Five of the Best Scenic Destinations in the Saranac Lake Region
Saranac Lake is a gem in itself, a true small Adirondack city, and its recreational potential is almost limitless. While it’s hard to label or list destinations from 1-10 or 1-100 based on some outstanding feature, below I would like to offer you a small serving of the Saranac Lake Region.
Highest Peak in the Region
McKenzie Mountain (Difficult – 7.5 or 10.6 miles, Round-trip, depending on route used)
McKenzie Mountain is one of the Adirondacks 100 highest peaks; while it might not be the biggest it has big views. This nearly 7.5 mile round-trip hike will bring you through a very scenic backdrop before a steep climb will give you countless views prior to the big payoff at the summit. There are two trailheads for this hike, from Whiteface Inn Lane which is the 7.5 mile, round-trip, I mention above; or from Route 86 which makes the round-trip closer to 11-miles. Whichever you choose you are sure to have a great time with rewards far beyond what you might expect. In winter expect some very cold temperatures and high winds, as well as frequent very icy conditions.
Ampersand Mountain (Moderate to Hard – 5.4 miles, Round-trip)
Ampersand is possibly the mountain climbed the most by visitors and locals in the Saranac Lake Region. Don’t be surprised to see cars parked along the roadside as well as overflowing from the relatively small parking area. This hike will start out slow and easy as it passes through an attractive forest where the song birds will be calling out to you. As you near the base of the mountain you will notice the terrain becoming much steeper and eventually very steep. Even under steep terrain this mountain is fun to climb and makes for some great memories. In winter expect a well packed trail under most conditions, but as the terrain gets steeper, there will be much more ice and the pace will surely slow down. Expect high winds and arctic temperatures on this bald summit. You can find the Ampersand Trailhead off Route 3 between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake.
Adirondack Fire Tower Peak
St. Regis Mountain (Moderate - 6.8 miles, Round-trip)
I can’t say enough about St. Regis Mountain and I bet after you visit her you will be talking about it for some time too. This peak has an outstanding bang for its buck and is perfect for the entire family. Located in the town of Paul Smiths, off Keese Mills Road, you can be there relatively quick from the Village of Saranac Lake. From the trailhead you will have a nice easy stroll as the trail unfolds in front of you. As the rolling hills present themselves you will still have a nice moderate hike through the hardwoods. There is one steep section as you near the end but it lasts only long enough to bring you to the upper portion of the mountain and then the firetower. While the fire tower is unsafe to climb at this time, it is not needed for some of the best views in the area. Overlooking the St. Regis Lakes below, it’s hard to believe anyone would want to be anyplace else. In winter this trail makes for some nice cross-country skiing, up to the steep section. Snowshoeing for everyone!
Fantastic Crosscountry Skiing Destination
Raquette Falls (Easy to Moderate – Up to 8.8 miles, Round-trip)
You can find this trailhead off Coreys Road between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake off Route 3. While this trail is fantastic for a ski tour it also makes for a nice snowshoe or hike for the entire family. You won’t get any sweeping views from a bald summit, but what you will get are some excellent vistas out over the Raquette River. A nice feature of this trail is it’s “on the fly options.” What I mean is you don’t have to go all the way to Raquette Falls for some nice scenery. You will have plenty of opportunities to visit the river along this trail, as well as the opportunity for a rest at an attractive lean-to at just under 2.5 miles from the parking lot.
New Trail = New Fun
Coney Mountain (Easy – 1.8 miles, Round-trip)
The Coney Mountain trail for a long time was simply a herd path that got frequent use by those who just happened to know about it. But now a state trail has been built with a shiny new parking area for easy access. From the parking area you will immediately be welcomed by a wonderful forest of tall trees as you sweep around the base of Coney. The trail will slowly begin to gain elevation but never terribly steep. The final portion will be the steepest, but only for a short time. This bald round dome will gain you some serious views into the immediate area as you peer out over three counties. In winter this trail gets much less use, but even with less frequent use this trail is easy to follow and use.
For more information on what’s available in the Saranac Lake Region, check out our other pages on this website. Would you like a guide book to the region?, stop by a local bookshop and pick one up. Need a place to stay as you explore the region?, we can do that to.