Veteran’s Memorial Highway is an easy alternative to hiking


The stone tower now serves as a weather station

Lake Placid in New York State’s Adirondack State Park is a favourite destination for active sports enthusiasts. Downhill and x-country skiing in the winter are complemented with golf, hiking, cycling, swimming and boating in the spring, summer and fall. We’ve seen numerous fly fishermen casting for Rainbow trout in the headwaters of Ausable River. Lake Placid is one of three permanent training facilities for the US Winter Olympic Team, and many competitors make their homes in the community. Lake Placid hosts cycling races, horse shows, figure skating championships, The Whiteface Marathon, The Lake Placid Ironman competition, Can-Am International Rugby Tournament, and a half-marathon in September.


Spectators enjoying the aerial ski practice jumps

Whiteface Mountain is central to the winter activities, boasting some of the finest skiing in the East, and it is a popular destination for skiers from New York City, Boston and especially Montreal. But the mountain is perhaps even more popular in the offseason, with easy access via the Veteran’s Memorial Highway. The original road was commissioned by New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1929 as a project to provide work during the Depression. The highway was opened in 1936, by the same man – but by then serving at The President of The United States. At the summit, we were surprised to find a castle that houses a restaurant and gift shop.


Hiking down from the summit – not for everyone

A tunnel has been cut through solid bedrock to bring visitors from the parking area to the elevator (we elected to hike down from the summit) and the elevator operator informed us that the shaft was also cut through solid bedrock and that our ascent would be the equivalent of 26 storeys. Arriving at the granite tower at the summit, we stepped out to awe-inspiring 360 degree views. On a clear day – you can see Montreal with the aid of one of several binocular-style viewing stands.


The Memorial Highway is a series of

The roadway climbs to the summit’s parking lot through a series of switchbacks that offer spectacular views of the surrounding state park. Along the way there are several places where you can pull over to take photos, and some are equipped with picnic tables. However, it is the views from the summit that are breathtaking.

After taking photos and exploring the rocky terrain, we began our descent to the restaurant and parking lot. Rather than create a pathway, the park administrators decided to erect railings that provide support and a kind of protective barrier to keep hikers from getting too close to the cliffs.

Birders may be interested to know that Whiteface Mountain is home to a variety of songbirds, which vary at different altitudes. The Bicknell’s Thrush is one of the region’s most notable birds during the warmer weather. This is a very rare bird found on top of Whiteface Mountain as well as other High Peaks in the region. They have a good stable population in the park. This is a migratory bird that spends May to September nesting in the region.

Travel Planner

The Veteran’s Highway is located on the back-side of Whiteface Mountain, on the opposite side ski centre. You can also take a ride to the top of the ski slopes in the Cloudsplitter Gondola. Admission to Veteran’s Highway is just $11 for car and driver, and an additional $8 per passenger. We recommend that visitors purchase an Olympic Sites Passport for $35 per person. The passport is good for 12 months, and you can use it on return visits. It provides access to the Olympic Sports Complex, Veteran’s Highway, The Gondola Ride, The Olympic Jumping Complex, and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum in the Olympic Centre. Passports are available at the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) at 2634 Main Street, Lake Placid. 518-523-1655.


Cycling to the summit


Summer bobsledding fun with
a professional driver

Hiking and climbing in and around Lake Placid


Matt Wiech is the Climbing School Manager at Eastern Mountain Sports in Lake Placid, shown here with the basic equipment need for rock climbing; boots, helmet and rope

Matthew Wiech is the Climbing School Manager at Eastern Mountain Sports, a successful outfitter climbing, kayaking and other outdoor activities. With locations throughout the Northeastern United States, the Lake Placid location is located on Main Street in the centre of town, within walking distance of most hotels.

“There are 46 high peaks within the Lake Placid area, and all are accessible by hiking – without the need for rock climbing equipment. Our guides are well-versed in the local history, so our hikers enjoy hearing about the local legends and colourful characters. Our guided hikes don’t require ropes or harnesses, and we can vary the routes according to the fitness level and age of our hikers.”

“That said, there are many rock faces available for climbers of all levels of expertise.” Matt and his team of instructors offer a broad spectrum of rock climbing courses for individuals, families and groups. “We have Rock Climbing 101, 202 and so on. Our courses are very popular with teens who are vacationing here with their families. The 2 and 3 day programs give beginners and intermediate climbers a chance to really improve their climbing skills.”

In closing Matt adds; “Rock climbing started as a sport in Europe, and it’s gaining in popularity here in North America.” For more information about the types of hikes and climbing classes available, please visit the Eastern Mountain Sports website: or call 1-800-310-4504.

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