1. From Wilmington Reservoir ascend Marble and Lookout Mtns.
2. Detour on herd path to Esther (assuming you are climbing Esther and Whiteface together) and back
3. Ascend Whiteface Mtn.
4. Back-track to reservoir
Trip In A Nutshell:
This hike was done as a two mountain hike that included Esther. If you are dead set on climbing all 46, then definitely include Esther with your Whiteface climb as it amounts to less than a two mile (r/t) detour over easy ground. The one obstacle if you include Esther is a small swamp which (based on experience) calls for shin-high gaiters if you aren't lucky.
You can begin the hike to Whiteface and Esther from either the Atmospheric Research Center or from the Wilmington Reservoir. Each is on its own road leading off the Whiteface Memorial Highway. Both eventually come together near the summit of Marble Mtn, from which point they follow the summit trails to Esther or Whiteface or both depending on your destination
The favored route to both summits begins at the Town of Wilmington's water reservoir, which is on the left about a mile out of town on the Whiteface Memorial Highway (well before the toll gate). From the reservoir, the hike begins gently on the RED trail (McM #79, ADK #82).
No disrespect intended, but another "view"---and a very weird one it is---is the sight of tourists on Whiteface's summit in their spotless Bermuda's and white tenny-pumps. Imagine this: there you are, climbing, climbing, climbing, sweating up a storm as you usually do. You are aware that there is this castle-like structure at the summit. You see it draw closer as you approach it, knowing perfectly well that you're going to run into some very non-hiker-like folks at the summit. Soon you find yourself standing just below the foundation of the observation deck. It is surrounded by a stone wall so that the tourists don't fall off the mountain and so that there is a nice level deck for them to walk about the summit upon, without tripping (God forbid). You climb the remaining ten feet and haul your butt over the stone wall and onto the summit terrace amongst the tourists. All of a sudden, you're the only sweating, stinking, dirty human among all these bug-eyed, spiffy tourists who gawk at you as though you are an orc just off the bus from Mordor. It's a good moment to ask one of them, "Hey, Legolas, where can I find me an elf-maiden?" Great fun!
Enjoy it. The men, led around by their wives with blue hair, will be looking at you---the manly and adventuresome hiker with his Amazon woman. Their manhood will fail them. All in all, Whiteface is a different summit experience.
The only segment of this trip that might be viewed as difficult is the ascent of Marble Mt. as noted above. Otherwise, this is a fairly tame hike, even the final ascent of Whiteface Mtn. Whiteface is the high point of the hike, in more ways than one. From Marble Mtn. onwards, the trail is wide, straight and easy to follow through the saddle between Marble and Whiteface. Gradually, the slope increases as you near Whiteface, but although the RED trail runs straight up the side of Whiteface it is a quick hike to the Whiteface Memorial Highway some hundreds of feet below the summit. From there, the path is over bare rock parallel to and above the nearby highway. It's not difficult.
Whiteface is one of the Adirondack peaks that offers a 360º panorama from its summit. One would think that that would put this summit's views in the OUTSTANDING column with the likes of Giant, Algonquin, Gothics, Haystack, and Skylight (see View Rankings). If how far you could see was the only qualification for an outstanding view, then Whiteface would be number one, for sure. However the view from Whiteface is plain vanilla in my own opinion. It lacks the complex and varied views of most of the other Adirondack peaks which normally include mountains and valleys that are near and far. Whiteface offers views only of a few lakes amidst miles and miles of blue forest thousands of feet below. The rest of the High Peaks are far away, barely visible. Of most interest is Lake Placid---the actual lake, not the town---almost at the foot of Whiteface. The ski trails on Whiteface and Little Whiteface are of some interest, if only for their tattoo-like appearance against the blue-green of the conifers surrounding them.
0.0 mi. Wilmington reservoir
4.0 mi. Cairn for herd path to Esther (see the Esther page for this side trip)
4.7 mi. Reach the paved Whiteface Memorial Highway
5.3 mi. Summit of Whiteface
Hike Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains, Esther Mountain Hike. You will find here a detailed description of hiking both Whiteface Mountain and Esther Mountain, along with Trail Reports and maps of the hike.