DescriptionNestled within the heavily wooded Adirondack Mountains, the small town of Wilmington enjoys a picture postcard setting on the Ausable River in the shadow of Whiteface Mountain, New York’s fifth highest peak and site of the 1980 Winter Olympics’ alpine events. Those Olympics were hosted by Lake Placid, just 10 miles southwest via a scenic stretch of SR 86 that follows the Ausable River as it flows through gorges and rock-strewn rapids.
The Whiteface Mountain Ski Center on the mountain’s eastern face dominates the recreation landscape here just as its namesake mountain towers over the physical landscape. In addition to the longest vertical drop in the East (3,430 feet), the resort boasts 86 trails and 11 ski lifts, including the eight-passenger Cloudsplitter Gondola, which ascends to the top of 3,676-foot Little Whiteface Mountain. Popular summer activities include a rock-climbing wall, a bobsled ride, trampolines, dry ski jumping, ice-skating and mountain biking. Getting to the very top of the 4,867-foot peak is easy thanks to the 5-mile-long Whiteface Mountain Veterans’ Memorial Highway on the mountain’s northern flank.
The highway ends at Whiteface Castle, an imposing structure built in 1936 of granite excavated during road construction, and from there you’ll have two ways of reaching the summit: Enter a 424-foot tunnel leading to an elevator that will carry you up the remaining 276 feet, or climb the .2-mile-long Whiteface Mountain Trail along a craggy, lichen-dappled ridge that includes several sections of rough-hewn stairs. The vista from the summit house’s deck is spectacular, and because Whiteface stands somewhat apart from the other High Peaks of the Adirondacks, the view of the rest of the mountain chain is particularly stunning.
Equally stunning is the Ausable River, which pours through ravines and tumbles over falls and rapids on its way northeast to Lake Champlain. A half-mile trail traversing bridges and catwalks around and over High Falls Gorge promises the best views, but Flume Falls just south of Wilmington where SR 86 crosses the river are picturesque, too. A trailhead on the west side of the road just north of the bridge marks the beginning of unmarked paths along the Ausable leading to ledges with views of the valley.
Hikers need to watch out for mountain bikers who come from all over to ride these riverside trails as well. Many of the cross-country ski trails threading through the countryside around Wilmington become mountain biking tracks in summer, and Whiteface Mountain Ski Center offers lift service for bikers who crave the challenge of downhill riding—not for the timid or inexperienced.
For those who prefer a more leisurely pursuit, a jaunt to Santa's Workshop , 324 Whiteface Memorial Hwy., is in order. Open from late June through late December, the attraction pays homage to Christmas with live reindeer, craft shops, live entertainment, children's rides, storybook characters and Santa Claus; phone (518) 946-2211.
Visitor InfoWhiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau 5753 NYS Route 86 WILMINGTON, NY . Phone:(518)946-2255 or (888)944-8332
Things to SeeHigh Falls Gorge