Five things to know about the Saranac Lake 6er Challenge in the Adirondacks

It’s now been over a month since I completed the Saranac Lake 6er hiking challenge and I’m still pretty proud of it. This is a challenge I decided to do on a whim, because I had a few days off and really wanted to spend them hiking in the Adirondacks.

I learned a lot of things during these few days. While this was a challenge I took on on a whim, I quickly realized that it might not be as easy as I first thought it would be. The 6er challenge allowed me to hike some great trails in Saranac Lake, but it also challenged me physically and mentally!

If one day you also feel like taking on a not-too-complicated hiking challenge in this beautiful part of New York State, here are five things you should know before you start.

St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower
The beautiful view from the fire tower of St. Regis Mountain
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You need to climb to the summit of 6 mountains around Saranac Lake

As its name suggests, the Saranac Lake 6er hiking challenge includes six peaks near Saranac Lake that must be reached. These peaks (from smallest to tallest) are:

Baker Mountain (elevation: 747 metres / 2,452 feet)
St. Regis Mountain (elevation 876 metres / 2,874 feet)
Haystack Moutain (elevation: 877 metres / 2,878 feet)
Scarface Mountain (elevation: 941 metres / 3,088 feet)
Ampersand Mountain (elevation: 1,021 metres / 3,353 feet)
McKenzie Mountain (elevation: 1,164 metres / 3,822 feet)

The goal of the challenge is to simply reach the summits of these six mountains. There is no time limit, which is good because it took me a bit longer than I had originally planned.

The trails to access these mountains are located just a short drive from Saranac Lake. It is even possible to walk directly from downtown Saranac Lake to the top of Baker Mountain.

It is important to note the start and end times of each of the hikes, because once the six summits have been reached, you must complete the online form in order to obtain the certificate and the 6er patch.

Summit of Ampersand Mountain in Saranac Lake
A marker indicates the summit of Ampersand Mountain

Completing the challenge allows you to ring a bell

It might sound a little silly, but that’s one of the challenge rewards! Once the Saranac Lake 6er challenge is completed, in addition to a certificate, a patch and the right to proudly call yourself a “6er”, you are also allowed to ring the Berkeley Green park bell six times.

For those interested in more extreme challenges, it is also possible to win a different patch if you do the challenge in winter, and another if you reach the six peaks in less than 24 hours.

For the record, no, I haven’t rung the bell yet. I did the challenge alone and I thought it was an underwhelming end to ring the bell alone, without a witness. So I promise myself to do it the next time I go to Saranac Lake with my partner!

Saranac Lake 6er Challenge bell
Climb the mountains and ring the bell of Berkeley Green!

The challenge is not to be taken lightly

I had three days in Saranac Lake and my original plan was to hike to all six summits in those three days. I eventually had to give up on this idea because I was in bad physical shape after two days of hiking.

It’s not that I’m not used to long hikes or to mountain hikes, but I think I overestimated my ability to do several ones one after the other. I’m also not used to doing more technical hikes or to rock scrambling, so let’s say I had a good introduction to the steep trails of the Adirondacks.

This does not mean that this challenge is not within the reach of less experienced hikers. I saw people with kids and with dogs on the trails. I just think you shouldn’t take it lightly and should be well prepared to deal with the tougher sections.

The trail to Ampersand Mountain
The rocky and steep trail at Ampersand Mountain

It’s a great way to experience Saranac Lake and the Adirondacks

Saranac Lake is not a very big town (it has a population of about 5,000 people), but it is the biggest town in the Adirondacks. It is therefore an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to explore this mountainous region of Upstate New York for the first time.

It was to stimulate tourism that the Village of Saranac Lake introduced this hiking challenge a few years ago. Neighboring municipalities have followed suit and set up their own hiking challenge (Tupper Lake now has a Triads challenge and Lake Placid has the 9er). To have done the 6er challenge just makes me want to try and do the other hiking challenges in the Adirondacks!

The 6er challenge gave me a good taste of what the Adirondacks have to offer. I had the chance to follow trails that were sometimes difficult, but which made me discover a varied and magnificent nature, where I can’t wait to return.

And maybe one day I will gather enough courage to launch myself towards the highest summits of the region: the famous High Peaks.

Summit of McKenzie
Enjoying the view from the top of McKenzie Mountain

It is important to follow Leave No Trace principles

It may seem obvious, but it is one of the requirements of the challenge. You have to stay on the trails, respect the surrounding nature, and limit your impact as much as possible.

I mention this because in recent years, the growing popularity of the challenge has brought its share of problems: accelerated erosion, widening of trails, overflowing parking lots, litter on the mountains… Parking problems around the trail head of Baker Mountain have even forced the village to question the existence of the challenge last summer (luckily, a solution was found so the challenge still exists).

The Adirondacks are the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States? This diverse mountain landscape has thousands of kilometres of trails, thousands of lakes and rivers and many, many mountains. But so that we can continue to enjoy this magnificent territory, it is important to limit our impact and respect the local populations.

Dear Adirondacks, I can’t wait to see you again. Until the next challenge!

Trail to Scarface Mountain
Beautiful Adirondacks

If you have any additional questions on the Saranac Lake 6er Challenge, do not hesitate to share them in the comment section!

12 comments

  1. Congrats on completing the Saranac Lake 6er hiking challenge. I’m glad you did this challenge too as it now makes me want to go hiking in the Adirondacks. We’re thinking of coming here for the long weekend in February to do some winter hiking.

    1. You should! There are so many trails, and it’s such a beautiful area. I can’t wait to go back! 🙂

  2. This is a very beautiful area, I love how the ground rolls up and down like a wave. 3800 feet is a foothill down here. There is no way that I could hike any mountains with my bad back.

    1. Sorry to hear about your back! These mountains are not the highest of the area, but they still felt like a challenge! It’s indeed a beautiful place!

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