Cycling Whiteface Mountain, New York.
Near Lake Placid, this is the top New York bike climb.
US Top 10 Most Scenic Bike Climb
“One of the big American climbs, Whiteface Mountain is located in the majestic Adirondack mountains of upper New York State. Somewhat isolated, the grade is shallow early but quickly becomes sturdy, including some double digit slope as you ride through mostly wooded scenery and little development (Santa’s Workshop not withstanding). Just over three miles into the ascent the grade eases a bit and you come to a toll booth...” (This quote provided with the approval of John Summerson, from his book The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) in the Northeast, pg. 112.)
Whiteface Mountain is the highest paved road in New York, and 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, New Hampshire, #21 Mt Equinox, Vermont, #57 Mt Ascutney, Vermont and #100 Burke Mt, Vermont.
Climb begins in . . .
. . . Wilmington . . .
. . . New York!
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 There is outdated internet information that reports cyclists are permitted on the Toll Road only after 5 p.m. – this had previously been the case, but is no longer.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 the beginning and end of our ride.
Get to the toll booth well before it opens and you ride up for free (common practice).
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, a half 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 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.
- 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.
Well, not all springtimes are created equal . . .
. . . thanks Bo Jensen of Syracuse, New York.
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).
(Photo from GAD).
(Photo from Green Racing Project).
Elevation signs begin at Santa’s Workshop (mile 1.6) and end at the summit.
Views from the top.
Finish for the bike.
Walk up the steps for epic views of Lake Placid.
A slightly clearer day in October
Thank you Patrick Merrill.
- 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.
- Traffic flow is mild (at least on weekdays).
- This is a bike-friendly route with many “Share the Road” signs.
- 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.
- Several streams run off the hillside to and under the roadway
- We pass by Santa’s Workshop at mile 1.6.
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!
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.
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 . . . .
 Thanks much and again to our Northeast Cleats on the Ground collaborator extraordinaire Matthew Staller for his invaluable input and assistance on this page.