In the heart of the High Peaks, the Adirondacks’ Whiteface Region is a four-seasons destination – but one that shines brightest in winter. Towering mountains, pristine lakes and dense forest characterize this area that was home to not one, but two, Winter Olympics. From the tranquil forest blanketed in snowfall, perfect for hiking — to its famous white-capped peaks that beckon skiers and snowboarders from around the globe — this winter wonderland offers endless adventure.

Four towns make up the Whiteface Region: Au Sable Forks, Jay, Upper Jay and Wilmington. Whiteface Mountain is the region’s crown jewel, whose 3,166 foot vertical drop is the highest in the East. The mountain is one of five Winter Olympics sites in the area, and the only location on the East Coast to host the winter games. In summer, the mountain remains a tourist attraction, with scenic gondola rides and hiking.

NYC residents may be reluctant to book a trip thinking the Adirondacks are too far for a weekend; but the park begins just 215 miles from NYC, easily reached in under four hours. (Or catch the daily flight from JFK to SLK!) From there, we’re heading about an hour deeper into the park, down its scenic roads through idyllic mountain towns, and into the Whiteface Region.

Check out our guide below for the best places to hike and explore – plus where to stay, eat and drink during your stay in the area.

Where to Stay Around Whiteface: NewVida in Wilmington, NY

NewVida Preserve in Wilmington, NY has striking architecture, a bar and restaurant, plus 14 cozy rooms to choose from. Onsite amenities also include a gym and wellness center and 35+ miles of trails.

There’s no shortage of lodging in the Whiteface Region – but we love an authentic Adirondack lodge with staff and services, especially in the otherwise pretty isolated landscape. Our lodging pick is NewVida Preserve, who’s just reopened to the public after years of private ownership. This classic Adirondack lodge hosts 14 beautiful rooms, a restaurant, bar, and bistro – plus a wellness center with yoga, gym, and massage. Located on a 2,000 mountainous preserve, it also features 35+ miles of hiking trails.

Throughout the hotel, guests will spot vintage items alluding to Paleface Mountain; this is NewVida’s previous life. For three decades, the property operated as a ski mountain with five lifts and 44 runs. While there are plans to restore and reopen some of the runs, for now, guests may explore on foot. While doing so, be on the lookout for Paleface’s former bull wheels, ski warming huts, lean to’s and cabins.

A King View Room (no. 10) at NewVida Preserve. Photo c/o NewVida Preserve.

Back inside NewVida, its new owners have carefully restored and renovated the lodge, preserving its vintage charm while updating the necessities. The dining room and bar are the heart of the building, with soaring 50ft-high A-frame architecture, fireplaces, a game room and a bar made from skis. On the opposite side of the lodge from the gathering spaces, NewVida’s lodging wing features 14 charming single and double rooms.

Spanning the towns of Jay and Wilmington, the lodge is centrally located. NewVida is 10 minutes to Whiteface, or 10-25 minutes to the towns of Keene, Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, making it an ideal Adirondack home base.

What to Do: the Best Hiking, Skiing and Outdoor Adventure in the Whiteface Region

The view from Silver Lake Mountain Trail near Redford, NY at sunset.

The Whiteface region offers thousands of miles for exploration with something for all skill levels. The biggest outdoor attraction is winter sports at Whiteface, boasting the greatest vertical drop in the east. Day passes begin ~$75 for adults; check their online rates for lift ticket info and purchase in advance for best rates. Visitors may also skip the skis and opt for a scenic ride on Whiteface’s Cloudsplitter Gondola. Views from the top are incredible (see above), and best of all, this adventure requires zero skill or exertion. Bring a picnic to enjoy the views!

From breathtaking summit views to serene lakeside walks, the Whiteface Region offers hikes for all skill levels. Our favorite in the region is the short, but steep Silver Lake Mountain Trail with outstanding views over Taylor Pond, Union Falls Pond, Silver Lake, Catamount, and Whiteface Mountain. Don’t be fooled by the trail length, which is under two miles; thanks to a steep 900 foot elevation gain, the hike is rated moderate difficulty and will most definitely get your heart pumping. In winter, for this and any other hike, you’ll want to gear up with hiking poles, snowshoes or Microspikes for traction.

For more casual hikes, check out the series of trails around Owen, Copperas, and Winch Ponds – with an option to do all three in one loop. (Of note: Copperas is a great swimming hole in summer, and for fishermen, Owen is one of the top brown trout waters in the area.) The nearby Cobble Lookout is another popular hike, clocking 1.3 miles each way, with views over the ponds listed above. This one’s mostly flat, so it’s a breeze.

On the more challenging end of the spectrum, experienced hikers can work toward an Adirondack 46ers badge. Home to 46 peaks over 4,600 feet, a group of avid hikers called the Adirondack 46ers, challenges members to hike all 46 high peaks. Hike one of two (or both) in the area at Whiteface or Esther Mountain. Note that both these hikes are considered strenuous and not recommended for beginners.

Should you land here in summer, no trip would be complete without a dip in the legendary Adirondack waters. See the complete list of outdoor recommendations from the regions office of sustainable tourism with recommendations for swimming, fishing, paddling and more.

Last but not least, for those traveling with the fam, a trip to High Falls Gorge should be added to your itinerary. This very family-friendly preserve features boardwalked trails for easy access to four waterfall crossings. It’s a perfect way to experience the majesty of the Adirondacks with the whole family, and is open year-round.

What to Do: Exploring Towns & Olympic History

The views from the overlook atop Little Whiteface look over Lake Placid, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks High Peaks. The viewpoint is accessed by the Cloudsplitter Gondola.

While the Whiteface region of the Adirondacks offers a multitude of outdoor activities, it also offers some more leisurely options, like shopping, the arts, scenic drives and other cultural attractions.

In this region, we love visiting both the towns of Keene and Lake Placid. Both are classic mountain towns, although Lake Placid is noticeably bigger and with more options for dining, shopping, etc. Meanwhile, Keene looks straight out of a storybook, and is home to our favorite shop in the Adirondacks: Dartbrook Rustic. The two sister shops act as a showcase for Dartbrook’s handcrafted Adirondack furniture, but also have loads of unique Adirondack decor, gorgeous rugs and textiles, vintage and antique curios, and great gifts. While you’re in town, grab a bite at FortySix or hit the craft beer store.

Comparatively, Lake Placid is much larger as the town was built up hosting two Winter Olympics. After an afternoon exploring its downtown area, relive history touring the iconic Olympic sites with a Legacy Sites Passport. One price includes visits to five sites, including our favorite, the Cloudsplitter Gondola. This 15 minute ride up Whiteface offers unparalleled views of the region from its mountaintop lookout. If you plan on visiting three sites or more, the passport is the most cost effective; otherwise, site visits can be purchased separately.

Another popular attraction is the scenic drive up Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. A winding road through forest and rock formations leads to Whiteface’s mountaintop parking lot, where visitors can spend an afternoon taking in breathtaking 360° views from its summit – elevation 4,867. Note that this is seasonal attraction and is not accessible in winter.

Where To Eat, Drink & Dine Around Whiteface

NewVida’s dining room sits below a massive wall of windows. Seating options include tables, large booths and seats at its bar, whose base is crafted from vintage skis.

Guests of NewVida never have to look far for a meal; its onsite Bistro serves breakfast and lunch of burritos, bowls and bagels from the front of the lodge. In the heart of NewVida, you’ll find the lodge’s Craft Bar, serving a tapas dinner menu in an airy A-frame dining room with a wall of windows. An oversize fireplace, big booths, and a bar made of vintage skis make it a perfect aprés spot. After dinner, finish the night with a round of pool in the game room, adjacent to the bar.

When you’re feeling ready to venture out for meals, Adirondack Mountain Coffee Cafe is just down the road, serving breakfast and lunch alongside their own roasted coffee. For lunches on the go, keep it simple and build a sandwich at the deli inside Black Brook General Store, housed inside a charming former church in Au Sable Forks.

For dinners out, the restaurant inside Hungry Trout Resort offers fine dining (think seafood, pastas and steaks) inside a cozy, rustic restaurant with views of Whiteface Mountain and the Ausable River. For something more laid back, Hungry Trout’s (separate) pub R.F.McDougal’s offers classic pub fare (fish and chips, burgers, etc.) in a bar that was named by by Outdoor Life as a “Top 10 Fishing Bar.” Located right next to Whiteface, these sister restaurants are convenient, cozy and classic – perfect after a day of adventure.