May 31, 2022
So, you want to take on fantastic hikes in the Saranac Lake area? You want to join your fellow hikers on some of Saranac Lake’s coolest hikes and achieve your goals. You want to take in sweeping views and see the dynamic Saranac Lake region from above. Whether you hike at sunrise, sunset, or sometime in between, there is magic in the woods. Call it romantic. Call it ethereal. Call it challenging, rewarding, or incredible. Hiking in Saranac Lake is one of a kind.
But hiking is about more than summiting a mountain. It’s about being part of something bigger. It’s about being part of a community that enjoys spending time outdoors and wants everyone else to have an enjoyable experience as well. By following Leave No Trace ethics and practicing ways to Love Your ADK, you can help ensure that the area mountains and trails are taken care of for years to come.
In addition to hiking popular mountains in the area (St. Regis, Ampersand, Haystack, McKenzie, and Scarface), here are Leave No Trace tips to make each hike more meaningful.
Make a plan
This one sounds boring, but it might be the most important! When you plan ahead and prepare for your hike, it helps you accomplish your goals safely, while also minimizing damage to the landscape. Poor planning can make a good trip miserable very quickly. Do yourself a favor and don’t set yourself up for failure: make sure you are prepared for spending time in the woods. Do you have all the hiking essentials in your backpack?
Did you know that McKenzie Mountain has multiple false summits? The mountain isn’t trying to play tricks on you; it’s just the way the glaciers shaped the land. Make sure you have your map packed and accessible so you know which summit you are on! There have been many people over the years who turn around, thinking they summited the mountain, only to find out they were on a false summit and not on the highest point.
Travel on trails
It sounds obvious, but it is necessary to stay on the trail when hiking. Hike through the mud, not around it! When you stray from the designated trails, the result could lead to barren areas, soil erosion, and unattractive trails. If you do have to leave the trail (to use the bathroom, for example), make sure you do your best to not trample vegetation.
If you’ve seen the summit of St. Regis Mountain you know that there is an expansive open area with commanding views of the St. Regis Canoe Area. There are no trees on this side of the summit because of a fire, furthering the point of how fragile ecosystems are on mountain summits. Do your part to stay on the rocks and not trample the vegetation. Chances are it’s been trying to grow there for a long time; don’t stomp on its future!
Leave what you find
Yes, this is the age-old adage “take only pictures.” Avoid damaging live trees (remember, in the Adirondacks, only dead and down wood can be used for fires) and refrain from rearranging rocks near streams or on summits. And it should go without saying, but the trees don’t need your graffiti. If you want to leave your name somewhere, be sure to sign in at the trail register. Carving tree bark leaves a permanent scar and diminishes the beauty of the area for others, and carvings can lead to unnecessary disease or invasive pathogens taking hold.
Haystack Mountain has plenty of wildflowers during spring. Do not pick flowers to bring home! They will not survive for very long, and you are removing habitat that pollinators need.
Create an enjoyable experience for everyone
Obviously having fun is a priority outdoors, but make sure your fun is not at the expense of others. You might like to hike with loud music, but others might not. Some people are afraid of dogs, so please control pets. You might hike super fast, while others take their time. Politely say you are passing and hike around. Being considerate of others is about being courteous toward other hikers. It helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience!
For busy trailheads, like the one for Ampersand Mountain, maintaining a respectful attitude toward other hikers and users of the area is necessary for safety. The parking lot is along a busy corridor: watch for traffic when crossing the road, don’t park in a way that impedes motor vehicle traffic, and be nice to others on the trail. Everyone is hiking to enjoy time outdoors. There is no reason for that to be ruined by purposely disrespectful behavior.
Trash your waste
That means poop, too! No one wants to see toilet paper “flowers” alongside a trail, or banana peels left on a rock. Remember, anything you leave behind can adversely affect other people, water, and wildlife.
If you see any trash along the trail, be sure to pack it out, even if it’s not yours, so you can leave the area better than you found it.
Remember, the woods and waters of the Adirondacks are the home of many animals. Give them the space they need and do not disturb them for a better look, or to get a photo. There’s a place for everyone in the Adirondacks, whether you have two legs or four!
Scarface Mountain is one of the quieter area peaks, which means it’s a great spot for wildlife viewing and birding. In order to keep animals safe and not habituate them to humans, make sure all food is stored securely.
Love Your ADK
Even though Leave No Trace ethics and principles have origins in the backcountry, you can practice ethics anywhere - from 6er hikes to Saranac Lake’s parks! Hiking is not the only thing to do in Saranac Lake. Paddle pristine waters, cycle along winding roads, shop for unique souvenirs, or sample some local brews. Make your summer count this year by loving the Adirondacks so that future generations can feel the love too.