (from $38.75). Ideally, you'll stay over - rates in early December begin at $186.90 per person, per night, based on double occupancy and include breakfast, dinner, afternoon tea and most resort activities. Learn more at mohonk.com.