At nearly 5,000 feet, it's tough for some to imagine committing to a hike with such an elevation gain. For others, it's a thrilling venture that they're more than happy to take on. No matter which party a person resonates with, one thing is for sure: if we were able to drive to the top of a mountain in 15 minutes, as opposed to hiking it in six hours, wouldn't we do it?
The answer, overwhelmingly, is 'yes' - and visitors can do just that at the fifth-highest summit in the Adirondacks.
Driving up Whiteface Mountain is an experience that speaks for itself in views, but there's also plenty at the top of this towering summit for visitors to explore. Ready to take the drive? Here's what you should know.
The History Of The 5th-Highest Summit In New York State, And Its Toll Road
The Whiteface Mountain parks site describes the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Road as 'not your typical automotive experience,' and boy, is this accurate. This road winds around the mountain to the summit, which sits at an elevation of 4,867 feet. This makes it the fifth-highest mountain summit in the entire state which, considering how many mountains are in New York, is saying quite a lot. The views from the top allow visitors to see for miles on a clear day, all the way into Vermont and even as far as Canada. With aerial views of Lake Placid, as well, there's arguably no better place - or no more scenic a road - than this one.
Before the mountain was ever home to skiing, the road was dedicated in 1929 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the governor at that time. By 1936, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, the road was officially open for vehicle traffic. The dedication, as its name implies, was in honor of those who have served the U.S. and those who had given their lives to serve the nation. Within the next three years, the 'castle,' Summit House, and elevator to the summit would be built, as well.
The Drive Up Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway
As one may have imagined, the drive up to the summit of Whiteface is just as scenic as the summit, itself. With the exception of some foliage to start at the beginning of the drive, it all eventually fades away to reveal the true elevation of the road. The scenery begins at the gatehouse, which was constructed in a classic Alpine-style.
This is where visitors pay the toll for the road and can ask staff any questions. Nearby is Lake Stevens, which is a small pond that only adds to the beauty of this short mountain drive. It's also home to a picnic area where one might choose to have lunch if it's too windy at the summit.
Toll Road Costs
- Vehicle & Driver: $20
- 1 Additional Passenger: $20/per
- 3-8 Additional Passengers: $10
- Motorcycle & Driver: $20
- Motorcycle, Driver, & Passenger: Add $20
- Bicycle: $15
- Hiker/Pedestrian: $10
- Children 6 & Under: Free
On the way up, drivers will notice plenty of areas to make pull-off stops that are home to scenic overlooks. Therefore, plenty of scenery is available to take in before one even reaches the summit! The anticipation builds after each and every overlook, as more and more mountains, lakes, and valleys come into view. These overlooks are the perfect places to stop and snap photos; be warned that they do get crowded during the summer and fall months.
- Fun Fact: The total elevation gain on the drive up is 2,300 feet.
- Tip: There are overlooks on both sides of the road, meaning if a driver misses one on the way up, there will be more to pull off to on the way down.
At the mountain's summit, drivers will be instructed to a fairly spacious parking lot. While the views abound from this lot, Whiteface Castle will also be looming in the distance. This building, resembling a medieval-style castle, was built from the stones that were removed in order to create the road. This is also where visitors will find the Castle Café, a gift shop, and restrooms.
To reach the actual summit of Whiteface, there are two options: A roughly 15-minute hike to the summit, which begins just past Whiteface Castle (follow the stairs and the signs), or an elevator. The elevator can be found within Whiteface Castle and will lead visitors down a dark hallway. If this seems as though it resembles a cave cavern, the feeling would be correct - as it leads straight to the center of the mountain in order to bring visitors up to the peak via the elevator.
- Fun Fact: The elevator travels a distance of 276 feet in order to reach the mountain summit.
Driving to the summit of a mountain, especially one of such a great height, is an experience like no other. Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway is a seasonal experience that should be done at least once, if only for its incredible history and Adirondacks valley views.