The views from Whiteface encompass all sides and include the Green Mountains of Vermont, the skyscrapers in Montreal on a very clear day, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire on an even clearer day.
Whiteface is the fifth highest peak in New York, and is one of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks. Whiteface is often climbed with Esther Mountain, another High Peak.
Whiteface Mountain is a unique mountain in that it has a perfectly good access road to just below the summit. Then a short walk through a manmade passage, within the mountain, will bring you to an elevator which will deliver you to the visitor’s area near the summit. There is also a staircase to the top from the parking area. But, if you want to climb it, you will need to use one of these routes below.
Trail from the ASRC
This approach is the shortest, but that does not mean easiest. Whiteface Mountain is a High Peak, meaning there will be significant elevation gain and rugged terrain that brings you to one of the tallest mountains in New York.
Primary Trailhead: From the four-way stop sign in Wilmington, take the turn onto Route 431 (Whiteface Mountain Road) toward the Toll Road. Follow here, go 2.4 miles to the Atmospheric Science Research Center Road on the left. Follow this road around the one-way roundabout to the trail and parking on the right, just past a dirt road that descends into the woods. The trail is not labeled with a DEC sign.
This is a 4.0 mile hike, one way. From the trailhead you descend a bit to a very long and steep climb up Marble Mountain. The Marble Mountain section used to be an old ski slope and you will be able to see that in the old cement footers that still line the trail. Marble Mountain is rather steep and in the summer, if it's been dry, can have challenging footing. There are a lot of loose rocks and gravel.
From the top of Marble Mountain you will come to an intersection, left is the secondary trail outlined below. Right is the route you will want. After a short break on a flatter section you will start a demanding climb through an evergreen forest that opens up a few views along the way. After about 2.5 miles you will come to a rather large cairn at a trail intersection. This is the herd path to Esther Mountain, which has no official trail. Continuing straight, the climb relaxes a bit after a short descent before it climbs steeply to the Whiteface Memorial Highway. During times where the road is open to vehicles it cannot be walked on. The trail leaves the roadside as soon as it hits it and climbs steeply up the remaining 0.5 miles along an open ridge with amazing views. You will continue the ridge to the summit of Whiteface where you will be greeted in awe by all those who drove up.
Trail from the Reservoir
The approach intersects the trail the ASRC; the only difference is it is a bit longer. This route is used as often as the primary trail and offers a slightly easier grade but more elevation gain.
Secondary Trailhead: From the four-way stop sign in Wilmington, take the turn onto Route 431 (Whiteface Mountain Road) toward the Toll Road. Go 0.6 miles to Reservoir Road on the left, drive to the end and park.
This is a 5.7-mile hike, one-way, to the summit.
From the trailhead you will hike through an attractive open forest along a well-trodden foot trail for 1.2 miles. For the most part, the grade isn’t too steep but it is very steady. It remains steady until the trail then swings right and up steeply to just below the summit of Marble Mountain at the intersection with the primary trail above. Read more on the primary trail above.
Trail from Whiteface Landing
This is the least used approach and is considerably more challenging.
Third Trailhead: From the four-way intersection in Wilmington, travel east on Route 86 toward Lake Placid. Drive for just about 10-miles to a large parking lot at a bridge over the Ausable River. From here, you can access Connery Pond and Whiteface Landing. Just up the road from the parking lot, there is a dirt road that leads back to the trailhead for Whiteface Landing. You can park here in the summer, but there are few spots, so parking on Route 86 might be the best option. The trailhead is less than one-mile down the dirt road. In winter you will need to park at the large lot along the road, as the gate will be closed and the dirt road unmaintained.
This is a 6-mile hike, one-way, to the summit of Whiteface. From the trailhead at Connery Pond, pass by the gate and begin a rather moderate hike along an old gravel strewn woods road. The footing is a bit tough in spots due to the rocky terrain but it’s a rather quick hike back to Whiteface Landing, on the shore of Lake Placid.
From Whiteface Landing be sure to take that sharp right toward Whiteface Mountain and Whiteface Brook lean-to. Left will bring you to Lake Placid (the lake). The trail is fairly flat most of the way to the lean-to, but then starts a very demanding climb, almost right up the fall line of the mountain. Eventually, you will come to a very rocky section where footing is very tough and time is needed to safely pass. The summit isn’t far ahead.
All three approaches can be accessed in winter. The Whiteface Landing route will likely have the least activity. Once on the summit, there may be heavy winds and frigid temperatures. Proper winter attire and gear is critical here. Traction devices, such as snowshoes and spikes, are necessary to traverse the icy sections and deep snows.