Sometimes called the sacrificial lamb of the Adirondacks the fifth in height and first in development. One can drive to the top in air-conditioned comfort and then take an elevator the last 300 feet to the top. Somewhat, reminiscent of the Klien-Matterhorn in Zermatt but without the altitude.
Despite the fortress like weather station and throngs of people in the summer, the peak does offer some splendid views of the other high peaks and nearby Ester, and on a clear day you can see Lake Champlain and on a very clear day Mount-Royal to the north. However, one is well over 20km away from the high peaks so wile the view is impressive it is hard to capture on a photograph.
If you are taking grandma (I guess now a days Great Grandma) to the mountains then this is your best bet as you can drive all the way up.
There are good trails to the top and you can come in from four separate trailheads. Most of them see only moderate use as the other high peaks draw in most of the hikers. In winter expect to see only a few people on the trail as many hikers forgo the trail altogether and come up the closed road.
This is the only peak in the Adirondacks where distinct evidence of alpine glaciers can be easily found. There peak has two neat arrets sitting on either side of a well-defined cirque on its north-west face and another arret to the east. All have good trails on them (one is actually built over with a staircase) and are well worth the drive or hike up.
The arret on the east side is quite mild and offers only a little exposure but is can be iced over in winter. The undeveloped arret on the north side offers a good scramble over very nice rock with a good deal of exposure and the occasional small cornice or gargoyle in winter.
The summit itself is just a flat platform that makes you think that the gods knocked off the top 100m of the peak as some sort of crule joke to us climber types.
One should also say this was the site for the 1980 Olympic downhill which one can look down on from the top of the peak. It is also geologically different being an “igneous intrusion” of Anorthosite Granite more typical of the Canadian Shield south of Montreal than the Adirondacks.
You can take the easy way up by driving up the Whiteface Memorial Highway from Whilminton and then the elevator to the top. I do not suggest hiking up the route in summer as the traffic can be heavy many people do go this way in winter as it is a fun ski down. Occasionally in summer they close down the road and let roller bladers and bikers use it. From what I heard this is lots of fun.
For those who like to canoe or kayak one can go the length of Lake Placid to Whiteface Landing and take the trail from there. See the red tape section for some rules on this. One can also get on the same trail from the parking lot at Connery Pond.
There are also two other approach trails that lead to the top from two places along the Memorial highway. The present parking situation at the resivour trail head is somewhat in flux right now as alot of construction work is going on so do check to see where one can park.
The better choice is to park at the weather station loop a little further up the road.
Normal restriction apply
There is a toll for taking the Memorial Highway.
If one is going to paddle Lake Placid one must be very weary of the local landowners. Do not tread on their property since they will call in the local sheriff for any even minor violation and they will enforce any regulation without warning. The simple rule is use only the state boat launching site on Mirror Lake drive and do not make a landing until you reach Whiteface Landing at the other end of the lake. You may be asked where you are going and what are you doing on the lake just state that you are going to whiteface and the locals should leave you alone. Your boats should be safe at the landing but it is still a good idea to lock them before you hit the trail. It goes without saying that you will have to find a legal place to park your car for a few days at the other end as well or face having it towed.
You can rent a canoe on Mirror Lake but these are expensive as well you might be able to charter a boat on lake placid but again this will cost a good deal.
Summer is usually best for the average backpacker.
In winter, the area, despite its use by skiers it is quiet deserted and does require good snowshoes, and in places crampons, ice picks/ski poles may also be required. Finally the peak is very exposed, so good goggles and a face mask are a good idea.
It is also a good training site for anyone who wants to work on thier Alpine skills.
Some good links
Adirondack Hiking Portal
If you are going to camp near whiteface landing go well back from the lake or use the lean-tos further down the trail.
General rules for the Adirondacks
1) No Camping above 4,000 feet
2) No camping withing 150 feet of a stream or other water source except at a designated campsite.
3) No soap or washing withing 150 feet of water
4) Pack it in Pack it out is the rule for garbage
5) Only dead and down wood can be used for fires and set in a proper fire pit. ( local etiquette is to use a stove and not a fire)
Named most likely comes about because of exposed North and East sides which do look like and large white face. The peak was first climbed by our old pal Professor Emmons on Sep, 20 1836 with a number of guides and porters.
This is one of the few high peak summits that was actually given a name the the local first nations and is was 'Thei-a-no-guen' or 'white head' as well the Algonquin had a name for this peak and it was 'wa-ho-par-te-nie' or 'it is white'. The often cited first nation name for Mt. Marcy 'Tahawaus' or 'cloud spliter', though apt, is just a 19th century poetic invention and was never used bu the Local Fisrt Nations.
The area was basically unspoiled until 1956 when the firetower complex dateing from the depression era was extensivly redeveloped and the small ski slopes were moved lower down the mountian.
Fortunately, the other ski sites in the area where largely abandoned and left to the wilds and the remains of which can be found along many of the trails to the peak ie Marble Mountain & Ester