Whiteface Mountain Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Whiteface Mountain

NY, USA

The hardest and highest bike climb in New York.

Page Contributor(s): Bo Jensen, Syracuse, NY, USA

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Climb Summary


Cycling Whiteface Mountain - Mountain-shaped road sign noting 4499 feet above sea level, side of road along the mountainside with green trees peeking out through a foggy background

Cycling Whiteface Mountain, New York.

Near Lake Placid, this is the top New York bike climb.

US Top 10 Most Scenic Bike Climb

Whiteface Mountain is the highest paved road in New York.

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - photo collage, straight, two-lane roadway, Welcome to New York road sign, arial view of a U-shaped pond, cyclist wearing PJAMM cycling jersey and standing behind bike at the base of a stone staircase

WOW, this one is almost worth relocating to upstate New York for!  Maybe we’ll get a timeshare here and climb it seven days a week!  Whiteface Mountain, New York is the westernmost of the Five Top 100 U.S. Climbs that are within a 150 mile radius in the northeastern part of the United States.  Others are #3 Mt Washington, NH, #21 Mt Equinox, VT,  #57 Mt Ascutney, VT and #100 Burke Mt, VT.  

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - Whiteface Mountain summit sign, In Memoriam plaque dedicated to the Veterans of all wars

Climb begins in . . .

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - large decorative Wilmington sign surrounded by ornate landscaping, flags, and a bear statue

. . . Wilmington . . .

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - tall wooden post with 10 different Wilmington signs, notating how far Wilmington is from various other cities

. . . New York!

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - photo collage including long stretches of road surrounded by green forestation, a pond, brown barn buildings, street signs, a large "U" curve in the road, and a road bike lying in the center of a two lane road, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

2.8 miles at 8.4% average grade from climb start to the turn off onto Whiteface Mountain Road.

Toll Booth is at mile three.

Toll Road:  As of June, 2020 the toll for cyclists was $15.00.  The toll road is open to cyclists during nearly the same hours as automobiles (8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for autos and 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for cyclists ).  There is outdated internet information that reports cyclists are permitted on the Toll Road only after 5 p.m. – this had previously been the case, but is no longer.

View back towards Willmington just before the toll gate - at beginning and end of our ride.

Get to the toll booth well before it opens and you ride up for free (common practice).

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - photo collage, toll booth to get into Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway, spring flowers blooming, toll booth ticket for bicycle entry, road sign noting Pay Toll in 1 mile   

Toll Booth is at the three mile mark - from here it is 4.9 miles / 2,210’ / 8.4%.

Pond to the right as you reach the toll booth.

I began my June 2020 climb at 5:30 a.m. and went around the gate without paying toll. My riding partner rolled up to the gate around 8 a.m., before gates open, but was charged $15.00 by the attendant who spotted him.  The attendant advised that my partner wouldn’t have had to pay if he went through without being seen.  According to the information we received from the cycle-based hotel we stayed at in Wilmington (Don at Cadence Lodge, ½ block from climb start), it is customary and acceptable for cyclists to ride around the gate before the toll booth opens.

 

Whiteface Mountain is the fifth highest peak in the state of New York (after Mount Marcy [5,344’], Algonquin Peak [5,114’], Mount Haystack [4,960’] and Mount Skylight [4,926’]).  Most of the climb is on Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway[1] which is a 7.96 mile stretch that is the most pristine roadway we have ever cycled on.  The roadway was constructed by and paid for by New York State.  Construction began in 1931 and was completed in 1935.  

Whiteface Mountain bicycle climb, what a ride! So many positives to this climb, which include:

  • It is a legitimate Top 50 U.S. climb (#43).  It has a consistent moderately steep grade throughout – no flat spots or descents between start and finish.

Climbing Whiteface Mountain by bike - steep grade sign.

  • There are exceptional views through breaks in the forest that surround us as we climb, including Taylor and Franklin Falls Ponds to the north after you pass the Toll Booth up to the switchback at mile 6.6 where we see Lake Placid for the first time.

Several viewpoints along the climb.

Lake Placid as seen from the hairpin at mile 6.6

  •  The surroundings are lush and green during the spring and summer.

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - photo collage, long stretch of pristine roadway surrounded by forestation and rock wall, red berries hanging down on side of roadway, small waterfall and large grey rocks

Well, not all springtimes are created equal . . .

. . . thanks Bo Jensen, Syracuse, NY.

August, 2020

Bo Jensen sporting PJAMM’s Top 100 US Climbs jersey.

  •  And, of course, there are the gorgeous fall colors during autumn.


  • The top is Spanish Pyrenees-like: a castle! (see last part of Climb Video).


Cycling Whiteface Mountain by bike - view from above of road leading up to small stone castle at the summit of Whiteface Mountain

Summit Castle

(Photo from GAD).

Cycling Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway - Share the Road sign 

Summit Tunnel

(Photo from Green Racing Project).

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - photo collage, multiple mile-marker mountain-shaped signs noting various feet above sea level

Elevation signs begin at Santa’s Workshop (mile 1.6) and end at the summit.

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - finish - pjamm cycling john johnson with bike

Finish for the bike.

Walk up the steps for epic views of Lake Placid.

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - entrance to tall stone castle with large dark brown door, road bike leaning against door with PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over it

  •  The descent is amazing (note the 25 mph speed limit).
  • Did we mention the 25 mph speed limit?  That counts for cars on the ascent, too – so, it’s a safe and comfortable climb.

25 MPH speed limit sign along stretch of straight road

  • Traffic flow is mild (at least on weekdays).
  • This is a bike-friendly route with many “Share the Road” signs.  

Cycling Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway - Share the Road sign

  • A fun trivia fact is that six events in the Winter Olympics were held here over eight days in 1980.
  • Upstate New York is beautiful.
  • The road and its surface is exceptional.  We have never encountered a better roadway surface.  There were no blemishes anywhere – up or down.  

  Climbing Whiteface Mountain by bike - steep grade sign.

  •  Several streams run off the hillside to and under the roadway

  • We pass by Santa’s Workshop at mile 1.6.

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - Signs for Santa's Workshop

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - brightly colored buildings noting "US Post Office North Pole N.Y."

Whiteface Mountain is well known for skiing: “Whiteface opened in 1958 and has earned its place in the annals of big-mountain skiing. It has the greatest vertical drop in the east, which means if pointing the boards downhill is your thing, you'll have plenty of opportunities.”  (Whiteface Mountain)  It goes without saying that if there is an incredible drop for skiers, then there is the equivalent opposite for us climbing the monster!

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - view from above of Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort slopes in summertime, mountainside is lush green

Slopes of Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort.

Weather for the Whiteface Mountain Bicycle Climb:  This can change in an instant on the mountain.  We went up in fairly good weather and while taking photos at the top had rain come in surprisingly fast -- check the weather and bring extra gear as warranted.

Cycling Whiteface Mountain - grey fog and clouds obscuring mountaintop view 

Ten minutes earlier that view was perfectly clear.

If you have the opportunity to climb this mountain, DO IT!

Below is a Whiteface Mountain Cycle Climb summary courtesy of then Strava KOM Michael Le Rossignolhe:

 "The climb is beautiful and twisty in the last few miles which I love. There is only one small ramp where the gradient goes up and it's in the final 800m which really bites! It was also a lot colder at the top (i made the rookie mistake of not packing any warm clothes since it was in June! The view was spectacular, you can see Montreal (where I'm from) on a clear day. The race was pretty uneventful, there was a small group selected after only 1 mile of around 8 or 10 guys and it slowly became 6 by the 3/4k to go mark and I attacked and stayed away by a minute or so. It was a great event and well organized!"

We have always stayed at the Cadence Lodge during our stays in Wilmington

Whiteface Corners is a block from Cadence and a great place to eat . . . and . . .

. . . well, you know . . . .


[1] Thanks much and again to our Northeast Cleats on the Ground collaborator extraordinaire Matthew Staller for his invaluable input and assistance on this page.