Hiking to the top of Scarface Mountain in Saranac Lake

If you’ve read my latest posts, you know I attempted to complete the Saranac Lake 6er challenge on a recent trip to the Adirondacks. Unfortunately, I ran out of energy and time and couldn’t do the last hike of the challenge: the one leading to the summit of Scarface Mountain.

But I’m a little stubborn and I really wanted to finish the challenge before winter. So I returned to Saranac Lake, ten days after my Baker Mountain hike, with the goal of reaching my sixth and final summit of the challenge. And that short break from hiking did me good. I was rested, full of energy and ready to conquer another mountain!

The trail to Scarface Mountain can be accessed from Ray Brook Road southeast of Saranac Lake. I parked my car there, signed the DEC register and started out through the pretty forest, en route to the summit.

Trail to Scarface Mountain
One last hike to complete the challenge!

The first thing that struck me was how different the forest looked to me than the one of the other trails of the challenge. So far, I have mostly hiked through mixed forests, made beautiful with the fall colours. But here, I passed through a forest of tall pines. Rather than being covered in a layer of fallen leaves, the trail was covered in a carpet of pine needles.

Trail to Scarface Mountain
Less fall colours, still pretty

The second thing that surprised me was how pretty this trail was. I have to say that I didn’t have high expectations. Scarface Mountain is the least popular of the Saranac Lake 6er challenge. I had read that it did not offer any viewpoints at its summit, and that it was poorly marked. But maybe it’s because I didn’t have high expectations that I was pleasantly surprised (and besides, I didn’t find it to be that poorly-marked).

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After the first kilometre, the trail took me across Ray Brook (the same one I had followed during my hike to Haystack and McKenzie mountains) on a nice little rustic bridge, offering a beautiful view of a wetland. Very close to this bridge, there is a bench dedicated to the memory of Paul McKay, an Australian soldier who died on the mountain in 2014. A reminder that despite all its beauty, nature can also be brutal.

Bridge over Ray Brook
A nice part of the hike

The trail continued to meander through the pine forest, then followed a small stream into a mixed forest. Again, I was once struck by the quiet beauty of the place. The fall colours were no longer at their peak, but they weren’t completely all gone neither.

Trail to Scarface Mountain
The forest is so pretty!

It was after that the climb started to get a bit more sustained. This climb was made a little more difficult by all the fallen leaves covering the rocks and mud puddles, but I could still move at a good pace. I could see the top of the mountain between the bare trees, so I knew I was going in the right direction.

There is a section where the climb is on the rocky surface of the mountain, and this section is a little steeper and involves a bit of rock scrambling. But nothing too complicated compared to the hike at McKenzie Mountain. And after a little effort, I arrived at a rocky ledge offering a beautiful view of the surroundings.

View at Scarface Mountain
Taking in the view

I really took my time to enjoy the scenery because it is one of the only viewpoints from the top of the mountain. And the hike was far from over. I continued to follow the trail, meandering under the spruce trees on the rocky summit ridge. This section was still quite easy to follow, and the forest was very peaceful. There were still some slight climbs, but nothing too difficult.

At 941 metres high (3,008 feet), the summit is a bit disappointing, because it is indicated by a simple little plastic marker in the middle of the summit forest. With a name like Scarface, I was expecting something more…spectacular maybe? But whatever, I had reached my sixth and final summit of the challenge!

Summit of Scarface Mountain
Challenge completed!

I came back the same way, enjoying every step of the hike (and the fact that my legs didn’t hurt this time around!). The top of Scarface Mountain was perhaps less spectacular than the other mountains in the challenge, but this mountain reminded me how important it is to enjoy the journey too!

In all, my hike totaled 13 kilometres (8 miles), with an elevation gain of 503 metres (1,650 feet). And I can now officially say I’m a 6er!

PS – If you like challenges like me, know that Scarface Mountain is also part of the ADK 6 Pack challenge. This challenge involves hiking to six peaks in the Adirondacks and then visiting a nearby micro-brewery (in this case, the Ray Brook Brewhouse). I’m not a big fan of beer, so I’ll leave that challenge to others!

10 comments

    1. Thank you! I have to admit I’m not sure I feel confident enough to venture on these mountain trails when there is snow. But I’m sure it must be gorgeous!

  1. Congratulations on finishing the trek! If I may ask, were you able to reach the old sanatoriums over there? I’ve read that Saranac Lake used to be lined with cottages where patients with tuberculosis stayed. (One Philippine president unfortunately died while staying in one such cottage.)

    1. Oh, I didn’t know that on Philippine president died in Saranac Lake! I haven’t had the opportunity to visit old sanatoriums there, but there is a museum which gives some details on this unique history of Saranac Lake. I didn’t visit it while I was there, but hoping to do next time!

  2. I love your dedication to complete the Saranac Lake 6er challenge. Glad to hear that the trail exceeded your expectations. The summit does look like it’s a bit of a let down, but hey, it still counts!

  3. Congratulations, Vanessa! I admire your perseverance, and even though the ending to this hike wasn’t as spectacular as the others, I love how you were able to enjoy the journey. I will be anxiously awaiting your next trek. Have a lovely week.

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