McKenzie Mountain is a 3,822-foot mountain with two distinct peaks that are visible from many places around Saranac Lake. The path begins with a long, pleasant hike through the forest before the serious climbing begins, but when it does it is relentless. McKenzie is part of the Saranac Lake 6er hiking challenge, and many consider it the most difficult of those mountains to climb. If you're new to hiking, think about starting with Baker Mountain and saving McKenzie for last!
There are two main approaches to McKenzie, one from Saranac Lake and the other from Lake Placid. The description below is for the Saranac Lake approach, which also shares a trailhead with Haystack Mountain, another 6er. Hikers who are up to the challenge can tackle both mountains in one day!
- Distance: 5.3 miles to the summit
- Elevation: 3,822 feet
- Ascent: 2,340 feet
From downtown Saranac Lake, take Route 86 east toward Lake Placid. Continue for a little over 5 miles and look for the large parking area on the left. This is also the parking area for Haystack Mountain.
The 5.3-mile-long trail begins easy and gets quite steep before the summit ledge, where there are outstanding views of the High Peaks to the south. The trail follows gentle ups and downs as it passes through an attractive forest at the base of Little Burn Mountain. The path swings right at 1.5 miles, then descends to Ray Brook before climbing moderately to the junction with the Haystack Mountain trail at 2.4 miles.
Bear right at the junction and follow the McKenzie trail up a moderate grade to a four-way junction with the Whiteface Inn Road trail and Jackrabbit Ski Trail at 3.6 miles. Continue straight and follow the red trail markers to head toward the peak. The path makes a moderate ascent, levels off, and then the serious climbing begins as the trail gains 1,000 feet of elevation in little over half a mile. The good news is the climbing ends at a side path that leads to a nice view.
After the view, the trail ascends and descends McKenzie's five summits, the last of which has a couple of ledges with spectacular views.
McKenzie in winter
This is a challenging snowshoe to a fantastic view of the High Peaks. Snowshoes are necessary to avoid postholing through the snowpack, and snow spikes are required to ascend the mountain's steeper sections. Extra layers of non-cotton clothing, a windbreaker, emergency blanket, first-aid kit, headlamp with extra batteries, and plenty of food and water are essential items for any winter excursion. The extra layers and windbreaker are especially important on the exposed summit, which will be much colder than the lower sections of the mountain. Start early and set aside an entire day to complete this hike.
On The Map