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Hiking Guide: The Saranac Six

Many hikers come to the Adirondacks to take on the 46 High Peaks, hoping to become the next Adirondack 46er. As the High Peaks become more and more popular, trail heads have become increasingly more crowded in the busy summer months. There are several other less popular hiking challenges: The Tupper Lake Triad, The Fire Tower Challenge, The Cranberry 50, The Northville-Placid Trail and (my favorite...and the focus of this post) The Saranac Six.

Views from Ampersand Mountain

The Saranac Six, as the name suggests, offers six different easy to moderate hiking routes near the Saranac Lakes. I've hiked each mountain (some multiple times!) and enjoy each trail for various reasons. Below is a list of the Saranac Six and a little information to help you choose your hiking destination. Try just one, or take on the entire challenge during your visit! After you become a Saranac 6er, you can follow the instructions on how to get your patches and become a member of the club!

In order from lowest elevation to highest:

Elevation: 2,452

Distance to Summit: 0.9 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Adirondack fall sunset on Baker
Fall sunset on the summit of Baker

Many locals hike Baker after work in the evenings for a quick sunset hike. It's short and steep and offers excellent views from two bald lookout points. Its located right in the town of Saranac Lake. A great option for a quick post-brunch hike or to catch the sunset after dinner! There are several routes on this hike, so make sure to stay on the marked path.

Elevation: 2,874

Distance to Summit: 3.3 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Views from the fire tower on the summit of St. Regis

St. Regis Mountain is one of my favorites! Being the furthest from the Dartbrook Lodge, I recommend enjoying other sites in the area, such as the St. Regis lake or river or the nature or cross country ski trails at the Paul Smith's VIC. St. Regis is the only peak of the Saranac Six that has an old fire tower (also part of the Fire Tower Challenge) and offers a gorgeous bald summit with stunning 365 degree views. Not afraid of heights? Climb the fire tower for even better views of the Adirondacks! The trail begins with a gradual incline but gets quite steep near the end with several rock stair cases.

Elevation: 2,878

Distance to Summit: 3.3 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Photo coming soon!

Don't confuse this peak with the "Mount Haystack" High Peak with the same name near Mount Marcy! Haystack Mountain is a great steady climb with varying terrain. The hike begins with a gradual ascent along a calm brook before crossing a dam and beginning a steady climb. The summit offers lovely views of the High Peaks to the south. Haystack shares the same trailhead with the highest of the Saranac Six, Mckenzie Mountain. Those feeling rather ambitious can make a day out of it and hike both peaks in one day!

Elevation: 3,054

Distance to Summit: 3.8 Miles

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Scarface Trail
Enjoying the marshes near Scarface Mountain on a rainy fall day

Scarface Mountain offers some of the best nature trails of the Saranac Six. While the summit views are less open, the varying forest and marsh areas are incredibly beautiful. A less popular trail, Scarface is a great option for someone looking for peace, tranquility and the chance for rare bird and animal crossings. The trail is long and gradual with several quick scrambles and climbs.

Elevation: 3,353

Distance to Summit: 2.7 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

The summit of Ampersand with views of Middle Saranac Lake

The most popular of the Saranac Six, Ampersand Mountain offers some of the best 365 degree views of any mountain in the Adirondacks, in my opinion. It's shorter than the other trails, but it's the most steep and offers the most difficult terrain with scrambles and long, steep rock stair climbs. Get to the trailhead early during the summer months, as the very small parking lot is shared with the Middle Saranac Lake beach trail. Be careful where you park on a busy day. Your car will be towed if its disrupting traffic on Route 3! The parking lot is also located across the road from the trailhead, so please be careful crossing the busy highway. Enjoy a picnic on Middle Saranac Lake Beach after your hike or visit the Wild Center nearby in Tupper Lake!

Elevation: 3,861

Distance to Summit: 5.25 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

Location: Directions from Dartbrook Lodge (Shares a trailhead with Haystack Mountain)

Fall views of Lake Placid from Mckenzie Mountain
Fall views of Lake Placid from Mckenzie Mountain

The longest and most challenging for the Saranac Six, Mckenzie Moutain is not for the faint of heart. It's long and steep and has many wet and eroded areas that can prove quite difficult for even the most experienced hikers. Don't be confused by the false summits on this mountain. Many hikers have turned away after thinking they have reached the final summit. Continue on until you reach the obvious summit marker. While this trail doesn't offer a bald summit, there are several gorgeous ledges and views of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and the High Peaks Wilderness.



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