Whiteface Mountain — it’s big, it’s bold, it’s beautiful. At 4,867 feet in elevation, Whiteface is New York’s fifth highest mountain, and its pointy peak is also the most accessible. How you get to the top is up to you, but the payoff from the open rock summit is the same — expansive views that include Montreal to the north, Lake Champlain to the east, and a big collection of High Peaks to the south. So drive, bike, walk, or ride your way to one of the best vistas in the Northeast!
There’s a road up Whiteface, why not use it? Pay the fee at the toll booth and let your vehicle do the work as you climb the 8-mile Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway up the flanks of the mountain. There are plenty of overlooks along the way, so give your engine a rest and enjoy the views — each one is a little better than the last — before parking just below the summit. Since the elevator is under repair until further notice, you will have to make the final 0.2-mile ascent up the stone stairs, a trek along a narrow ridge that’s well worth the effort.
If climbing the stone stairs is your idea of a warmup, then the next logical step is to take many steps — from the base of Whiteface to the mountain’s lofty peak. There are three places to begin this hike from and all of them are scenic, but the most pleasant approach is the 6-mile hike from Connery Pond. That’s also the longest route, so if you want something more direct try the 5.2 mile hike via the Wilmington Trail. The shortest route starts at the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center and follows an old T-bar lift line up Marble Mountain, then joins the Wilmington Trail. It charges straight uphill and shaves about a mile off the Wilmington Trail.
That road to the summit isn’t just for driving. If you have the endurance, you can bike to the top. It’s a long, 8-mile incline up an 8 percent grade, but the trip back down is a blast.
The Cloudsplitter Gondola doesn’t deliver riders to the top of Whiteface, but it does go to the 3,676-foot summit of Little Whiteface, where there’s a large wooden deck overlooking Lake Placid lake. The scenic ride alone is totally worth the price of admission, but the grand finale is really where it’s at. From the aforementioned viewing platform you’ll see the Adirondacks spread before you; turn around and crane your neck to gaze up at the steep, pyramid-like sides of the big mountain.
OK, so we know this blog is about going up Whiteface, but if you’re into excitement the best way down the mountain is by mountain bike. Rent everything you need from the base lodge, then take it all up Little Whiteface via the gondola. Once there, you can pick the route that best suits you and head down, just take note — this is not for the faint of heart, and it’s definitely not the way to go if you’ve never been on a mountain bike.