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A great question

It was the type of summer day that you dream about. Not too hot, a nice breeze, and plenty of sunshine. On this perfect summer day, two of my friends had traveled to the Adirondacks to visit me. Understandably, if you had a friend that lived in this area, the question becomes: why would you not want to visit? My friends and I started our day with some lunch and cold drinks that undeniably hit the spot. After we had our fill, we began to decide what we should do next. With so many things to do in the Adirondacks, oftentimes it’s difficult to pinpoint just one. “Why don’t we drive up Whiteface Veterans' Memorial Highway?” exclaimed one of my aforementioned friends. It was a great question, and one that had an answer that all of us could agree on. Since I had never driven up Whiteface, I was on board, and both of my friends were too. So we jumped in my vehicle and set off to experience the Whiteface Veterans' Memorial Highway for ourselves.

Aerial view of the forest surrounding the highway on Whiteface Mountain
Whiteface's Memorial Highway

How ‘bout that ride in

We arrived at the front gate with excitement and a little confusion as to what we would owe to make the drive up Whiteface. Maybe we should’ve done our research beforehand, but I’ll save you from any confusion now because it’s quite simple. The driver and passenger are $20 a person. For each additional passenger it's $10, and children 6 and under are free. Remember, the highway is only open from 8:45 a.m to 5:30 p.m. from May 20th to Oct 20th so keep that in mind when scheduling your drive. With that behind us, we paid our fee of $50 for three adult visitors, and we were on our way to the summit of Whiteface Mountain. 

The drive... in one word: surreal. Very quickly, it becomes something you have likely never experienced. Scenic lookouts line the highway so that you can pull over for photos or to simply take it all in. As you get close to the top, you begin to feel like you’re driving in the clouds, and around a few of the winding turns of the highway, it quickly feels like the sky is getting closer to your windshield (it is). Once at the top, parking spots line the side of the highway closer to the summit. The views along the parking area's safety wall are spectacular in their own right and really set the stage for what you’ll be seeing soon on the summit of Whiteface. From there, we set out on foot to see the rest for ourselves. 

Whiteface Castle and cars driving along the safety wall with a view of the Adirondacks behind it
The view from your vehicle really sets the stage for the view from the summit

Minimum walk, maximum view

You will never find a hike with more "bang for your buck" than the hike from your vehicle to the summit of Whiteface. We set off and walked the remaining stretch of the highway through the castle hall to the stairwell entry and began our ascent. As we pushed through the stairwell to the summit, we quickly realized that a quiet summit would not be in the cards. On the summit of Whiteface, be prepared to share the views. It’s important to be respectful of others' space on any mountain summit, and that never rings more true than on the top of Whiteface. Once finding our spot to view, we were able to take in a complete panorama of the Adirondacks. Personally, I’ve always found it interesting to orient yourself on a mountain’s summit and figure out what’s around you, and there aren’t many better places to do that than at Whiteface Mountain. In one direction, you can see Lake Champlain, a lake that looks more like an ocean. In another direction, you can clearly see the town of Lake Placid, Lake Placid itself, and Mirror Lake. On the summit, there are plenty of designated lookouts and binocular stations that you can use for just a few cents to get a better look. After experiencing the Whiteface summit, I can tell you firsthand, it’s worth the usual crowds, and it’s worth the price of admission. 

Disclaimer: there is some effort involved in the short hike to the top of Whiteface. It’s not as simple as driving directly to the summit. It's my recommendation to wear comfortable athletic shoes. Athletic shoes will help you navigate the occasional rocks and uneven terrain between the stairs with confidence. Comfortable clothing will improve your experience as well. The Whiteface Summit offers an elevator that can accommodate view seekers of all abilities. The elevator is accessed from the parking lot entrance to the tunnel that runs through the inside of the mountain. Finally, with rapidly changing weather at high elevations, certain summit amenities can be closed based on the current conditions. Follow along on the official Whiteface website's conditions page to find out what is and isn't open before you go. 

The view of trees and lakes from the Whiteface Summit
View from the summit of Whiteface

Get the full experience 

The adventure isn’t over once you walk down the stairwell to the parking area. The Whiteface Castle located near the parking area, offers some really neat options. The Castle Gift Shop is located on the top floor and has a cool selection of officially branded Whiteface items, keepsakes, and clothing. There’s also a bathroom located inside the castle should you need to find one. And, if you broke a sweat and worked up a thirst, the 4610’ Grille is at your service. The “highest food truck in New York” is open to traffic and offers you quality food and refreshments to enjoy at 4,610 feet. It’s not often (or ever) that a mountain summit offers food, facilities, and gifts, so take advantage! 

The castle on Whiteface Mountain
The Whiteface Mountain Castle offers amenities for everyone

The way down

The drive down is just as fun as the drive up, and probably more so for the driver, who can now more freely see the views to his or her left. Before descending, it's recommended to a drop the gear of your vehicle to lower than normal to ensure the safety of your vehicle’s brakes. Should you need to pull over, there are several lookouts along the way. I shifted into a lower gear upon descent, occasionally braked, and had no issues with my vehicle while making my way down the mountain. 

A hiker walks up the stairs to the Whiteface Summit
No matter what direction you're going the fun doesn't stop here

Finish the day strong

Driving the Whiteface Veterans' Memorial Highway is a great choice when spending a day with your friends, your family, or both, but the fun doesn't have to stop there. There's plenty of options to eat, play, and stay once you drive off the mountain. The drive is awesome, the view is spectacular, and the entire Whiteface Region is just as great. Experience it all for yourself today! 


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