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McKenzie Mountain Wilderness

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McKenzie Mountain Wilderness locator map

The 37,616-acre McKenzie Mountain Wilderness is part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. McKenzie Mountain forms the backbone and the name of the wilderness and features some of the best mountain views in the northern Adirondacks. The majority of the wilderness is trailless and not easily accessible.

Five sizable waterbodies border the wilderness: Lake Placid, McKenzie Pond, Moose Pond, Franklin Falls Pond and the Saranac River. There are a number of smaller ponds within this wilderness that range in size between 2 and 15 acres.

Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region provides general information regarding backcountry and seasonal conditions; specific notices regarding closures and conditions of trails, roads, bridges and other infrastructure; and links to weather, state land use regulations, low impact recreation and more.

Featured Activities

Hiking

hiking

General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

Although there are only a few hiking trails in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness, the trails are very popular hiking destinations. McKenzie Mountain, Haystack Mountain and Baker Mountain are located within the wilderness and are half of the Saranac Lake 6ers (leaves DEC website).

McKenzie Mountain (3,861 feet) can be ascended via two routes to the summit, which provides amazing views for miles around.

  • The trail extends 5.2 miles from the Ray Brook Trailhead and ascends 2,195 feet to the summit. The first 2.2 miles of the trail is mostly flat and the next 1.4 miles has a moderate ascent, followed by a 0.6-mile steep ascent to the summit.
  • The trail extends 3.5 miles from the Whiteface Inn Lane Trailhead and ascends 1,910 feet to the summit. The trail has a moderate ascent for the first mile and is mostly flat for the next mile before connecting with the trail from the Ray Brook Trailhead. The trail turns right at the intersection and shortly after begins a 0.6-mile steep ascent to the summit.

Haystack Mountain (2,874 feet) extends 3.3 miles and ascends 1,210 feet from the Ray Brook Trailhead. The trail is the same trail as the hike to McKenzie Mountain from this trailhead with the first 2.2 miles being mostly flat. There is a 0.2-mile moderate ascent to the 2.4 mile mark where the Haystack Mountain Trail leaves the McKenzie Mountain Trail. The trail continues a moderate ascent for the next 0.3 mile before a 0.6-mile steep ascent to the summit. The summit provides great views to the west and southwest.

Whiteface Mountain (4,867 feet) can be ascended via three different trails, one of which begins and travels mostly through the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness. This trail extends 3.5 miles and ascends 3,010 feet from the Whiteface Landing on the shores of Lake Placid to the summit of the mountain. The first mile of the trail ascends gently, the second mile ascends moderately and the last 1.5 miles is a steep ascent. The summit provides views of Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the High Peaks region, and a large portion of the northeastern Adirondacks. On very clear days Montreal can be seen. Whiteface Landing can be accessed via the waters of Lake Placid or the Whiteface Landing Trail.

Whiteface Landing Trail begins at the Connery Pond Trailhead in the adjacent Saranac Lake Wild Forest off State Route 86. The trail extends 2.5 miles and ascends 310 feet from the trailhead, descending 60 feet in the last 0.25 mile to Whiteface Landing. The first mile is fairly flat and then the trail ascends moderately for the next mile.

Mount Baker (2,457 feet) is the most popular hike in the wilderness. The trail extends 0.9 mile and ascends nearly 900 feet from the trailhead to the summit. Overlooks near the summit provide a more than 180 degree view to the east, south and west. It is considered one of the best views in the Adirondacks for the effort that is required.

Moose Pond Trail extends 1.3 miles along an old woods road from the trailhead to the shore of Moose Pond. Whiteface Mountain, Moose Mountain, McKenzie Mountain and more can be seen from the shores of the pond. Spur trails off the main trail access designated primitive tent sites on the western shore of the pond.

Camping

primitive camping
lean to

General information on backcountry camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

All designated primitive tents sites, campsites and lean-tos are available on a first come - first served basis and cannot be reserved. Designated campsites are marked with a yellow "Camp Here" disc. Designated tent sites are for tents only. Tents or small campers can use designated campsites. There are no hook-ups for water or electricity at campsites.

Campers who desire more amenities may camp at the nearby Meadowbrook Campground or Wilmington Notch Campground and take day trips into the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness.

There are several designated primitive tent sites in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness.

Seven designated tent sites are located on the shores of Moose Pond. The three on the west shore can be accessed via the Moose Pond Trail or by water. The other four tent sites are only accessible by water.

A designated tent site is located on the eastern bank of the Saranac River near the confluence with Moose Creek. This site can only be accessed by water.

Placid Lean-to is located 1.5 miles from the Whiteface Inn Lane Trailhead along the trail to McKenzie Mountain.

Whiteface Brook Lean-to is 1.1 miles from Whiteface Landing Trailhead on the trail to the summit of Whiteface Mountain.

Campers seeking more amenities may camp at the nearby Meadowbrook Campground or Wilmington Notch Campground and take day trips into the wilderness.

In addition, at-large backcountry camping is allowed. Campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water. Camping for more than three nights or in groups of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

Rock Climbing

rock climbing

General information on rock and ice climbing includes how-to and safety tips with links to rules & regulations.

Moss Cliff is a popular climb located west of the West Branch Ausable River and State Route 86 in Wilmington Notch. The cliff can be accessed via a road side pull-off along the west side of Route 86 in between Lake Placid and Wilmington. Climbers must cross the West Branch Ausable River to access the cliff. This should be done with caution and it should not be attempted when the river is running high.

Notch Mountain is also located in Wilmington Notch but on the east side of Route 86. The cliffs in the Sentinel Range Wilderness and can be accessed from the Copperas Pond Trailhead.

All climbers should check guidebooks or other sources of information about climbing these cliffs. Inexperienced climbers should consider hiring a climbing guide.

Due to peregrine falcon nesting activity, some climbing routes are closed during the nesting season. Moss Cliff has had nesting peregrine falcons in the past and is often closed during this period. Learn more about peregrine falcons and Adirondack rock climbing.

Paddling

paddling

General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

Moose Pond (140 acres) can be accessed from a hand launch on its northern shore. There are seven designated campsites on the pond's shores and great views of the mountain ranges to the east.

Lake Placid (2,173 acres) borders the wilderness and can be accessed from the Lake Placid Boat Launch on its southern shore.

Saranac River flows along the western and northern borders of the wilderness. It can be accessed at two hand launches in the Village of Saranac Lake. The Saranac River is part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (leaves DEC website).

Boating

boating

General information on boating includes safety tips with links to rules & regulations and lists of DEC boat launches by county.

While motor boating is prohibited on any waters within the wilderness, boating is allowed in two water bodies that border the wilderness and provide access to it.

Moose Pond (140 acres) can be accessed from a hand launch on its northern shore. There are seven designated campsites on the pond's shores and great views of the mountain ranges to the east.

Lake Placid (2,173 acres) borders the wilderness and can be accessed from the Lake Placid Boat Launch on its southern shore.

Fishing

fishing

General information on fishing includes fishing tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations.

All waters within the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness are open to fishing. Anglers may use the same trailheads and trails as hikers, the same hand launches as paddlers, the same boat launches as boaters, and the same campsites as campers to access and fish these waters.

Lake Placid (2,173 acres) contains lake trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, smallmouth bass, yellow perch and panfish and can be accessed via a boat launch on its southern shore.

Moose Pond (140 acres) contains brook trout, lake trout, rainbow trout, landlocked salmon and smallmouth bass. Its shoreline can be accessed via the Moose Pond Trail and the pond can be accessed via a hand launch on its northern shore.

Connery Pond (PDF, 201 KB) (83 acres) contains brown trout, splake, yellow perch, brown bullhead and panfish. The shoreline is a mixture of private property, McKenzie Mountain Wilderness, and Saranac Lakes Wild Forest lands. Access to the pond is by a trail that crosses private property. Please respect the private property on the pond and only use the marked access trail to the pond.

West Branch Ausable River on eastern border of the wilderness is world-renowned for its trout fishing. It contains brook trout and brown trout.

Saranac River on the western border of the wilderness contains brown trout, rainbow trout, largemouth bass and northern pike.

Adirondack/Lake Champlain Fishing provides information on fishing in the Adirondacks and links to top fishing waters, stocking lists, public fishing access and waters open to ice fishing listed by county.

Help Protect Native Adirondack Fish: populations of brook trout, round whitefish and other native Adirondack fish species have severely declined due to introduced fish.

Hunting & Trapping

huntingtrapping

General Information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations.

The large expanses of land in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness without trails are very conducive to hunting and trapping. Big game, small game, game birds, waterfowl and some turkey hunting opportunities are available. A wide range of furbearers are also found in the area.

Hunters and trappers may use the parking areas, roads, seasonal access roads, trailheads, and trails used by hikers, and boat launches and hand launches used by boaters and paddlers, to access the lands and waters in this area.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

cross-country skiingsnowshoeing

General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails.

Six miles of the Jack Rabbit Trail (leaves DEC website) pass through the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. The trail runs between the Whiteface Inn Lane Trailhead and the McKenzie Pond Road Trailhead, both of which are located on private lands.

Whiteface Landing Trail between the Connery Pond Trailhead on State Route 86 and Whiteface Landing is a very popular cross-country ski trail.

Moose Pond Trail extends 1.3 miles along an old woods road from the trailhead to the shore of Moose Pond. Whiteface Mountain, Moose Mountain, McKenzie Mountain and more can be seen from the shores of the pond.

Wildlife

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

The Adirondacks contain large tracts of wildlife habitat with some boreal, bog, alpine and other unique habitats. Many birds (common loon, peregrine falcon) and mammals (moose, black bear) are unique to the Adirondacks or are mainly found here. More than 50 species of mammals and hundreds of species of birds inhabit or pass through the Adirondacks at one time of the year or another.

Directions

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Trailheads and Parking Areas

  • McKenzie Mountain Ray Brook Trailhead Parking Area is located along State Route 86 between Ray Brook and Lake Placid (44.2925°N, 74.0511°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Whiteface Inn Lane Trailhead is located along Whiteface Inn Lane (County Route 31) off State Route 86 just west of Lake Placid (44.3126°N, 74.0072°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Mount Baker Trailhead Parking Area is located on Forest Hill Avenue in the Village of Saranac Lake (44.3314°N, 74.1158°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Whiteface Landing is located on the northeastern shore of Lake Placid (44.3376°N, 73.9455°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Connery Pond Trailhead Parking Area is located off State Route 86 (44.3002°N, 73.9302°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Moose Pond Parking Area is located off State Route 3 (44.3755°N, 74.0870°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Jack Rabbit Trail McKenzie Pond Road Trailhead Parking Area is located along the McKenzie Pond Road (44.3148°N, 74.1019°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Boat Launches and Hand Launches

  • Moose Pond Hand Launch is located at the end of the Moose Pond Road (44.3790°N, 74.0596°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Lake Placid Boat Launch is located along Mirror Lake Street in the Village of Lake Placid (44.2977°N, 73.9787°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Saranac Lake Hand Launch is located off the Dorsey Street Parking Lot in the Village of Saranac Lake (44.3258°N, 74.1324°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Pine Street Hand Launch is located along Pine Street on the west side of the Pine Street Bridge (44.3307°N, 74.1260°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating in the Adirondacks to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, minimize impact on the natural resources, and avoid conflicts with other backcountry users.

All users of the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

How We Manage McKenzie Mountain Wilderness

DEC is developing a management plan which will describe the management activities for these lands. In addition to management objectives, the UMP will contain detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands & Facilities

Gas, lodging, dining, food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Bloomingdale, and Wilmington.

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (leaves DEC website), Saranac Lake Tourism Office (leaves DEC website), Lake Placid Tourism Office (leaves DEC website), and Whiteface Region Tourism Office (leaves DEC website) provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.