Multiple approaches to this summit give hikers options to do a loop hike or out-and-back on the same trail. McKenzie is the highest peak of the 6ers. It is visible from many locations in Saranac Lake and is easily recognized due to its unique, multi-peak shape. Viewsfrom the top are widespread, from Whiteface Mountain to the north toMount Marcy to the south. A ledge to the west of the trail offers views of the Village of Saranac Lake and the Saranac Lakes chain.
How to get there
From downtown Lake Placid, take Route 86 toward Saranac Lake. A large parking lot will be on your right, about 1.5 miles after the junction with Old Military Road.
By the numbers
- Distance: 5.3 miles to the summit
- Elevation: 3,822 feet
- Ascent: 2,340 feet
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 of the Saranac Lake 6ers. Hikers who are up to the challenge can tackle both mountains in one day!
The 5.3-mile-long trail begins easy and gets quite steep before the summit ledge, where there are outstanding views. 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 Mountain in Winter
This is a challenging snowshoe to a fantastic view of the High Peaks. The rugged terrain is often icy and slippery. 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.
The other routes
Instead of hiking from the main parking lot on Route 86, hikers can leave from Lake Placid. There are two options here.
The first is starting from Whiteface Inn Lane, where the Jackrabbit Ski Trail is located. The trail is maintained for cross-country skiing. It climbs 1.9 miles to where it meets up with the main trail from Route 86.
From here, hikers can go back the way they came or head down the backside of the mountain on the SOA trails. This trail leads to the junction of Moose Mountain and then very steeply descends to Bartlett Pond. This pond is a welcomed rest stop after the relentlessly steep trail from the summit. After the pond, the trail is a nice, gradual walk through the woods and leads back to the road you parked on.
Please remember that these other two routes pass through or near private land. It is important to respect private property. It is highly recommended that hikers consult a guide or guidebook and map before using SOA trails. They may not be maintained and can be challenging to follow.