Skytop Tower is an internationally renowned landmark of the Hudson Valley located in the 6,400-acre Mohonk Preserve. This premier destination is one of primary points of interest on along the Shawangunk Ridge, a section of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by over 70 miles of carriage roads and 40 miles of trails for hiking, cycling, trail running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, rock climbing, and horseback riding. The Labyrinth is a 1-mile-long rock scramble that goes under, over, and around gigantic boulders that once crashed down from this prominent, white faced conglomerate cliff side. Your journey will take you up angled ladders, between damp rock slabs, and up a 100-foot rock crevice known as the notorious Lemon Squeeze. Your trek emerges at the historic tower that boasts 360-degree views of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills and overlooks the historic Mohonk Mountain House. This is New York State's largest visitor- and member-supported nature preserve with over 165,000 guests coming here annually. The trailhead is on the east side of Lake Mohonk near the hotel. Due to the path’s excessive popularity, you may want to tackle the trail on a weekday to avoid lines, which will sometimes form at the difficult sections. A trip during the week will also save you a few dollars at the gate; the hiking pass cost is $22 per person during the week and $27 per person on the weekend. This trail is doable for almost all hikers, but be warned that there are plenty of places to fall and injure yourself. Arrive at Mohonk early in the day so that you may have the opportunity to park behind the Mountain House. Otherwise, you may have to park near the gate entrance and hike a few miles up to Mohonk Lake. The Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze are closed in the winter when ice and snow make the obstacles very dangerous. The Mohonk Mountain House producers a Hiker's Map to help you navigate your route.
Upon your arrival, take some time to enjoy the scenic gazebos and the stunning architecture of the hotel. Please note that day guests are not allowed in the hotel. The entrance to the Labyrinth is a few hundred feet to the left of the boating docks. Walk over a wooden bridge and onto the carriage road. There is a sign about the Labyrinth, and the path disappears into a narrow crevice. Be mindful of the red blazes that will often identify the best routes around obstacles. There are wooden staircases and platforms built into the trail, and many times you will second guess a slither behind a rock or a tunnel beneath a boulder. Look up periodically and see others exploring the paths over your head. This is truly a multi-dimensional trail, and it requires you to be very comfortable on your hands and feet. There are periodic exit points to the carriageway along the lake if you become too claustrophobic. After about a half-mile you will emerge to a wooded area. There is a staircase to your left that exits the trail up to the top of the cliff that you can use if you have become too overwhelmed with the route. Assuming you are having a fantastic experience though, continue to follow the red blazes.
Suddenly you will find yourself at the base of an even higher cliff with large outcroppings that hang overhead. A graveyard of fallen rocks lies before you begging for exploration. The views open up as the trees disappear into a sea of white conglomerate boulders. Continue for another half-mile and the trail will begin a rock climb that leads right into a crevice. Yes, you will need to enter the mountain! Millennia of freezing and thawing have caused this entire land mass to separate! You will feel cool air exiting from holes that go down into the depths of the earth. There are old Native American legends of tunnels that descend here and exit on the other side of the mountain. Look up and you will see a series of wooden ladders at angles you only thought existed in fun houses. Proceed down the packed dirt pathway in between the walls of rock and begin your ascent step by step. As you get closer to the top, the space becomes so narrow behind a wedged boulder that you may need to remove your backpack just to get through. The last few feet require a bit of leg muscles and arm work to climb out of the mountain. At last, you have emerged at a stunning open vista looking across the Shawangunk Mountains with Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Sam’s Point Preserve.
Proceed to your right and across the wooden bridge that crosses the crevice. Take one final look down because you cannot return this way. The final bit of elevation gain takes you up to a carriage road that winds its way up to Skytop Tower. Walk up the steps and through the iron gates. There is a plaque embedded on the wall commemorating Alfred Smiley. This tower has open access throughout the year, and there are different types of trails that lead up to it depending on the season, your desired activity, and your threshold of adventure. Skytop was built in 1921, and there are exactly 100 steps to the open air top which has exhilarating views spanning to six states.
These Shawangunk Mountains mark the western edge of the Hudson Valley, which are some of the most popular climbing cliffs in America. The Trapps and Millbrook Mountain are to the immediate south and are home to the highest sheer-faced cliffs east of the Mississippi River. To the east you can see the eastern edge of the Hudson River Valley and the watershed divide created by the Taconic Mountains. Look for Brace Mountain in Taconic State Park. Hudson Highland State Park and Storm King State Park can be seen far in the distance to the southeast where the Hudson River cuts through the valley. To the north lies the massive Catskill range with Overlook Mountain and Eagle Cliff standing at its eastern limits. To the northwest you can see Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskills, amidst many prominent peaks in the heart of the Catskill Preserve. On clear days, you can even see as far as Vermont's Green Mountains to the northeast. Return to the trailhead down the winding carriageway. A large map is positioned within sight of the tower to help you find your way.
“Mohonk” is believed to be derived from the Native American word "maxkwung," which is Lenape for "hill of bears." Early records refer to the mountain as "Moggonck" which underwent a change in spelling for aesthetic reasons. Albert and his twin brother, Alfred, were Quakers who purchased Mohonk in 1869. They developed the property's first boarding house that eventually evolved into the present-day Mountain House Hotel. Throughout its existence, the preserve has adopted an outdoor education and conservation advocacy agenda that includes land protection and environmental programs for the youth. There is also a weather station on top of the tower that has been collected data for over a century. Together, the Mohonk Mountain House and Mohonk Preserve are a designated National Historic Landmark (1986).
Bring your own food and water because there are no facilities available to hikers. Pets are not allowed on the hotel’s private property, and they would not be capable of completing the Lemon Squeeze, regardless. Family day passes are also available, and these cover two adults and two children. More features available to hotel guests include the greenhouse, gardens, boating on Lake Mohonk, swimming, tennis, golf, horse riding, and an indoor heated pool. In the winter there is an outdoor ice rink housed under a 9,375-square-foot pavilion a short walk from the hotel. Another day option is to enjoy a dining experience or spa treatment, which comes with day access to the grounds. Please call 866.535.8692 to make a reservation, and be sure to take advantage of the House History Tour. Questions regarding the Mountain House should be directed to their information line at 845.255.1000 or 800.772.6646.