Visiting Whiteface

You can visit the summit of Whiteface to see the highest museum exhibit in New York. The picture above shows the opening celebration.

Right next to the platform in the shot, you can see one of the rarest plants in New York. It’s called Boott’s Rattlesnake Root, and it grows on this summit, and few other places in the world. What makes it a wonder? The plant’s forebears were left by the last ice age. They have survived on their tiny island, one of the toughest climates on Earth, for 10,000 years.

How tough? Winter winds rip at up to 148 miles per hour, shredding anything above the wind-packed ice and snow. Temperatures in summer can reach 90 degrees on the surface, and in winter drop to -45. The meager soil is so poor most plants can’t even sprout in it. And it gets worse. In winter, every molecule of water is locked up in ice. The frozen winter summit is a desert as dry as any on earth.

We have rated the trip to the summit and have a little more information here. You can download a brochure about the exhibits on the summit here.

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Degree Of Difficulty

It’s a 2, pretty easy, if you want it to be. You can drive up the Whiteface Veterans' Memorial Highway (fee), enter the elevator into the mountain, and make your way to to the wooden viewing platform filled with Wild Center-created exhibits about this special and rare island.

Good For Kids?

It’s a 5, the highest rating for kids because it’s outside, the view is great, the elevator is ancient and inside a mountain, and there’s food at the Castle. And they can scramble down the footpath to get back to the car.

More At The Wild Center

There are many strange plants on summits. The Islands in the Sky exhibit at The Wild Center shows how incredible their lives are. (There are trees that grow underground, with only their leaves rising above the soil.) And there is a story about how human footprints came close to running the mountains bare, and how a single person named Ed Ketchledge, who especially loved Whiteface, gave these plants a new lease on life.

What To Look for?

Boott’s and other sometimes ancient plants flourish on summits as long as no one steps on them. You can almost always see Boott’s on Whiteface if you walk onto the wooden platform near the weather tower on the summit and look down, it’s the fuzzy-leafed plant.