In February of 2018, I made a plan to start the Saranac Lake 6er Hiking Challenge. I had planned for a weekend in Saranac Lake full of fluffy winter hiking. The Saranac Sixer challenge had made it onto my radar and wasn’t going anywhere until it was completed.
I started the Saranac Lake 6er hiking challenge in February of 2018, only 4 days after suffering a massive stroke at 25 years old. Despite my determination to get back outside, I knew I needed to start out small and work my way back up to longer trails with steeper ascents and riskier summits.
There are a few different ways to complete the Saranac Lake 6er Challenge:
Saranac Lake 6er: Hike all 6 Summits!
Winter 6er: Hike all six mountains between December and March
Saranac Lake Ultra 6er: Hike all six summits in a 24-hour period
Winter Ultra 6er: Hike all six summits in a 24-hour period between December and March
MEET THE MOUNTAINS
- Distance: 0.9 miles to the summit
- Elevation: 2,452 feet
- Ascent: 884 feet
A perfect one to start with! Located right outside of the town of Saranac Lake at 2,452ft., and less than 2 miles out and back, this is a very popular mountain in the region. From the trailhead, at Moody Pond, you have a short, steady climb to the summit where you will enjoy views of the High Peaks, the village of Saranac Lake, and the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness.
- Distance: 3.3 miles to the summit
- Elevation: 2,874 feet
- Ascent:1,266 feet
The St. Regis trailhead can be found right outside the Paul Smiths College campus on Keese Mill Road. Although it is a long trail at 3.3 miles one way, the steady1,200-foot ascent makes it a perfect beginner mountain for improving stamina and becoming acquainted with this Adirondacks. The final push to the summit includes a stone staircase of sorts and some very light rock scrambling before you’re met with a stunning view. Improve your view by climbing the fire tower (and knock out two challenged with one hike!).
I hiked St. Regis on a beautiful winter day. Be sure to pack ample snacks and layers seeing as this is a longer snowshoe. Snowshoes are necessary to avoid post-holing and microspikes may be needed as you near the summit. You will not be disappointed with the new perspective winter brings; frozen lakes among a sea of green with frosty mountain tops in the background will have you in awe.
- Distance: 3.3 miles to the summit
- Elevation: 2,878 feet
- Ascent: 1,240 feet
Not to be confused with the third-highest High Peak, Mount Haystack, which is 4,960 feet high and located near Mount Marcy. The parking area can be just off of Route 86 to the north between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. The 3.3-mile-long trail begins easy and gets quite steep after crossing the dam. The summit ledge provides outstanding views and a great space for a rest.
I combined this hike with McKenzie Mountain and made it an overnight trip. To combine the two makes for a VERY long day hike so staying in the lean-to off the JackRabbit XC Ski trail was the best option.
- Distance: 3.7 miles to the summit
- Elevation: 3,088 feet
- Ascent: 1,480 feet
Off of Route 86 turn onto Ray Brook Road and look for the trailhead about .1 miles down on the left. This is a long hike at 3.7 miles on way with a wooded summit. The route starts out mellow, passing through dense young evergreens before emerging into a beautiful more open area dominated by tall red and white pines. The bridge over Ray Brook is only a half-mile in and overlooks a beautiful marshy area before you meet a number of boardwalks.
The trail eventually begins a gradual climb where the pitches will alternate between steep and easy. When you make it to the clearing, which provides some beautiful views of the Adirondacks, you still have another .6 miles to travel to the true summit! You will know you’ve arrived when you see the (currently) white trail marker that reads Scarface. Although the route is long and without great payoff, it’s a beautiful hike and summit I completed my Saranac 6 on!
- Distance: 2.7 miles to the summit
- Elevation: 3,353 feet
- Elevation Gain: 1,775 feet
The trailhead lies between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake on Route 3. A mellow start turns into a relentlessly steep climb to the bald summit. Even though this hike is only about 5.5 miles Round Trip, be sure to allow for ample time to complete this climb; it is seemingly, endlessly steep and the summit is exceptionally beautiful. You might want to stay up there for a while!
Be sure to dress appropriately and pack layers! In early October, my friend and I started our hike in the sunshine wearing t-shirts and leggings before hiking through snow and finally finding ourselves rifling through our bags for our puffy jackets, hats, and gloves on the summit. The view included frosted tips of distant mountains surrounded by gorgeous fall foliage and was well worth the climb.
- Distance: 5.3 miles to the summit
- Elevation: 3,822 feet
- Ascent: 2,340 feet
Using the same parking lot as Haystack Mountain, just off of Route 86 to the north between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, begin your hike the same as Haystack. At the dam, you will start a steady ascent up some water drainage. Until you meet the Jackrabbit Trail; from here we veered right on the Jackrabbit Trail until we found the shelter right off trail to set up camp for the evening. We decided to hike McKenzie and Haystack in an overnight trip because McKenzie alone is over a 10-mile day!
From the Jackrabbit trail, McKenzie can be a brutal, muddy mess of false summits and “am I there yets?”. All jokes aside, it’s a super fun trail! Gaining 1,000 feet of elevation in little over half a mile is tough but comes with stunning payoffs. You will traverse McKenzie’s “5 summits” where you can find a number of side paths that provide ledges with spectacular views of the Adirondacks.
The Saranac Lake 6er Hiking Challenge is an awesome project that I would consider a great step up from the Fulton Chains Trifecta and the Tupper Lake Triad. The trails are a little longer and the summits a tad higher; with the proper lead-up, this provides an attainable hiking challenge as a lead up to the Adirondack 46! Once you’ve completed your hike, head on over to this website to earn your patch!