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

The closest airport to Mohonk is Hudson Valley (although cheap fares are more plentiful to Newark and NYC).

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