My goal for Saturday was to climb Moose Mountain (3899') in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area. This is a peak on the hundred highest list in New York. The plan was to park on Whiteface Inn Road, take the Jackrabbit Trail to the McKenzie Mountain Trail, climb McKenzie, then follow the Shore Owners Association (SOA) herd paths in a loop to complete the hike.
I had climbed McKenzie (3861) previously on an early November day in winter conditions. Look at the conditions I had that day! I also had climbed Haystack on that day. Haystack is a nice destination on it's own.
As I drove to Lake Plaid, I noticed all the trailheads in Keene were absolutely packed, with cars lining the road for great distances. This was another reason to climb at a location outside the High Peaks, even though Moose and McKenzie are darn close to high peaks.
My previous trip to McKenzie started from Route 86, so that is why I chose to start this trip from the Jackrabbit Trail on Whiteface Inn Road. This time I was also starting late, 11:15, so I wanted to move quick. It took 30 minutes to walk the 1.8 mile section of the Jackrabbit Trail to the intersection with the McKenzie Trail. There is nothing too exciting about hiking the Jackrabbit in summer, also in winter it is a fine ski trail.
At the McKenzie Trail, I turned right, and immediately began the steep climb up McKenzie. From the junction, the trail climbs 1000' feet in the next .7 miles. It then tapers off a little as you go over several false summits.
|Sign at the trailhead|
I slowed down considerably on the steep upward climb, but still managed to reach the first viewpoint at 2900' an hour from the start.
|a zoom view from the first viewpoint|
While this trail was less crowded than it's high peak counterparts, I did see a dozen or so people and 5 dogs on the trail.
|Wonderful hiking on summit ridge|
After an hour and 45 minutes of hiking, I was on the summit of McKenzie. While the summit is wooded, there are several viewpoints on the east and west sides of the summit that offer great views.
|Views from the summit|
|Lake Placid from McKenzie|
From the summit of McKenzie, I left the people behind and continued north on the SOA herd path to Moose Mountain. Then I was on McKenzie previously, I had turned around shortly after starting on this herd path, due to blowdown and lots of fresh snow. This time the path was wonderful. It has a rugged remote feel and offers hiking on duff instead of rocks, roots and mud.
The path drops approximately 600' between the two mountains so you have some work to do, but I loved the trail. It is a little faint in spots due to lots of ferns hanging over the trail, but I just followed my dog Rev, who knew exactly where to go. You shouldn't lose the trail if you carefully follow it. The trail is marked by white SOA discs with red lettering. On many of the discs, the red lettering has faded to yellow. There are also plain yellow discs which are short spurs leading to viewpoints.
|A non-faded SOA marker|
|A view of Moose, shortly after leaving McKenzie|
Just 0.2 miles north of McKenzie is an optional trail if you want just a McKenzie loop hike. This trail takes you down past Bartlett Pond and down to the Lake Trail and Whiteface Inn Road.
|Just north of Moose is an SOA trail leading down to Bartlett Pond and the Lake Trail|
|Here is an example of the many ferns along the SOA trail to Moose|
|Nearing the Moose Mountain summit ridge|
It is 3.1 miles from McKenzie to Moose and this section of the hike took me an hour and 45 minutes. I has now 3.5 hours into the hike. I was quite surprised when I reached the summit of Moose to find 2 young women (perhaps in their early twenties) there. They had climbed from the SOA Two Brooks Trail and said it had taken them three hours. These were the only people I saw once I left McKenzie.
Moose Mountain offer 2 viewpoints; one looks over Lake Placid, and the other offers views of Catamount and Whiteface. I sat down with Rev to have some snacks. It was a beautiful day out. Not quite bluebird skies, but nice temps and no humidity. I was surprised but the amount of ordinary house flies buzzing around us on Moose as we ate out snacks. No other bugs bothered us all day.
|Catamount from Moose|
|Whiteface from Moose|
|A closer look at Whiteface|
|... and Catamount|
|No summit sign on Moose, but a sign telling you how far to McKenzie|
|Great view of Lake Placid|
From Moose it was time to complete the loop. We left the summit and quickly came to a fork in the SOA trails. The left fork goes to Loch Bonnie (.5 to Loch Bonnie, then .3 to Two Brooks), the right fork bypasses Loch Bonnie and goes directly to the Two Brooks trail (.6 miles). I chose to go the extra .2 and see Loch Bonnie.
The trail to Loch Bonnie is steep smooth duff. Again, no rocks roots or mud, just steep duff. Very unusual for the ADK's. Loch Bonnie is a small quiet tarn. Once there, you reach another trail split; left to Undercliff and the lake, right to go to Two Brooks trail and back to Whiteface Inn Road.
The cutover trail from Loch Bonnie to the Two Brooks Trail is only .3 miles, but it has not been maintained and is full of very thick blowdown. You reach a little hill and cannot tell where the trail is. I don't recommend this cutoff trail. I would either skip Loch Bonnie, or re-climb Moose and take the right fork (Two Brooks Trail).
|The beginning of the blowdown|
|I would not take the .3 mile spur again from Loch Bonnie|
Once I made it through the hellacious .3 mile spur, I was on the Two Brooks trail which was delightful. About halfway down, I came across the junction with the Bartlett Pond trail to McKenzie. I haven't taken this trail; something to do in the future.
|Junction of Bartlett Pond Trail and Two Brooks Trail|
Continuing on, the trail crossed Two Brooks; a nice brook with great spots to soak your feet. You also pass an old stone wall that looks like it was built to channel the brook.
|Interesting wall. I would like to know the history behind it|
Next you reach the Lake Trail which is a somewhat unattractive trail which just bypasses homes to get you back to Blodget Road where you walk the short distance to Whiteface Inn Road and the trailhead at the Jackrabbit.
|Intersection of the Two Brooks Trail with the Lake Trail|
|Sign at Blodget Road (on the left if you are walking in here) where you leave the road to start the Lake Trail|
I really liked this hike, especially Moose Mountain. I you want a shorter version, you can go in and out on the Two Brooks Trail, or do a loop with Bartlett Pond and Two Brooks (that may be my next version of this hike).
If you can find it, there is an out of print booklet called: "Guide to the SOA Trails - A Hiker's Companion to the Historic Trails of the Lake Placid Home Owner's Association", by Richard Hayes Phillips. He is the man who did the majority of the work in restoring the SOA trail network. Well worth reading.
Hike Distance: 9.4 miles
Hike Time: 5.5 hours
Total Vertical Gain: ~ 3000'
|My route in red (clockwise); other SOA routes in blue (Click image to enlarge)|