In the lush valleys of upstate New York lies the pristine natural conservation area known as Mohonk Preserve. This 8,000-acre parkland encompasses rolling fields, steep mountains, sparkling streams and jagged cliffs. For much of its one hundred year history, the preserve has been dedicated to providing a refuge of relaxation for guests at its adjoining Mohonk Mountain House, a sumptuous hotel that belongs to an arm of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, known as the Historic Hotels of America.
In addition to the amusing outdoor diversions offered by the hotel, the preserve boasts no less than 85 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and bird watching. The preserve protects more than 1,400 species of both animals and plants, many of which are native varieties classified as endangered. Avid birdwatchers will enjoy a glimpse of the shy peregrine falcons that nest in the park, while horticulturally minded visitors will enjoy classifying the many native species of flowers, shrubs and trees.
As one of the most popular activities for guests, Mohonk Mountain House hikes offer a range of trekking options for the beginner to the enthusiastic professional. Many of the trails have achieved award status both for their beauty and state of preservation. Trails include the J & S Grafton Sensory Trail, a hike developed to take advantage of local flora, fauna and expansive views of the historic Shawangunk Ridge. At just over a quarter of a mile in length, the trail is the natural choice for beginners, families with small children or those who don’t have a lot of time to explore but want to experience the beauty of the preserve.
The path to Van Leuven Cabin goes along Trapps Mountain and provides visitors with a glimpse of the park’s past, as it preserves the remains of a homesteading village from the 19th century. At an easy one and a half miles, this hike provides visitors with an enjoyable history lesson and leisurely hiking pace. For the more adventurous, Bonticou Crag Hike is three miles long and begins in the rolling fields of Spring Farm. Things quickly heat up as the trail turns toward the Bonticou Crag, a chalk-white rock escarpment that provides glorious views of the surrounding countryside for those who want to scale its walls.
Dedicated hikers will be drawn to the intimidatingly-named High Peters Kill, a seven and a half mile hike that takes in fantastic mountain views and encounters the pretty Peters Kill stream. Not for beginners or those in poor health, this hike is classified as strenuous. For those looking for a long hike that offers less difficulty, the Undercliff and Overcliff Carriage Roads trail follows five leisurely miles of rolling hills, placid farmland and unimpeded views over the valley laid out below.
Hiking day passes are available for purchase and can be obtained online or at the Visitors’ Center. In summer the trails are open to all, but in winter snowshoeing visitors will have to yield some trails to the cross-country skiers, who have designated trails groomed specifically for this purpose.