Jackrabbit Trail - Day 2: McKenzie Pond to Lake Placid Pub & Brewery

The Jackrabbit Ski Trail--Day 2

Day one of our cross-country ski trip on the Jackrabbit Trail had us travel from Paul Smiths to McKenzie Pond Road. It was now a week later, and we were now looking at day two. For this, we decided to go with a much shorter day that would get us from McKenzie Pond Road to the village of Lake Placid. Doesn’t seem like much when you put it that way, but it will prove to be a very roundabout route.

We left one car at the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, which the trail conveniently passes by, and started the short drive over to the Jackrabbit Trail Trailhead where we left off our previous journey. We estimated that this section would only be around 9 miles but would bring us through some serious terrain as well as a few road crossings along the way. 

All I can say is, don't take the first section from McKenzie Pond Road to Whiteface Inn Road too lightly if you head out to give it a taste. I would say is the most demanding section of the Jackrabbit Trail, especially if cross-country skiing is not a strong suit.

McKenzie Pass

Starting at McKenzie Pond Road we crested the first hill very quickly. This brought us a few feet from a local ball field. We soon entered the woods to the right along the forest edge and were welcomed with a short steep downhill through a narrow passage of trees to a powerline. From here we enjoyed the mellow stroll along rolling hills to the trail register.

At about 0.75 miles from the road, there is a short, very steep pitch. I took a moment to ponder this before I launched off because at the bottom of the hill there is a brook that has a small bridge suspending it and I didn’t want to miss it. The bridge is about three feet wide giving ample room to hit it, but also miss it. Hitting it wasn’t an issue, but the drop was much icier and faster than I estimated – I didn’t break the sound barrier or anything that dramatic, but located on this bridge was a little bump that threw me off balance and gave me a bit of air on the way to my rear-end. We made the short climb from this bridge and started on the seemingly long, flat section to the spur trail for McKenzie Pond.

McKenzie Pond


We decided to take the short spur trail to check out the pond in winter, and since today was a short day we figured we had plenty of time. Back at the intersection we started the long uphill slog that would gain us serious elevation as we crested the shoulder of Haystack Mountain. The traction on my skis was decent but Corenne’s didn’t seem to bite as well on the steeper portions. A duck walk was required over and over for what seemed to be long periods of time. Once on top of this hill, we looked forward to the long downhill to Whiteface Inn Road.


Past the McKenzie Mountain Trail the downhill was a bit slow and almost flat to the Lake Placid Lean-to which we passed right by on our left, no one was occupying it. On this long downhill, which is not too steep for most skiers, I was having one heck of a time keeping my sticks under me. I wiped out on three occasions, THREE! I don’t know what was wrong with me, maybe my knees were shaky from a snowshoe trip the day before, I don’t know.

Now down at the Whiteface Inn Road we followed the trail as is ran parallel to the roadside eventually crossing it and entering the golf course. At this point, it was a nice kick and glide but occasionally I went off the designated trail to play on the steep hills of the golf course, I didn’t have much luck there either.

Finally to Lake Placid

As we left the golf course, there was one confusing intersection that was not marked well. It's a four-way intersection where skiers were going in all directions; we guessed straight ahead and soon saw a red marker that told us we were going correctly. We passed by a variety of homes and camps and eventually got to the dam on Lake Placid. Past the dam the trail was easy to follow. There are a couple decent ups and downs between here and Route 86, all were a blast and I made up for my past poor performance. Soon we were coming out in the parking lot behind the Howard Johnson’s Restaurant.


We removed our skis, crossed the road, and picked up a snack at the gas station across the road. Continuing down Algonquin Drive we opted to walk rather than ruin our skis on the sanded surface of the side road, but it wasn’t long before we could snap them back on and hit the trails again. As we entered the woods once more, we quickly came to a short steep climb up what looks to be an old ski slope. It was very deceiving as it looks like you will need to climb the entire slope, but in fact the Jackrabbit Trail left part way up on the left. We would now have to ski awkwardly on a side slope and then cross a closed road and ski slightly downhill to the crossing of a secondary road. We hobbled across the plowed secondary road without taking off our skis; the snowbanks made us wish we had.  

The trail dropped slightly and then there was a short uphill to a ridge above Outlet Brook. The trail then slowly makes its way to a long steep L-shaped slope, which I might add: nailed it!!! Once across the bridge over the brook, a gentle climb brought us to a crossing of Wesvalley Road. We removed our skis here since it was bare asphalt.

On the opposite side of the road we made a steady and steep climb to the backside of the Crowne Plaza. From here we were not quite sure where to go, but we knew how to get to the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery where our car and a pint were waiting for us. We skirted the parking area and eventually behind a cabin and out onto the front lawn. We skied all this right down to Hillcrest Drive. From here we walked the roads to the pub with skis slung over our shoulder. We could have put them back on and skied across Mirror Lake, but at this point we opted for the shorter distance.

At the pub we pulled up to the bar and ordered a hot bowl of soup, skipped the pint and went right for the Irish coffee; something hot with something hot to warm our chilled bones. I bet it’s not every day that someone comes in off the streets with skis over their shoulder and orders up that combination. 

Winter Birding: Saranac Lake and Paul Smiths
DIY Adirondack style

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