McKenzie Mountain is a 3,861-foot (1,177 m) mountain in western Essex County in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness area which spans an area of 36,200 acres. It is visible from many locations in Saranac Lake and was formerly known as Saddleback, due to its shape (2 peaks on the summit).
There are 2 main approaches to McKenzie. There is a 5.3 mile trail from Rt. 86 in Ray Brook (located between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid). The parking lot and trailhead, 1.6 miles east of DEC headquarters in Ray Brook, is for both McKenzie and Haystack Mountains. This route is 10.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2340’. Regardless of which approach you use, the hike includes 0.5 miles of extremely steep, wet, and eroded trail and should not be taken too lightly. Along with steep terrain comes slippery footing and wet conditions. The trail climbs gently, beginning at an elevation of 1670’. At 2.4 miles the trail to Haystack branches off to the left - the trail to McKenzie continues on. At 3.6 miles the trail crosses the Jack Rabbit Ski trail at an elevation of about 2500’. This point can also be reached from the Whiteface Inn Lane in Lake Placid, by ascending the Jack Rabbit Ski trail to where it intersects with the trail coming up from Rt. 86. Continuing to McKenzie, with red markers, the trail soon begins a very steep climb, ending at a side trail to the right at 4.3 miles. This trail leads to a vista, while the main trail continues over a first summit, a second bump, and then a third summit. Finally arriving at the fifth and final summit, the trail offers excellent views from both a ledge on the left of the trail and, just beyond, a ledge to the right of the true summit, at 5.25 miles.
Family with Young Kids: Not recommended
Experienced Hiker: Round trip 6 hours.
Out of Shape Hiker: Not recommended.