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.
McKenzie Mountain is a massive peak in McKenzie Mountain Wilderness area which spans an area of 36,200 acres. It is visible from many locations in throughout the region and was formerly known as Saddleback, due to its shape. There are 2 main approaches to McKenzie, but the one located on Whiteface Inn Road is the most frequently used in winter and recommended unless you plan on climbing Haystack Mountain as well.
The trail starts out very wide over an old woods road that makes up part of the Jackrabbit Ski Trail. Soon the trail starts to climb steadily to the Lake Placid Lean-to on the right. Past the lean-to the trail mellows out and the snowshoeing is very easy to the intersection with the Rout 86 Trail on the left. The Jackrabbit Trail continues straight and the McKenzie Trail goes right. Continuing to McKenzie, the trail soon begins a very steep climb and under typical icy conditions. There are several false summits on McKenzie and some offering outstanding views along unmarked spur trails. 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. Continuing over the top is the SOA Trails that will access you to Moose Mountain.
Distance Round Trip:
Approximate Time Round Trip:
- Families with Kids: Not recommended
- Experienced Snowshoers: 5 to 6 hours
- Out of Shape Snowshoers: Not Recommended
From the intersection of Route 86 and Route 73 in Lake Placid follow Route 86 toward Saranac Lake. About 1-mile from the Lake Placid is the massive trailhead for the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness on the right.
Difficulty: 1=easiest, 5=hardest
Four: This is a very aggressive snowshoe destination
Find out more
Read our blog post, McKenzie Mountain Loop.