While the 46ers may be the best known peak bagging challenge
in New York, numerous other mountain challenges exist throughout the
A few posts back, I wrote about
the Tupper Lake Triad.
This consists of
three peaks local to Tupper Lake that can be climbed to earn a patch.
Tupper Lake’s neighbor to the east, Saranac
Lake has a similar hiking challenge, the Saranac Lake 6ers
The Saranac Lake 6ers, as its name implies, consists of six
peaks in the vicinity of Saranac Lake.
Similar to the Tupper Lake Triad, anyone that climbs the six peaks can
earn a patch, sticker, and recognition.
With twice as many peaks as the Tupper Lake Triad, the Saranac Lake 6ers
offer a little more variety and challenge.
While I didn’t initially set out to climb the 6ers, I had
already climbed two of the peaks.
the remaining peaks are clumped together, I decided to finish the list as my
first summer in the area wound down.
I’ll describe the peaks in the order I climbed them.
These aren’t necessarily the order others
Ampersand Mountain seems to be the most popular of the
mountains on the 6er list.
stands to the west of Saranac Lake on the northern side of the High Peaks
I read about the mountain
before I moved to the Adirondacks.
it’s not too far from Tupper Lake, where I live, I knew it would be one of my
first hikes when I moved to the area.
Ampersand turned out to be my second hike after moving to the area.
I hiked it on May 30th
friend J Man was visiting and my dog Choya went along for the climb.
From the trailhead, the hiking starts out fairly
When the elevation starts to
increase, it does so quite steeply.
Gentle trail turns into steep rock with no relenting, gaining 1,300 feet
in the last mile. Rock steps help on the upper reaches. The trail to the summit
only travels 2.7 miles, gaining 1,775’ of elevation.
Sections of small cliffs require hands to
The agile Choya needed to be
lifted on at least one occasion, something that doesn’t happen very often, and
he has seen some rough areas.
hiked in the early season, we faced mud season conditions and sections of
|Easy going at the start|
The steep climb doesn’t come without reward.
The summit features a large, wide-open,
The views are impressive
and far-reaching. V
the south allow an unobstructed look at the High Peaks over Ampersand Lake.
To the north, the Saranac Lakes and other
bodies of water dot the landscape.
|View over the Saranac Lakes|
|Seward Range over Ampersand Lake|
|Looking into the High Peaks|
|WhiteFace in the distance|
At 3,353 feet, Ampersand stands as the second tallest 6er
I thought the summit had the best
views of all the 6ers.
modest 5.4 mile roundtrip, the hiking seemed slow with the mud season
Allow plenty of time to soak
in the summit views and explore different areas of the open summit.
Ampersand is a very popular hike and the
trailhead is usually overflowing on the weekends, so plan accordingly.
|Endless waves of mountains |
|Choya with the Saranac Lakes beyond|
St Regis Mountain
My second 6er summit took me to St Regis Mountain.
St Regis is the furthest of the 6ers from
Saranac Lake, actually in the little settlement of Paul Smiths, about 15 miles
out of town within the St Regis Canoe Area.
I climbed St Regis in early July.
With the exception of the final summit push, St Regis climbs gradually
over 3.3 miles on a nice trail.
After gaining over 1200’, the 2,874’ summit is reached.
The summit offers a wide view mostly to the
south from open rock.
A firetower stands
on the summit.
Climbing the tower allows
hikers to rise above the trees for uninterrupted 360-degree views.
While the High Peaks and plenty of other
mountains can be seen from the summit, the view over the endless lakes and
ponds in the region are what make St Regis really stand out.
With the aid of the tower, I rank the views
on St Regis second only to Ampersand among the 6er peaks.
Scarface stands at 3,088' in
elevation, just a few miles east of Saranac Lake.
The summit of Scarface is reached by a
3.4-mile trail after gaining 1,480 feet of elevation.
From the trailhead, the trail descends to Ray
The brook, crossed on a nice
bridge, forms a meadow that offers views toward the summit.
After gradual climbing, steeper sections lead
to the higher reaches of the mountain.
Occasionally a steeper section might require the use of hands to
The trail traverses the top of
the mountain for a while before actually reaching the true summit.
|Gentle trail at the start|
|View from the bridge|
|Mossy mountain creek|
Scarface disappointed me.
I regretted hiking it on a clear day when I could have hiked somewhere
with much better views. The views are
minimal. I actually found the view from
Ray Brook, over the meadow, to be the most enjoyable. The summit sits in a small clearing in thick
woods with a sign marking the high point.
There is nothing to see from the summit.
Traveling over a ledge while gaining the summit, one brief opening in
the trees gives a narrow view into the High Peaks. Very brief glimpses through the trees allow
for minimal views to the valley.
Returning to the trailhead, the roundtrip hike clocks in at 6.8 miles. I
have no desire to revisit Scarface.
|Trail over open rock|
|The only view into the High Peaks|
Sitting only a mile from downtown Saranac Lake at 2,452’ in
elevation, Baker Mountain stands as the low peak among the 6ers.
Although it sits at the edge of the village,
Baker lies entirely within the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness. Reaching its
summit only requires .9 miles of travel.
Don’t let the modest stats fool you.
Baker packs a surprising punch for such a short hike.
In those .9 miles, you gain nearly 900 feet of
You climb pretty much
continuously from the start.
is often rocky and slabby.
for those looking for a quick outing, the summit gained rather quickly.
I reached the summit in only 20 minutes.
|Rocks start early|
|One of the easier sections|
I climbed Baker the same day I climbed Scarface.
The scenery on Baker made up for the
disappointing views on Scarface.
quick climbing allows you to take extra time to enjoy Baker’s views.
Despite its low stature, Baker offers plenty
While the summit proper is
lackluster, numerous cliffs and ledges around the peak make up for the lack of
Numerous short spurs lead
off the main trail. The side trails all lead to a viewpoint.
|The two summits of McKenzie|
|Looking into the High Peaks|
|McKenzie and Haystack|
|Looking over part of Saranac Lake Village|
Vistas take in most directions.
The higher peaks of the McKenzie Range seem
The High Peaks rise just to
The Village of Saranac Lake
sits just below the mountain.
lakes sparkle beyond the village.
the other 6ers are easy to spot.
enjoying the view, returning to the trailhead takes no time at all.
|Another look over the Village|
|Plenty of lakes visible from Baker|
|Looking over Oseetah Lake|
Not to be confused with the much higher 46er of the same
name, 2,864’ Haystack stands east of Saranac Lake in the McKenzie Mountain
A large parking lot along
Route 86, east of the settlement of Ray Brook, serves as the main trailhead for
both Haystack and McKenzie Mountain.
two can be climbed together in one hike, but I’ll cover them separately.
I hiked the two in mid September.
|Ray Brook Trailhead to both McKenzie and Haystack|
From the trailhead, the trail actually loses elevation over
the first mile or so.
The trail travels
within earshot of Route 86, before following a stream.
The hiking becomes more enjoyable as it
follows the stream.
A few small plunges
dot the stream.
Old foundations sit
along the trail in this stretch.
After 2.4 miles, the trail splits.
This split is easily overlooked however.
The more obvious trail continues over a dam
before climbing aggressively at times to Haystack.
A sign on a tree, 15 feet above, marks the split for
McKenzie Mountain at the junction and the trail isn’t obvious toward McKenzie
from this direction.
planned on going to McKenzie first but missed this junction.
|Sign showing trail split 15' in the air|
|Morning fog over the lakes|
|Ampersand over Oseetah Lake|
|Rocky stretch below Haystack|
The climb to the summit of Haystack becomes loose and steep
After 3.3 miles, I reached the summit quicker than I expected.
The wooded summit features an open overlook
that takes in much of the High Peaks.
|Looking into the High Peaks|
|Close up of High Peaks|
|Lingering clouds |
Most guides to Haystack Mountain have you return the same
way you climbed.
If continuing to
McKenzie, continue north beyond the main overlook.
An unmarked, but well traveled, trail gradually
descends to the Jack Rabbit Trail.
Haystack can also be climbed from this direction from the Whiteface Inn
Although not much different
in length, this approach seems to climb less aggressively.
A cairn marks the junction from the Jack
Rabbit Trail, about .4 miles beyond the McKenzie Mountain junction.
|Cairn at the Jack Rabbit Trail to Haystack|
At 3,861 feet, McKenzie Mountain stands as the highest of
the 6er summits.
In fact, it’s even
taller than the lowest 46er, Couchsachraga.
With its height, comes challenge.
McKenzie feels like a 46er when climbing it.
Its final approach climbs over rough, eroded
trail with rocky obstacles much like a High Peak.
|Typical rocky trail|
|High Peaks type terrain|
While the Saranac Lake 6ers website suggests the same
starting point as Haystack, this isn’t the best option if climbing McKenzie by
The Whiteface Inn approach
reaches the summit in only 3.6 miles.
Climbing it from the Haystack trailhead puts the roundtrip over 10
Combining McKenzie with Haystack,
I recommend hitting Haystack, then traversing the unmarked trail to the Jack
Rabbit Trail before climbing McKenzie.
This puts the roundtrip for the two peaks close to 12 miles roundtrip.
No matter how you climb McKenzie, climbing the trail from
the south requires scrambling over eroded terrain and steep climbing with over
2,000 feet of elevation gain.
way, several spots offer good views.
McKenzie has two summits and the lower one is reached first.
A rough drop from the first summit leads to the
saddle between the two peaks.
summit looks further away and more abrupt than it really is.
The actual summit offers no views in a wooded clearing
marked with a sign.
Near the summit,
multiple ledges offer nice views however.
first looks over Lake Placid Village to the High Peaks beyond.
Whiteface is partially visible if you work
The other outcropping provides a
much broader 180-degree view to the west.
Returning to the south, the descent is rather rough.
|Franklin Falls Pond|
|Saranac Lake Village|
For a more isolated hike, McKenzie can be climbed from the
north with the higher Moose Mountain.
10 mile loop is possible utilizing Lake Owners Association (LOA) Trails.
Before committing to this route, verify the
LOA trails are open. In the past they have been closed.
|Choya enjoying a break|
|One last view on the descent|
The Saranac Lake 6ers is a worthwhile peak bagging challenge
if you are in the area.
The peaks offer
enough variety to keep it interesting.
would be willing to hike any of the six peaks again with the exception of
Scarface, which was very limited on scenery.
Patches are available for those that complete the 6ers.
For more ambitious hiker looking an even
harder challenge, separate awards are given for those that complete the 6ers in
winter or in all six in a single day.
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