The Urban Cowboy Lodge is situated in the centre of the 68-acre Big Indian Wilderness, a nature preserve that boasts numerous trails and watering holes, all set to the backdrop of a haunting, mountainous landscape.
Due to its isolated and rural location, it is strongly advised that you travel to the property, which opened in spring last year, by car. As you find yourself driving down the highway and deeper into nature, there is a beautiful moment when your cell loses service and the breath-taking Catskill mountains suddenly come into view. Your GPS will stop working too, so be sure to download a map and directions in advance, as well as the curated Spotify playlist that the property will send you to accompany your journey.
Prior to my trip, the staff at the lodge were extremely communicative, their tone was chatty and familiar, ensuring I was fully prepared for my stay. Right from the off, the standard of service was set high, which left me feeling I was going to be well looked after during my two-night visit. They did not fail to deliver on arrival, when I was welcomed with a choice of bubbles or bourbon at check-in. When I was shown to my room, there was also a hand written note welcoming me on my bed.
Now, about my room. No doubt the focal point of the Alpine Bathing Suite was the bright copper bathtub in the centre, with great views overlooking the Catskill Mountains. The décor takes on a maximalist feel, with a campy and yet considered approach to anything and everything woodsy - it felt like a Wes Anderson take on Twin Peaks. Every texture and print mismatched and no surface is left plain. But instead of this feeling overwhelming, the combination works. It felt inviting and cosy, from the plaid curtains, patterned woollen blankets and oversized wooden panel headboard. The colours are rich and warm, contrasting the pink cooper bathtub with deep greens and mustards. I felt immediately at home and at ease.
Further comforts in the room included a functioning cast iron stove, heated floors and a large leather armchair. The ‘keeping it American’ theme is found in the mini bar, with its locally sourced candy, chips, beer and ales from a nearby brewery. There are also ready-made cocktails, crafted in house. The toiletries - provided by Khus & Khus and Detox Babe - are all botanical-forward brands using organic ingredients. To top it all off, a rubber ducky dressed as a cowboy was my companion during my multiple baths.
As the day came to a close over the Catskill mountains, I headed over to dine at the main cabin, which is where you can also find the bar, games room (aka ‘the Den’) and a private cinema (to be booked out in advance). Since the restaurant opened earlier this year, it has been thriving. It is evident that they have worked to create a menu as unique as their space. Sustainable-meets-simple-yet-delicious, seems to be the main theme of the menu, with a vegetable-heavy focus and an intentional use of proteins. This was evident with their pork dish, for which the restaurant buys an entire quarter back of a pig, with the cuts evolving through the night as they serve. Cooked and plated with a caramel and fish sauce, it was sticky and sweet with complex flavours.
I paired my meal with the locally baked Wilson’s bread (which only needed pickles and butter to complement its taste) and the beer battered shiitakes, a fun take on bar food. But the unsuspecting show stopper was the 18-hour slow cooked cabbage, which has been on the menu since opening. Cooked overnight, the dish was meaty enough to satisfy any carnivore, the charcoaled exterior crispy, with the inside soft and chewy. Served with parsnip and packed full of flavours such as apple and mustard, it was hearty and extremely satisfying.
As dusk settled in and I enjoyed my dinner, I admired the handpicked wild flowers on my table (a decorative touch seen throughout the Urban Cowboy Lodge). I watched the fire flies dance upon the vast green lawn, and I felt at peace.
The next morning, coffee was delivered to my room in thermos flask big enough for two, along with my choice of milk and breakfast. I chose to enjoy my coffee on the balcony, to admire the view of the mountains once more. Another sight that caught my eye as I sat back absorbing the view was the number of other guests doing just the same (all suites come with a balcony). All of us, in our jade green Pendleton robes, soaking up the morning. It was a vibe.
The room also comes with a guide to local activities within the Catskills area, as well as onsite events that the property hosts. The team at the lodge will meet weekly to discuss and keep the guide current as well as weather relevant. It is comprehensive to say the least, but I still had some further questions, so decided to head back to find out more. After a few words of advice, I hiked up Giants Ledge for stunning views, visited a local brewery with a pop-up food fair and swam in a waterfall. Following another conversation with the onsite bar-tender about the origins of their cocktail ‘Mahogany Ridge,’ I was also able to discover a local bar which housed a retro wooden ten pin bowling alley.
All of these unique experiences helped to make my stay so memorable and special. It is no wonder that so many of the lodge’s guests (despite being open for just over a year) are returning. I learned that the grand piano in the Den was actually a gift from a local who dines regularly, wanting to give it to a home where it would be loved. Talking to the staff it is clear that they are passionate about their place of work and its future plans, with an Estonian sauna due to open in a matter of weeks.
The finale of my stay was a trip along the recently cut ‘Jesses Trail,’ an onsite 20-minute stroll scattered with wild flowers, daisies and buttercups. On completion of the trail, there is the option to indulge in nature swim in the Esopus creek. While it certainly was cold, it will invigorate you more than any morning coffee and I highly recommend.
After staying at the Urban Cowboy, their tag line “arrive as strangers leave as friends” makes perfect sense to me. At the time of my stay, the lodge was fully occupied, so I encourage to book while you can and make yourself a part of the Urban Cowboy family.
An easy escape from NYC, the Catskills are the perfect getaway for effortless social-distancing, offering a plethora of opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities, stunning views and excellent accommodations.
Urban Cowboy Lodge is only 2.5 hours from New York City and offers rustic luxury accommodations, dating back to 1898, that have been artfully revived by Lyon Porter’s signature design style of bold patterns, repurposed structures, and hand-picked Americana antiques with a commitment to elemental experiences inspired by the power of nature.
Find out more on the official website.
Words: Emily Clark