Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day trip: Whiteface Mountain

Whiteface Mountain, near Lake Placid, is the fifth highest mountain in New York and holds the distinction of being the only Adirondack High Peak that one may drive up. What do you know; that is directly in line with my fitness level (I do enjoy hiking, but would probably die if I tried even the smaller High Peaks. Mr. D. did the smallest and barely made it through...). We decided to check out the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway on Columbus Day - the last day it was open for the season.

This toll road isn't cheap; the 2012 rates were $10 for the driver and car and $6 additional for each passenger (though it is less expensive than Mount Equinox's Skyline Drive). Trust me: it's worth every penny. Mr. D. was whining and moaning about being awake before noon on a day off from work, but as soon as we started up the mountain, he quietly offered "This is the most beautiful place I've ever been." Mr. D. doesn't stop complaining about being awake over just anything - this is a big deal.

The five mile winding road offers spectacular views of fall foliage the entire way up the mountain. There are plenty of spots to pull over and admire the scenery as you drive up, several with picnic tables if you'd like to bring a lunch in with you. I'm not sure I'd recommend that for Columbus Day, though; we were expecting the weather to be considerably colder at the summit, but were generally unprepared for what we found there.

Whiteface Mountain Castle
As the foliage became less and less peak winding up the mountain, we suddenly found we had time traveled to winter! Ice and snow covered trees adorned the top of the mountain, where the drive up culminates in their ice castle. Ok, it's just a regular castle, but it's been a whole year since I saw ice.

Visitors can park at the castle, which has restrooms (think: camping quality - flooded and smelly. You're not hiking, so stop drinking so much water), a gift shop, and a cafe.

Summit of Whiteface Mountain
From the castle, there are two options to reach the summit. Option #1 is a steep trail to the top. Option #1 is not really an option when it's covered in ice and snow; this left Option #2 - walking halfway to Moria (or just in a long tunnel into the mountain) and then taking an elevator to the summit. The elevator, however, only holds 10-12 people and it takes about 2.5 minutes each way. I wasn't expecting to spend an hour standing in a cold tunnel waiting on an elevator, but I will begrudgingly admit it was worth it for the 80-mile views we had from the summit.

We never did spot Montreal's buildings (maybe you can), but we did see Lake Champlain, Lake Placid, a wind farm, and lots of beautiful foliage. The summit offers a safer, flatter portion (above), but you can also climb around on the cliff a bit if you're feeling braver. We spent the entire day here and didn't have a chance to explore anything else - High Falls Gorge, Lake Placid's Olympic Center (Lake Placid hosted the games in 1932 and 1980), or even the gondola ride up the mountain via the Whiteface ski resort on the other side of the mountain. We had a wonderful day on the mountain, but this area of the Adirondacks absolutely deserves at least a long weekend visit. The trees were even nicer along the drive from the Thruway to Whiteface and we had a very nice late lunch/early dinner at the ADK Cafe in Keene.

October 8, 2012: Keene, NY
Additional Whiteface Photos:

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