Lake George

Lake George
Lake George - from Tongue Mtn Range - 11/11/2011

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

McKenzie & Haystack Mountains - Lake Placid, NY - 11/10/12

Lake Placid, NY boasts many things.  Obviously being home to the winter olympic games twice doesn't hurt (1932 & 1980).  The town also is home to the Eastern US Olympic Training Center.  If you haven't seen the ski jumps in Lake Placid or the Bobsled run,  Luge Run or skating facilties, you've got a lot to look at right there.  The town also boasts many tourist shops and fine dining facilities.
What interests me though are the hiking and skiing opportunities.  Whiteface Mountain has the greatest vertical drop in the east and offers fantastic downhill skiing.  The Jack Rabbit Ski Trail offers 37 miles of great cross country skiing   The Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Cross Country Biathlon Center is second to none.
On this day, I had a more modest agenda.  I wanted to climb McKenzie Mountain and Haystack Mountain, both in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area, just west of the Village of Lake Placid.  McKenzie is on the list of Adirondack Hundred Highest and Haystack is a nice mountain with great views.
I decided to climb McKenzie first and hit Haystack on the way back.  I got started at 8:45 AM from the trailhead parking lot on Route 86.  The temperature was in the upper 30's and was expected to top out at 40.  There was no snow at the start, but I could see the snow up on the mountain.  I brought my MicroSpikes, knowing they would be helpful later.
The trail climbs gently,  beginning at an elevation of 1670.  At 2.4 miles the trail to Haystack branches off to the left.  Just beyond, the snow line was encountered at 2100'.  At 3.6 miles, the trail crosses the Jack Rabbit Ski trail at an elevation of about 2500'.  At this point the trail begins its way up the flank of McKenzie and climbs 1300' in the remaining 1.7 miles.
At 3000', I reached some frozen ice falls in the trail and I donned the Microspikes for the remainder of the ascent.  At 3500' there is a false summit and the first nice views of the hike.

Looking North to McKenzie from the viewpoint at the falst summit

It was a beautiful day with full sun and very little wind.  After 5 miles and 2 hours and 40 minutes of hiking I reached the summit.  I contemplated continuing on by following the herd path to Moose Mountain, but I had been warned of the blowdown on that path and I found the warning to be true.  After a couple minutes I returned to the summit and had some lunch.
Rime ice was prevalent on the trees on the ridge
McKenzie up close
Rime ice

Looking back at the false summit
The viewpoint from the false summit




From the summit, there are 2 short side paths that take you to views East and West.

Looking East to Lake Placid!... No snow down there
On my way back down I enjoyed the change from winter back to Indian Summer.  It is strange to begin a hike without snow, climb into a winter scene and then descend back out.  I reached the fork for the Haystack trail and took it.  Look at how different these next pictures are.  Same day, adjacent mountains.  Haystack is about 1000' shorter and gets more sunlight, hence less snow.

Old dam on the Haystack Trail
 Almost immediately you cross an old dam.  After that the trail climbs approximately 800' in 0.9 miles to the summit.  The eastern side of the summit ridge in open rock allowing a 180 degree view from North to South.
Remaining tools near the dam


On the summit, banked to soak up the afternoon sun, I sat down on the ledge rock and could have taken a nap.  It felt like summer.  Alas, it was 2:10 and time to make my way back.
Looking NE from Haystack
From the summit of Haystack, I was back at the car in 1.5 hours.  Haystack would make a nice short partial day hike in its own right. 
Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  11.9 miles
Hike Time:  6 hours, 40 minutes
Total Vertical Gain:  4150' 

Approximate route (Click to enlarge)


My version with USGS topo

3D view of my track on Google Earth


  1. There are several false summits on McKenzie... Did you get a pic next to the actual summit marker? I was disappointed when I did McKenzie for the winter 6er because there were 4 groups in front of us and it had snowed 8" the night before. As we were ascending we were impressed with the speed at which the 4 groups were able to do the ascent and pass us on their descent. It didn't take us long to figure out why they did it so fast. They were all doing it for their winter 6er by the way. They got to the 2nd false summit and turned around. We had to break trail from where they stopped, to the actual summit marker.

    1. I did not notice a summit marker, but it would have probably been covered in snow.

      I did go over the summit. I had started to head for Moose but then turned around due to excessive blow down.

  2. thank you so much for your post. my husband and i are planning a trip to lake placid for our 15th wedding anniversary and wanted to do some hiking. this sounds like the perfect plan. mckenzie on friday and haystack on saturday. we'll be sure to pack the proper weather gear. thanks mike, this was really helpful~

  3. Mike, really appreciate your detailed write-ups; planning an ultra 6'er attempt in february, and you're making it so much easier to prepare.

    1. Great, I'm glad my report is useful to you. Good luck with the ultra 6!