Earlier this year, a friend stumbled upon a set of photos of the derelict Overlook Mountain House outside of Woodstock in New York's Catskill Mountains. When TravelandLeisure.com published the World's Eeriest Abandoned Places last month, I was reminded of my desire to explore these ruins. So on a recent weekend getaway to the nearby town of Saugerties, a short two-hour drive north of New York City, I insisted we find the abandoned hotel, which in its prime hosted such esteemed guests as President Ulysses S. Grant, as described in a New York Times article from 1873.
What I assumed would be a leisurely 1.5 mile hike, quickly turned into a mildly strenuous trek straight up Overlook Mountain. But it was worth it to explore the bleak remains of one of the famed 19th-century Catskills resorts that prospered up until its demise in the 1920s.
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According to Thomas Rinaldi and Robert Yasinsac's book, Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape, and their website hudsonvalleyruins.org, the ruins are the remains of the third hotel on the site. The first was built in 1871, and destroyed by fire just four years later. The second incarnation of the Mountain House, built in 1878, competed for business with the other fashionable hotels in the area, including the Hotel Kaaterskill, Laurel House, and the Grand Hotel.
However, due to the hotel's remote location, higher than the other Catskills resorts, it was difficult for guests to get there. After a fire destroyed the second building in 1923, a third version of the house was rebuilt in concrete, but never completed. Eventually New York State took over ownership of most of Overlook Mountain, and the hotel was abandoned in the early 40s. In the 60s, yet another fire consumed the hotel. Because of its concrete shell, it is the only remaining ruin of the old Catskills resorts.
To get there, head to the main intersection of Woodstock, and take Rock City Road north until it becomes Meads Mountain Road. Continue on approximately 2 miles up the mountain. The trailhead is on the right, across the street from a Buddhist monastery.
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Lyndsey Matthews is an online editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
Looking for more on Catskills hotels? Read T+L’s Travel Guide to The Catskills and Hudson Valley.