Saranac Lake Trails

There's some great paddling in the Saranac region, too.

Ampersand Mountain

A bittersweet view. The Saranacs and countless ponds lie to the north and northeast; Little Ampersand Lake lies close by; to south and southeast stretch all the highest ranges—Great Range, the MacIntyres, Santanoni, the Sewards and all of the lesser mountains in the area.

Ampersand Mountain was originally covered with a heavy growth of trees. Surveyor Verplanck Colvin had the trees cut on the mountain summit so he could use it as a triangulation point. The summit today is bare, illustrating what happens when trees on a mountain top are cut. Erosion depleted all the soil and as a result, not a tree or stump is to be found on the summit.

Trailhead: South side of Route 3, midway between Saranac Lake and the junction with Route 30.

Distance From Saranac Lake: 10 miles
Elevation: 3,365 feet

A DEC sign marks the beginning of the trail, which leads gradually through the hardwood growth for about a mile and then climbs sharply. The ascent from there to the top is abrupt-about 1800 feet in elevation in 3 miles.

Baker Mountain

This little mountain affords a lake and mountain view unsurpassed in the Adirondacks for the length of climb. From its summit there is a panoramic view that includes MacIntyre, Sawtooth, the Seward Ranges, the Great Range, many individual peaks and the lake country around Saranac Lake. The trail begins on the north side of Moody Pond, following an old woods road for about 100 yards to an old stone quarry. Keep to the right of quarry, then turn left past the quarry. Here the woodland trail continues upward through evergreens to the summit.
Distance From Saranac Lake: 1/2 mile
Elevation: 2,340 feet
Ascent: 900 feet
(Route from Village: Main Street to Pine Street to East Pine Street to Moody Pond.)

Mount Pisgah

The summit boasts a superb view of the Saranac Lake region, as well as a picnic area and fireplace for cookouts. On the way down, the only Cresta run in the western hemisphere is visible. Near the first curve on the run is a well with water suitable for cooking.

From the Visitor Interpretive Center, take route 86 toward Saranac Lake. Turn left directly across from the Camp Colby entrance. Bear to the left, proceeding until you see the Mount Pisgah sign. Turn right and continue on to the end of the road.

This is an easy climb for all. Start from the Ski Lodge at the Veteran's Memorial Ski Center, overlooking the Saranac River. Follow the northeast side up the town line (or easier yet, climb up the road).

Distance From Saranac Lake: 1/2 mile
Elevation: 2,080 feet

Scarface Mountain

The trail begins on Old Ray Brook Road, opposite the New York State Police Headquarters on Route 86. Follow the old highway downhill 1/10th of a mile to the trailhead parking lot on the left.

The trail passes through pine plantations on the left into a natural stand of white and red pine timber, crossing railroad tracks and continuing through Norway spruce plantation mixed with white and red pine to Ray Brook marsh (approx. 1/2 mile from trailhead).

Cross marsh and stream over 200 foot elevated wooden walkway and continue southeast through pine and spruce timber, passing through small clearing located 700-800 feet from marsh, continuing further through spruce plantations and intersecting with old road in small clearing (approx. 1 mile from marsh crossing).

Turn left on old road 2/10 of a mile to second small clearing on the left. Scarface is visible directly ahead. Leave road, turning left toward mountain. Follow markers across clearing, bearing slightly left into the woods.

Turn right, leaving evergreens. Climb south-southeast through hardwoods almost to the col (saddle) between Scarface and the ridge extending towards Oseetah Lake. The trail follows a mossy brook for a short distance, then crossing on stones to the right bank.

Continue between brook valley on the left and ridge on the right. Beyond the head of the brook, the trail swings right more steeply away from the slide, into the col, then left following deer trails through scrubs to the top of the ledge.

The Scarface view is breathtaking, offering sights of unbroken wilderness toward the Sawtooth and Seward Mountains on the left and McKenzie on the right. Oseetah Lake is below, with Kiwassa, Lower Saranac, Colby, Clear and many other lakes visible, as well.

From the continuous line of mountains, one can see Mount Baker, Ampersand, St. Regis and Loon Lake Mountains. To the left of Baker, the Village of Saranac Lake and Trudeau Institute are sighted. To the right of Baker is the Village of Bloomingdale; in the foreground, Ray Brook.

The top of Scarface can be reached by following the open ledges around the right, keeping Oseetah Lake at one's back. Although partially wooded, the summit affords views of Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain, and, to the southeast, a bowl between two rocky ridges of Scarface, with the horn of Sentinel about 5/8ths of a mile distant.

Breathtaking views may be had from the top of the slide, a short distance from the end of the trail. Experienced rock climbers have found this scar interesting.
Distance From Parking Area: approx. 3 miles
Ascent: 1,500 feet
Elevation: 3,060 feet

Haystack Mountain

This small, rocky peak offers expansive views of many of the High Peaks, the Saranacs, and other large lakes. The final mile is somewhat steep, but the view makes it well worth the effort.

The trail begins at a turnout on Route 86, 1.6 miles east of DEC Headquarters in Ray Brook (old approach started behind DEC Headquarters). The trail is marked with a DEC sign and blue DEC markers.

From the highway, the trail climbs easily, with a few short descents to a stream crossing at 0.5 mile. The trail then gradually swings left and proceeds nearly on the level until beginning an easy descent at 1.0 mile. At 1.5 miles the trail comes to a small open area and, after a shorter, steeper descent, swings right and comes to another brook crossing at 1.8 miles.

Now, following an old road, the trail is practically level for a few hundred yards before beginning an easy climb along the bank of Little Ray Brook. Passing some old foundations on the right, the trail reaches a junction at 2.4 miles. (Red marked trail to the right continues on the old road and leads to McKenzie Mountain, see below.)

Bearing left and still designated with blue markers, the Haystack trail crosses an old dam in another 50 yards. From here the trail begins to climb a series of steep pitches. At 3.2 miles the trail emerges on the first ledge, dips slightly, and continues to the summit at 3.3 miles.
Elevation: 6.6 miles (round trip)
Ascent: 1,240 feet
Driving Distance: 6 miles (from Saranac Lake)

Mount McKenzie

This nearly 4,000 foot peak offers some spectacular views of Lake Placid, the High Peaks, and the vast reaches of the northern portion of the Adirondacks from several ledges on its otherwise wooded summit. The route follows Haystack Mountain trail to the junction 2.4 miles.

Bearing right at the junction with red markers, the McKenzie trail continues to follow the old road at gradual to moderate grades. Crossing a brook at 2.6 miles near the foundations of an old camp the trail continues to climb until it crosses the headwaters of Little Ray Brook at 3.4 miles.

From this brook, the grade moderates but the trail becomes quite wet until the junction with the yellow-marked trail from Whiteface Inn at 3.6 miles.

Continuing straight ahead 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.
Elevation: 3,861 feet
Hiking Distance: 10.5 miles (round trip)
Ascent: 2,240 feet
Driving Distance: 6 miles (from Saranac Lake)

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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