Last Updated on April 18, 2020 by Lori
Some of the most breathtaking views you will ever see is located in the High Peak Region of the Adirondacks.
The Summit of Whiteface Mountain provides a 360-degree view of beautiful vistas reaching as far as Vermont and Canada making it one of the best views you’ll ever see in the Adirondacks.
This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will make a commission at no additional cost to you. Please read our Disclosure Policy for more information.
How To Get To The Top Of Whiteface Mountain
If you’re near Lake Placid, one of your “bucket list” items must be to visit the top of Whiteface Mountain!
You can choose to take an 8-person gondola ride to what’s called Little Whiteface; or, you can drive to the top of the Summit of Whiteface Mountain via Veterans Memorial Highway.
We chose to drive Veterans Memorial Highway to the top of Whiteface Mountain and then walk (hike) the Stairway Ridge Trail to the top of the summit!
Needless to say…we were not disappointed!
Dedicated to the memory of American servicemen and women, Veterans Memorial Highway is a five-mile beautiful scenic highway taking you on a steady upward climb, around hairpin turns leading to the Castle at the summit of the mountain (4,602 feet above sea level).
Where Is Whiteface Mountain Located?
The entrance to Veterans Memorial Highway is near the town of Wilmington, NY.
We happened to be camping at North Pole Resorts Campground (100 Acre Woods section) and it was just a short drive along 86 into the town of Wilmington where you’ll see the signs pointing left to the summit.
As you drive towards the entrance, you will see this beautiful Alpine-style gatehouse constructed in 1934 which is the Toll House area.
One of the first things to check before you pay the entrance fee is the posted Visibility for the day.
If you see that it is zero visibility, you might want to consider returning later in the day or even make plans to drive to the top another day because you don’t want to miss the views!
As you begin the slow drive up the mountain (25 mph), you will see nine pull off areas providing a safe area to pull over to enjoy the views and safely take photos.
Many of these pullovers also have picnic tables and we saw numerous families having a picnic lunch while enjoying the awesome views!
Here’s a view heading back down the drive. We saw many bicyclists pedaling up to the top and we wondered… “How Did They Do That?”
Once you reach the top, the attendant will direct you around and through the Whiteface Castle to the parking area.
I mean it’s a one-way Archway under the castle – and it was very cool!
Also – here’s a tip if you happen to be driving a truck… you might want to pull in your truck mirrors as you go through the archway!
Whiteface Castle houses the Gift Shop/Restaurant and Restrooms.
The Castle was constructed from the granite excavated from the highway construction.
Once we parked, I put on my hiking boots. Boy was I glad I did!
My husband was handling our Golden Retriever, Buddy and only had his sneakers on which he later regretted.
Stairway Ridge Trail To The Top of Whiteface Mountain
At Whiteface Castle is where you begin the 26-story Stairway Ridge Trail – a 1/5 mile trail which leads to the Summit of Whiteface Mountain.
The first day we attempted to make it to the Top of the Summit we were excited that dogs were allowed on the Trail but weren’t really sure how far Buddy would make it.
Buddy took right off up the stairs!
You can see how high the steps go…but I can tell you it isn’t all stairs.
There are large rocks and smooth boulders to climb over and around, more narrow stairs, and then more steps as you climb higher and higher!
The goal? To reach the Summit House at The Top!
The climb was exciting!
There were handrails along the sides to help you along.
Everyone was polite and respectful and if someone was having trouble and taking their time – no problem!
Just step aside to look at the awesome views!
As we continued up the trail, Buddy was right there alongside us.
He climbed the stairs, jumped from boulder to boulder and considering the number of people that were on the trail, he didn’t bat an eye with everyone reaching out to pet him!
However, when the trail began to get very narrow towards the top – he put the brakes on!
Although another dog was also going up the trail at the same time, and people even stopped to say, “Come on Buddy!”, Buddy didn’t budge.
We were proud of him since he had never been on hikes this adventurous before.
As we turned and headed back down the summit, we vowed we would return another day to make it to the top!
We did just that.
We returned two days later and the visibility was even better – 50 miles!
This time, my husband put on his hiking boots too.
He slipped several times with his sneakers on and he felt much more secure climbing over the rocks in his boots.
We started the Stairway Ridge Trail once more!
Here’s a photo of Lake Placid as we were climbing to the top.
Heading towards the Summit House!
Almost There! (This is about where Buddy put the brakes on)
This time – We Made It To The Top of Whiteface Mountain!
This is the Summit House and Weather Observatory.
There is an elevator which in recent years you could take to the top, but was under construction this summer (2018).
The Views are Spectacular!
Whether you ride up in the gondola to Little Whiteface, or drive along Veterans Memorial Highway to the top of Whiteface Mountain and then Hike the Stairway Ridge Trail to the Summit – you will see some of the most breathtaking views you will ever see of the Adirondacks.
7 Tips To Help You Plan Your Visit To Whiteface Mountain!
If possible, drive along Veterans Highway to the top and hike the Stairway Ridge Trail to the Summit of Whiteface Mountain
Wear hiking boots or other sturdy shoes – not flip flops – you’ll be glad you did!
Bring a bottle of water & a picnic lunch to sit and enjoy the beautiful views!
Wear a sweatshirt or bring along a jacket as it is cool and windy at the top!
If you purchase the Olympic Sites Passport both the Gondola Ride to Little Whiteface and drive to the Summit of Whiteface Mountain entrance fees are included! (along with access to every one of the Olympic Sites). Purchase your ticket online and save $5 off the window rate!
We stayed at North Pole Resorts & Campground in Wilmington, NY which happened to be near ALL the activities we wanted to do!
Read my review of North Pole Resorts and Campground.
I highly recommend staying in Wilmington which is a few miles from Veterans Memorial Drive (entrance to Whiteface Mountain Summit), the Main Base Lodge, High Falls Gorge, Lake Placid and 35 minutes from Ausable Chasm!
Go early in the morning when there are fewer crowds. We went around mid-afternoon our first day and had to park far away from the Castle. The second time we drove up around 10 a.m. and were able to park very close to the entrance to the Stairway Trail!
Whiteface Mountain Hours and Entrance Fees:
Veterans Memorial Highway
Entrance Fee: $12 – Vehicle and Driver; $8 Additional Passenger; 6 years and under is free; $10 bicycle The Summit is open from June 1 – October 8 – 8:45 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. daily.
Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride
The 8 passenger gondola to Little Whiteface. The gondola ride begins at the Main Base Lodge and takes you up the mountain in 15 minutes!
At the top, there is an observation deck and picnic area. The gondola ride is open daily – June 29-September 3, 2018 from 930 – 5:00 p.m. September 7-October 8, the gondola runs Friday-Sunday 9:30 – 5:00.
The cost is: Adult/Teen: $20 online/$23 at the window; Junior/Senior: $16 6 & under is Free (Adult: 20-64/Teen: 13-19/Junior: 7-12/Senior: 65+.
They also offer Military discounts with valid ID at $16 for Adults
We loved our trip to the Adirondacks!
There were so many other hiking trails that three days just wasn’t enough!
Have you ever been to The Summit of Whiteface Mountain?
I would love to hear about it! Let me know!