LodgingPacking & PreparationTransportationTravel DestinationsTravel Packages & Tours

Driving the Veterans Memorial Highway to the Top of Whiteface Mountain

Updated on June 30, 2016
bdegiulio profile image

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

Veterans Memorial Highway

The Veterans Memorial Highway
The Veterans Memorial Highway | Source

If you’re a sucker for great views, enjoy a little adventure every now and then, and happen to find yourself in upstate New York, consider driving the scenic Veterans Memorial Highway to the top of Whiteface Mountain. This scenic byway takes visitors from the sleepy town of Wilmington to the summit of Whiteface Mountain.

Opened to traffic in 1935, the Veterans Memorial Highway was the idea of a local resident by the name of Marcellus Leonard who lived in nearby Saranac Lake. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt formally dedicated the highway on September 14, 1935 after over three years of work to complete the road.

Whiteface Mountain

Whiteface Mountain from Lake Placid
Whiteface Mountain from Lake Placid | Source

At 4,867 feet above sea level Whiteface Mountain is the fifth highest peak in New York and is one of what is referred to as the High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. What makes Whiteface Mount so attractive and unique is that one can drive to virtually the top of the mountain. And if Whiteface Mountain seems a bit familiar to you then perhaps you recall the 1980 Winter Olympics that were held in nearby Lake Placid and the fact that the downhill skiing events were held right here on Whiteface Mountain.

Whiteface Mountain Ski Area

Whiteface Mountain Ski Area
Whiteface Mountain Ski Area | Source

The Veterans Memorial Highway (NY 431) actually begins in Wilmington and takes visitors along an 8-mile route that slowly ascends toward the summit. After passing through the Toll House station you will pass by up to nine scenic stations on your way to the top, which offers visitors a chance to get out and check out the view. Each scenic stop also has interpretive informational signs so that you can read up on the history of the region.

On the road to the top
On the road to the top | Source

You can stop at the Toll House area before heading up the mountain as they have a small pond that is stocked giving kids a chance to fish. There is also a short hiking trail that takes visitors around the pond and offers a chance to see all 34 species of trees found here in the Adirondacks. The chalet style building was built in 1934 and has a number of exhibits that highlight the flora and fauna of the area.

As you make your way to the summit the road will end at what is referred to as the Whiteface Castle, at an elevation of 4,600 feet. The “Castle” is actually a small restaurant and gift shop, which also has restroom facilities and it makes for a great pit stop area.

From here there are two ways to get to the summit at 4,867 feet. There is actually an elevator that is located inside the mountain and requires a 424 foot walk through a tunnel into the heart of the mountain. When you reach the elevator it will take you 276 feet up to the summit. The elevator was the idea of FDR as a means of helping those less mobile visitors reach the summit from the parking lot.

Whiteface Castle

The Whiteface Castle
The Whiteface Castle | Source
The elevator tunnel.
The elevator tunnel. | Source

Memorial Day Snow Storm

The other way to the top is to follow the Stairway Ridge Trail, which takes visitors on a .2-mile uphill trek over stone steps. Most visitors opt to take one method up and the other down and I can tell you the elevator is an interesting experience and not to be missed. There is actually an elevator operator (he is one of the gentleman in the video) who will greet you and give you a brief history of the mountain on your ride up or down. We were lucky to have visited just two weeks after the incredible Memorial Day snowstorm that dumped 3 feet of snow on the mountain and were treated to some great photos of the snow on the top of the mountain by the elevator operator.

The Elevator Tunnel

The tunnel that leads to the elevator.
The tunnel that leads to the elevator. | Source

Summit Trail

The Summit Trail
The Summit Trail | Source

When you reach the actual summit you will find the shelter house that contains the elevator and a 360-degree viewing platform. There is also a weather station up here but that is off limits to visitors. There are numerous viewing spots and plenty of space to walk about the summit area. There is a wide expansive area of rock which makes a great area for catching the views in every direction, having a picnic, or just finding a seat to soak in the beauty of this region. To the south you will notice many of the other High Peaks of the Adirondacks including Mount Marcy, the highest peak in New York State.

Source

To the southwest is a beautiful view of Lake Placid and just beyond is Mirror Lake and the village of Lake Placid, site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. To the east, on a clear day, you can see into Vermont with views of Lake Champlain. And to the north you get a great view of the Veterans Memorial Highway as it snakes its way up to the top of Whiteface Mountain. No matter what direction you look to you are greeted with beautiful majestic views. You can’t help but to marvel in your good fortune for finding yourself in such an amazing place.

Lake Placid

Lake Placid
Lake Placid | Source
The shelter house and weather station.
The shelter house and weather station. | Source

Plan on allocating at least a couple of hours for your visit to Whiteface Mountain depending on where you coming from. If Lake Placid is your departure point it will take you approximately 15 minutes to drive to Wilmington and the start of the Veterans Memorial Highway. The time to drive up the Memorial Highway to the top will depend on how often you stop along the way. Before you head out be sure you have enough gas for the trip. The only gas station in Wilmington closed recently so there is no gas available between Lake Placid and the Memorial Highway.

Four legged friends are welcome.
Four legged friends are welcome. | Source

The Veterans Memorial Highway is a toll road and the cost is $10 for the vehicle and driver. Each additional passenger costs $6. There is no cost to park or take the elevator once you reach the top of Whiteface Mountain. You can pack a picnic or snacks for the trip or opt to grab a bite to eat in the Castle Restaurant.

Whiteface Castle Restaurant.
Whiteface Castle Restaurant. | Source

Amazingly there are bugs at this altitude so be sure to bring some bug spray. I’m not sure what was biting us but they left some nasty bite marks. Also, the weather up here can be very changeable and windy so come prepared. Don’t forget your camera and also your binoculars, which will come in handy.

The Memorial Highway is open from May 17 through October 14, weather permitting. From May 17 to June 26 the road is open from 9 am until 4 pm. From June 27 until September 2 the road is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. And from September 3 until October 14 the hours are 9 am until 4 pm.

On the Summit Trail.
On the Summit Trail. | Source

As with any mountain road please be sure to follow all speed limit and caution signs. There are a number of frost heaves on the road so be cautious. When driving back down the mountain you would be advised to use a lower gear to save your brakes.

If driving up the mountain is not your thing you can stop at the Whiteface Ski area and take the Cloudsplitter Gondola ride to the top of the ski area. This does not go all the way to the top of the mountain but is another alternative activity if visiting the area. The gondola is open from June 14 until September 2 from 9 am until 4 pm. The cost is a little steep at $20 per person for adults, $14 for those aged 7 to 19, and free for kids 6 and under.

Source

A summer Olympic Passport ticket is available for $32, which if you are here for an extended stay might be worth purchasing. This one ticket includes the gondola ride, the toll on the Veterans Memorial Highway, the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, the Olympic Sports Complex, and a tour of the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex. It also includes discounts on many other activities in and around Lake Placid.

If you are spending time in the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks in or near Lake Placid consider making the drive to the top of Whiteface Mountain. The Veterans Memorial Highway is an incredibly scenic road and the views from the top are simply stunning.

Source
Source
show route and directions
A markerWhiteface Mountain, NY -
Whiteface Mountain, Wilmington, NY 12997, USA
get directions

B markerWilmington, NY -
Wilmington, NY, USA
get directions

C markerLake Placid, NY -
Lake Placid, NY 12946, USA
get directions

A markerWhiteface Mountain, NY -
Whiteface Mountain, Wilmington, NY 12997, USA
get directions

© 2013 Bill De Giulio

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 24 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Rami. Glad you enjoyed the drive to the top of Whiteface Mountian. It's a beautiful area.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Thom, this was quite the drive. Very scenic but not overly scary. The views from the top were amazing. I would imagine the mountain roads in Colorado go much higher. Thanks so much for stopping by, have a great day.

    • thomdrilling profile image

      Big Dan 2 years ago

      Great article Bill. We have been to Colorado and driven through the Rockies and I need some practice driving in the mountains...scary

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Crafty. Thanks for stopping by. We love going up there every year, it's a beautiful part of the country. Welcome to HubPages.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Awesome! I love trips like that. We live in Connecticut.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi mr-veg. Thanks for the visit. Whiteface Mtn is a beautiful place and very popular with hikers. Glad you enjoyed the trip. Have a great weekend.

    • mr-veg profile image

      mr-veg 4 years ago from Colorado United States

      Such a beautiful place... I believe it attracts lot of hike lovers ? thanks for the visual treat yet again !!!!!!!!!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Susan. Thank you. It is amazing to find the castle at the top there. It's a beautiful area so check it out sometime. If you like the outdoors you will not be disappointed, there is so much to do. Thanks so much for the vote, share and visit. Have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Glimmer Twin. It really is a beautiful area. If you love the outdoors there is so much to do; hiking, biking, water-sports, the mountains, etc.. And Lake Placid is a quaint little town in a beautiful setting. Thanks so much, have a great day.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This isn't too far from me and after seeing all your beautiful photos I must take a road trip soon. The castle is gorgeous and something I'd really enjoy.

      Voting up +++ and sharing.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      This looks beautiful. Every summer we go somewhere and really love New England. I have been trying to talk my husband into going to this region of New York, but for some reason he just is not interested. Hoping this hub may persuade him. Another great one Bill.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Dan. Congratulations on your ADK46. That's quite a feat. I would love to be up there in winter for the views. We go up to LP every June for the 1/2 marathon so maybe next year we'll hike Mt. Esther. It's a beautiful area. Thanks so much for the visit and comment.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi las81071. Glad this brought back good memories. It really is a beautiful region of the country. We go every June and never tire of it. Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Carol. Glad you enjoyed the trip. So nice to see you here. Have a wonderful day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi rajan. Coordinate your visit with Suzie and we'll take a drive :) It is a beautiful area, glad you enjoyed the trip. Thank you for the pin, share, etc. Have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Suzie. Thank you. Just let us know when you are ready for a visit. There is plenty to see in NE. I need to write more about our local area here, thanks for planting the seed. As always many thanks for all the support, pins, shares, etc.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Alicia. Everyone can thank FDR for the elevator. It's just another interesting and unique facet of this mountain. The castle is a pleasant surprise for visitors who want a break from the elements. Thanks for the visit, have a great day.

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Fantastic pictures of a NYS attraction that everyone should see. I've been on top of Whiteface a few times, haven driven as well as hiked up it in both summer and winter for my ADK 46. Each time it is a different feel while standing on the summit. Just so everyone knows, the cool little restaurant on the summit isn't open during a 20 below zero climb. For hikers, I suggest climbing nearby Mt Esther which is accessible via a herd path as you make the ascent from Wilmington.

    • las81071 profile image

      las81071 4 years ago

      So beautiful. I used to go upstate a lot when I was a kid have not been there in about 20 years or so I almost forgot just how beautiful Upstate NY is. I really need to go visit there again soon. Thanks for the share it brings back many memories

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      We all get the benefits of your travel with lovely photos and wonderful descriptions. Thanks again for enlightening ...very enjoyable.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      The views from the top are scintillating, Bill and the entire area is so scenic. The whiteface mountain and the trail seem to beckon me. I just wish I could see this beautiful place. Thanks for the virtual journey and it was a pleasure reading this well written hub.

      Voted up and beautiful. Shared and pinned as well.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      What a gorgeous drive and area this is, it is new to me so thank you for highlighting it so beautifully. What vies it gives and the drive must be breathtaking. Would love to do this when visiting you so mark it in the diary!! LOL

      Cheers buddy for another Bill classic, beautifully penned and illustrated with gorgeous photos and great tips. Votes, shares, pinned!!

      Hope you had a great Father's Day!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a wonderful idea to have an elevator inside a mountain! I love the architecture of the "castle", too, as well as the beautiful views from the mountain. Thanks for another very enjoyable hub, Bill.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Joe. Hopefully we'll get you here soon :) And a happy Father's Day to you also. Now that you mention it, it does remind me of a small scale Great Wall of China. That tunnel is something else, great idea. Hope you had a great Father's Day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. A happy Father's Day to you also. Is this not beautiful country? We had a great day on Whiteface Mountain, it was just beautiful. We've been wanting to make this drive for year's. Thanks again, hope you had a terrific day.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Bills, no fair, a guy named Joe didn't get to see that place yet!

      Ha-ha!

      Beautiful pictures complement your very well-written article, Bill D. I especially like the cool view of the tunnel. The summit trail reminds me of a scaled down version of The Great Wall of China. : )

      This was indeed another attractive invitation to a place I definitely want to see when I go visit my father in Maryland and my brother in New York City. Thanks for sharing this with us, Bill! Happy Father's Day, and have a wonderful week up ahead!

      Joe

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, this hub is unusual in that I've actually been to this place. LOL This is lovely country and a great way to spend a day. The pictures are wonderful as is the description. Nice job my traveling friend, and Happy Father's Day.

    Click to Rate This Article