Whiteface Mountain is a popular winter sports destination and has been a site for Winter Olympics events in the past when Lake Placid hosted the Olympics in 1980. Many people associate this area with only winter sports, but did you know that there are plenty of ways to explore Whiteface Mountain in summer, too?
How far do you typically plan to go on a hike? The answer depends entirely on your time and ability. For some, one mile is plenty. Others look to reach double-digit mileage in a day over more challenging terrain.
Both of these options are possible with multiple access points and approaches to Whiteface Mountain. From a short walkway after a scenic drive, perfect to introduce kids to the High Peaks, to a challenging 10+ mile approach, you can pick your poison.
The Adirondacks are a fantastic place to escape and explore the outdoors. Here are the details you need to know to get started if you are planning any hiking on Whiteface Mountain in summer.
Where is Whiteface Mountain?
Whiteface Mountain is located in Wilmington, New York. It is a part of the Adirondack Mountains. The mountain range itself surrounds the Lake Placid area.
The name “Whiteface” comes from the way that some parts of the mountains appear whiter than others due to their limestone composition and the changes to the mountain due to snow and erosion.
Whiteface Mountain is a very large mountain, but it is not as tall as some others located in the Adirondacks. In fact, it is the 5th highest peak in the state of New York.
How can you reach the Summit?
Whiteface is a popular spot to explore year-round. During the summer months, hiking trails are open to the public.
You probably most know this mountain for all of the things to do during the winter months. Skiing down Whiteface offers a great way to experience the beauty of the mountain while you challenge yourself on some of the most difficult runs, as it was home to alpine events in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
The closest way to reach the summit is via the Whiteface Memorial Highway. It is a toll road that visitors can use to reach the summit via a short hike. This highway has been referred to as one of the most beautiful highways in the world.
To save some money, hiking to the summit is another great way to get up there. There are 3 other popular trailheads to access routes that will lead you up to the mountain top. Prepare for hours of exploring around Whiteface Mountain.
Whiteface Mountain Summit-Stairway Ridge Trail
Distance: 0.5 miles round trip
Duration: 1 hour
More serious hikers will view this as a way to cheat your way to the top of Whiteface Mountain in summer. The road is closed during the winter months!
We’d like to frame it differently. This can be a great family hike to get kids excited about hiking the mountains. It’s the perfect trail for multiple generations to enjoy the climb together.
You won’t need a map to navigate this portion of the trail. It is a fairly well-known hiking trail that leads up to the top, and it’s marked with railings on both sides for most of the way. It doesn’t matter what kind of hiking equipment you have, this is a great hiking experience for everyone.
To access just this portion of the trail as the only section you will hike, you’ll have to drive up the Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway. This nearly 8 mile stretch of road serpentines right up the mountain. A toll is charged to drive this road, and the fee is determined by how many passengers you have in your vehicle.
Once you reach the end of the highway, you’ll find a large parking area and attendants guiding the process. Follow the crowds towards the buildings where you will begin the trek, which is only about 1/4 of a mile long. You’ll basically be climbing 27 flights of steps, so it isn’t just a leisurely stroll in the park.
Once you reach the top of the Stairway Ridge Trail, you will be standing at 4,867 ft above sea level. From there, you can look around to see the ski slopes and other areas to explore.
When you’re done exploring the summit and taking in the views, turn around and head right back to where you came from.
Wilmington Trailhead via Reservoir Road
Distance: 10.1 miles
Duration: 6-8 hours
Elevation Gain: 3,600 feet
Take Route 431 to the dead-end Reservoir Road, and at the end, you’ll find a small parking area for this trailhead.
The first mile or so of the trail is fairly flat, and then the ascent begins! It will continue basically until you reach the summit!
Prepare to navigate wet trail surfaces, especially if it has rained recently. Waterproof hiking shoes with good traction are recommended for this one.
After some fairly difficult climbs, you’ll reach the ridgeline where the fantastic views will distract you from your fatigue as you reach the summit.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you could tack on an extra 1+ mile spur to summit Esther Moutain on the way back down.
Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC) Trailhead
Distance: 9.3 miles round trip
Duration: 6 to 7 hours
Elevation gain: 3,618 feet
This one will lead to essentially the same trail as above, the Wilmington Trail. If the parking for the first trailhead is filled off of Reservoir Road, you could certainly drive just a short distance further to find the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center
From the Center, you can either use the Marble Mountain Trail or the ASRC Service Road to travel over Marble and Lookout Mountains to reach the Whiteface Mountain summit.
This trail involves a lot of steady uphill climbs as you pass over two others to reach the Whiteface summit.
Plan for mud if it has rained recently, especially after you pass over Lookout Mountain. As with many of the other mountain trails in the area, this one is quite rocky in spots.
Plan to wear good hiking boots to protect your ankles and use trekking poles. You’ll save your knees with these babies on the descent!
It is also possible to combine Esther Mountain on this hike.
Whiteface Landing Trailhead
Distance: 13-14 miles round trip
Duration: 8-10 hours
Elevation Gain: 3,350 feet
Although it is the least used and most challenging of all the options to summit Whiteface Mountain, this trail is quite scenic. You’ll pass by both Connery Pond and Lake Placid. Swimming is possible in Lake Placid at Whiteface Landing, where you can stop to cool off on the return part of your hike.
The first few miles of this hike are flatter, and when the ascent begins, you’ll just keep climbing. Parts of the ascent are quite rocky, and you’ll find yourself climbing over and around large boulders.
This is definitely a more difficult route to the top, but the trail passes through stunning landscapes. If you’re up for a challenge, take this trail. You might just find some solitude.
Other High Peaks to Combine with Whiteface
While there is only one High Peak that can be easily combined with Whiteface, you’ll also pass over another 4,000-footer, not in the 46. Lookout Mountain, at 4,075 feet, will be included when you’re headed to and from Esther.
This one is really the only “sister peak” near Whiteface, and these various trailheads make access to the Ester summit fairly easy. Keep an eye out for the Wilmington/Esther Junction when coming from the east. You’ll see the spur trail take off to the right that leads to the top of Esther Mountain.
Why not get 2 high peaks in one day?
Other Trails on Whiteface Mountain
There are a few other options for shorter and somewhat less strenuous hikes on and around Whiteface Mountain. There are more peaks, overlooks, and waterfalls to explore!
Here are some of the other places you could certainly consider exploring:
- Stag Brook Falls: Easy 1.3-mile hike on Whiteface Mountain near the ski slopes to a waterfall
- High Falls Gorge: Easy 1-2 mile hike, private land with entrance fee to see multiple waterfalls
- The Flume Trail System: Trails of all lengths and ability levels from short walks to 10+ mile treks
(You can also access Whiteface Mountain from the Flume Falls, too!)
Hiking Trails to Explore in the Adirondacks
The Adirondacks are full of hiking trails to explore. From easy walks through the woods to rugged peak summits, there is something for everyone in the region.
Here are a few of our recommendations.
While you’re in the Lake Placid area, you should probably plan to summit Mount Marcy, the tallest point in the state of New York. It’s a fairly strenuous hike, but you can certainly complete it in one day if you are in decent physical condition.
Combine Mount Marcy with both Skylight and Gray to include 3 High Peaks. Begin this trek from the Adirondack Loj. There are so many options beginning from the Loj, where you could probably hike for weeks.
Another trailhead that you can use to access miles and miles of hiking sets out from the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR). Closer destinations include Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs, Sawteeth, Gothics, and Nippletop Mountains. There are multiple waterfalls along the approach trails. Parking and hiking through the AMR do require a fee and reservation.
There are so many corners of the wilderness to explore in this area of upstate New York. Don’t be afraid to get out and enjoy yourself and your time here! Add exploring Whiteface Mountain in summer to your list this year.