Haystack of Ray Brook

Track/Trail from AllTrails app

Trailhead: McKenzie/Haystack Trailhead, Rte. 86, Ray Brook, NY
Distance: 7 miles (AllTrails); 6.6 miles (Guidebook)
Difficulty: Moderate/Hard
Date: 8/20/2016

We are ON A ROLL!  Louise and the boys have now been hiking three weekends in a row!  I've joined them for the last two to Goodman and today to Haystack (not the high peak).  Having completed the Tupper Lake Triad, it was time to move on to its bigger, meaner brother, the Saranac Lake Six.  We've already done Baker Mtn. twice (sorry, no blog posts) and I've done McKenzie, Ampersand, and St. Regis (almost twice) on other trips.  We (I) decided that with a beautiful weather forecast, and the upcoming return of students to Clarkson University, where I work, today was the day to try Haystack.

We were on the trail, dogs and all, at 10AM.  The trailhead is right along rte. 86 in Ray Brook, on the way to Lake Placid. There were a few other cars in the lot, but nothing crazy.  The trail is, as advertised, easy to start, and we banged out the first 2.4 miles in about an hour and a little more, without any breaks.  This section of the trail gradually creeps along up and down until about 1.8 miles, when it starts a gradual uphill along Little Ray Brook.  This section of the trail is serene and beautiful, with small waterfalls punctuating the small stream's steady babble as you gradually hike along its length.

Ruins below the junction
Old dam and small reservoir

Just before the trail junction where one goes right to McKenzie and left to Haystack, there are some ruined foundations from an earlier age. Immediately after the junction there is a small dam and reservoir. At this point the trail starts to climb in earnest and the going started to get pretty tough.  But with less than a mile left to the summit, spirits remained high.

The family climbing one of the steeper sections

Views of the High Peaks
Views of the Ray Brook Prison and Western High Peaks

As one gets closer and closer to the summit, the trail gets steeper and steeper, eventually becoming very steep, but the views also start to show up as the tree cover thins. Once this happens, the summit appears quickly.  It is a moderately sized bare face looking to the south and east, with a beautiful panorama of the High Peaks Wilderness.  But it is not the 360 degree view that we have had on some other trips (Colden, McIntyre Range).

Panorama, with moving people pixelating
After a brief rest on the summit, I went looking for views of McKenzie Mtn., but couldn't find a good opening in the trees to get a good look.  I returned to eat lunch and rest up before heading back down. All in all it took us 5 hours to get up and down the mountain, including a relatively long rest at the dam to refill water bottles. Everyone enjoyed the hike, not least our two dogs.



With another peak in our pockets, we began the drive home, but before getting too far, we stopped, as usual, for Donnelly's Ice Cream where we got a big surprise - today's flavor was Black Cherry twisted with Blackberry.  It was delicious.

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