McKenzie Mountain is a 3,861-foot mountain with a long trail through the forest before reaching the climb. It was formerly known as Saddleback, due to its shape (2 peaks on the summit) but now bears the name of the Wilderness area where it is located, which spans a total area of 36,200 acres. This mountain is visible from many locations in Saranac Lake.
It is one of the Saranac 6ers. 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 is 1.6 miles east of DEC headquarters in Ray Brook, and is for both McKenzie and Haystack Mountains. This route is 10.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2340’.
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.
The trail continues to McKenzie with red markers. This also marks the beginning of the ascent of the peak, a very steep climb, ending at a side trail to the right at 4.3 miles.
This side 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.
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.
Family with Young Kids: Not recommended
Experienced Hiker: Round trip 6 hours.
Out of Shape Hiker: Not recommended.