Hike to McKenzie and Haystack Mountains

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McKenzie and Haystack Mountains are a nice day hike in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness, offering beautiful scenery, mixed terrain and outstanding views from the summits.

McKenzie Mountain stands at 3,861 feet and is one of the highest 100 in the Adirondacks. Haystack Mountain stands at 2,874 feet. Both are part of the Saranac 6ers Challenge.

The trailhead for this route to McKenzie and Haystack is located on route 86 in Ray Brook, there is a nice parking area off the side of the road. You will see the wooden sign marking the trail and another for McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area. The total round trip for both is 12.4 miles with an elevation gain of around 4,100 feet. I choose to do Haystack first and McKenzie on the way back. You can do this hike either way.

From the trailhead, following the blue foot path, the hike starts out pretty gradual and continues as you walk along a well defined and fairly level trail for the first two miles or so. The elevation gain is very gradual through here as you follow alongside the brook, crossing over a few times.

At approximately 2.0 miles you will pass remains of an old foundation and at 2.4 miles an old dam, which you will cross over to stay on the blue trail to Haystack Mountain. The red trail to McKenzie Mountain is just before this dam crossing, on the right. There's a large tree with a sign for Haystack and McKenzie and a blue and red disc above it. The sign is high up on the tree, and the trail goes up the bank to the right. It's easy to miss if you’re not looking out for it.

After crossing over the dam, the trail then starts to gain in elevation more quickly, and becomes much steeper. The final 0.9 mile ascent to Haystack is steep and rough terrain with a lot of eroded roots and many boulders throughout this section. Just below the summit, there's a small clearing to the right, with a nice overlook. The last scramble will bring you to the summit at 2,874 feet and 3.3 miles. The summit is partially wooded, but the views are fantastic, with a 180 degree view to the North and South. You will see McKenzie Mountain directly in front, the high peaks in the distance and the village of Lake Placid and many lakes below.

After taking in the views from the summit, you will descend the blue trail 0.9 miles back down to the junction for McKenzie Mountain. Look for the trail, on your left now, just after crossing back over the dam. The trail (red) is a pretty gradual walk through the woods to start, and begins to climb as you come to the jct. with the jackrabbit ski trail at 3.6 miles. From here, the final 1.7 miles of climbing is steep with a lot of elevation gain and ups and downs as you climb over the first false summit and then a few more bumps (false summits). The final false summit will offer a nice close up view of McKenzie’s true summit from a spur trail to the left; McKenzie is to the right. This will be the final steep descent and ascent before reaching McKenzie Mountain at 3,861 feet, and 5.3 miles from the trailhead, or 4.4 miles from the jct. to Haystack. The summit is completely wooded. There’s a spur trail to the left just before reaching the true summit. The summit is marked with a disc on a tree “McKenzie Mtn.” To the right of the summit there is another spur trail with beautiful views, it’s standing room only here though! Although the summit is wooded, the spur trails to the left and right offer really great views. The trail to the left has enough room on the ledge to relax and have a bite to eat.

After taking in the views on McKenzie, you will follow the red trail back and descend down to the jct. with Haystack and take the blue trail back to the trailhead. 

During the summer months the Tail O'The Pup is open. This is a nice place to grab some good food and a drink after a long day of hiking. It’s just up the road from the trailhead, has plenty of outside seating and live music nightly.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Food
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Camera
  • Backpacking First Aid Kit
  • Headlamps and extra batteries
  • Extra Layers, Socks, Wind and Rain Shields
  • Microspikes (fall through spring)
  • Snowshoes (winter)
  • Hat and Gloves
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray (spring and summer)
  • Snow gear and boots (winter and colder months)
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Activities:

Hiking

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

12.4 Miles

Elev. Gain:

4100 Feet

Features:

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Forest
Scenic
Wildlife

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Added by Janet Thomas

Hi, I'm Janet! I am an avid outdoors enthusiast with a love for the Adirondack Mountains! You can find me outdoors in my free time doing epic, outdoorsy things with my adventurous little boy, from hiking mountains to mtn. biking and paddling all around New York!

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