The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House



When Contemplating The Towering Turrets, charming gazebos, and scenic views of Mohonk Mountain House, the 136-year-old Victorian castle resort in New Paltz, NY, it's almost impossible to distinguish the new 30,000-square-foot spa wing from the rest of the landscape. Nestled amidst a bevy of trees and the majestic vistas of the Shawangunk Mountains along the shores of pristine Lake Mohonk, The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House incorporates the color, style, and design of the rest of the property. The new building, which opened in August, epitomizes the resort's pledge to remain "the same, only better" than it was when it was founded in 1869. The unobtrusive exterior, however, is where this simplicity ends. It belies a luxurious interior comprised of a modern, sophisticated spa that features a progressive emphasis on the environment, including a biodynamic heating and cooling system, a host of contemporary treatments that utilize local ingredients, and much more. "The building is beautiful, yet functional, and once inside, one immediately feels calm, contemplative, and totally relaxed," says Mohonk Mountain House CEO Albert Smiley, great-grandnephew of the resort's founder.

The 16-room spa includes four wet rooms, three facial rooms, a couples suite, and several massage rooms. The couples suite, where sessions are performed alongside a charming fireplace, is connected to a lounge that can be used for pre- and post-treatment relaxation. Surrounding the treatment areas are two 80-foot-long glass-enclosed verandas that are connected to an inviting solarium featuring a stone fireplace. The 360-degree view allows spa-goers to relax before and after spa services and enjoy the natural scenery. The "bringing-the-outside-in" philosophy continues with a 30- by 60-foot indoor heated pool that is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows and exposed beams. Outside the solarium, a mineral pool provides a rejuvenating respite.

 Treatments in the couples suite are performed by fire-and candlelight.
Treatments in the couples suite are performed by fire-and candlelight.

Integrating indigenous resources and putting the environment first was a priority when creating the spa. Because it was carved into a quartz stone bluff overlooking the lake, the spa features more than 600 tons of quartz in its walls, fireplaces, and retaining walls. Local cedar and timber were also used throughout the building. The other significant homage to the environment is the geothermal temperature control system. The spa is heated and cooled by the constant temperature of the earth with a system that virtually eliminates on-site emissions. Also implemented in the spa's design is a 2,000-square-foot green roof terrace that is populated with native plants and designed to be a meditative retreat for spa guests, as well as provide natural insulation for the building below.

Clockwise From Top Left: The retail area, which features spa products, clothing, and gifts, contributes significantly to the spas revenue; the solarium revolves around a stone fireplace with a mosaic tile panel depicting the resorts signature cedar structures or "summerhouses;" a 2,000-square-foot green roof incorp-orates many native plants and is a meditative retreat for guests; the  womens (pictured) and mens locker rooms feature cedar lockers, as well as steam rooms and saunas; the spas 30- by 60-foot indoor heated pool is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windowed walls and exposed cedar beams.
Clockwise From Top Left: The retail area, which features spa products, clothing, and gifts, contributes significantly to the spas revenue; the solarium revolves around a stone fireplace with a mosaic tile panel depicting the resorts signature cedar structures or "summerhouses;" a 2,000-square-foot green roof incorp-orates many native plants and is a meditative retreat for guests; the womens (pictured) and mens locker rooms feature cedar lockers, as well as steam rooms and saunas; the spas 30- by 60-foot indoor heated pool is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windowed walls and exposed cedar beams.

Natural elements from the local environment can also be found in several of the spa's signature treatments. When creating the menu, spa director Hollis Beckwith utilized indigenous botanicals like the "Mohonk Red" witch hazel that is found on the property and is grown specifically for the Mohonk Red Massage ($145, 80 minutes), the Mohonk Red Facial ($125, 75 minutes) and the Mohonk Red Manicure ($65, 45 minutes) and Pedicure ($75, 50 minutes). "The witch hazel is indigenous to Mohonk and is one of the oldest beauty treatments, which has so many wonderful properties that I know of," says Beckwith. "Shawangunk Grit," which is made up of the quartz crystals taken from the cliffs of Lake Mohonk, is the main ingredient in the Shawangunk Grit Body Treatment ($145, 80 minutes), an exfoliating and moisturizing hydrotherapy treatment, and is incorporated in various other treatments. "Indian tradition is that when you take something out of the earth, you have to give back," explains Beckwith. "With the Shawangunk treatment, we've literally given the mountain back to the people at the spa." In the future, Beckwith also hopes to expand the treatment menu and incorporate native acorns and glacial mud, thus furthering the spa's mission of rejuvenating the body, mind, and spirit with elements found on or around the 2,200-acre property.

The spa's outdoor mineral pool is a place for serene relaxation in a natural setting.
The spa's outdoor mineral pool is a place for serene relaxation in a natural setting.

The traditions of Mohonk and its evirons are incorporated into the spa in other ways, as well. Framed nature-themed photographs taken by Ruth Smiley, Albert Smiley's mother, are found in each of the treatment rooms. Archived photographs from the resort's past dot the walls of the rest of the spa wing, along with art by local artists. Stained glass windows and carpets in the spa employ a lily pad motif, a nod to the picturesque lily pads that can be found all around Lake Mohonk. A mosaic tile panel adorns the solarium's stone fireplace, and each treatment room features a distinctive handmade ceramic sign designating the room's name.

The spa's comfortable pedicure stations overlook the lush vistas of Mohonk Mountain's 2,200-acre property.
The spa's comfortable pedicure stations overlook the lush vistas of Mohonk Mountain's 2,200-acre property.

Beckwith says resort guests are flocking to the spa and are thrilled so far with the design treatments and environmental philosophies. In fact, the sheer magnitude of visitors seeking spa services created a bit of a labor challenge. To meet the demands, Beckwith hosted a job fair, which she says was a "hugely successful" way to find qualified workers. The spa staff currently totals about 60, but Beckwith says she will not be fully staffed until that number reaches 75 to 80.

The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House
The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House

Another pleasant surprise for Beckwith is the diversity she is seeing in her spa-going populace. While women still make up the majority of the clientele and most resort visitors tend to be Manhattanites in the 25- to 45-year-old range, she's seeing more men, couples, teens, and even more elderly clients. "I've been surprised and thrilled to see some of our regulars bringing their grandmothers," she says.

This may be the spa's biggest compliment and a testament to its seamless incorporation of modern technology, Victorian charm, and environmental philosophy. Though The Spa at Mohonk Mountain is only 90 miles away from the bustling metropolis of New York City, it has fulfilled its mission of being a world apart by maintaining its ties to the past. Like the founder planned more than a century ago, life on the mountain, and now, in the spa, is "Life as it was meant to be."

Suggested Articles

For contemplation and mindfulness, The Mandarin Oriental is going silent for one night.

Spas are addressing mental wellbeing and brain health with revolutionary new treatments that address cognitive performance.

Fashion can be eco-friendly. See how Fashionizer Spa incorporates sustainable habits from production to delivery.