Two weeks prior, a group of us had driven down to the Adirondacks to complete a circuit of what I like to call the 'Mckenzie Loop' - an out-of-the-way hike that climbs Moose and Mckenzie Mountains, two just-under-4000-foot prominences situated immediately adjacent to the lake of Lake Placid itself. The loop involves walking along a stretch called the Lake Trail, along the shore of Lake Placid. I'd done this hike before, and upon arriving at the start/end point, I discovered a trail sign that said that the Lake Shore trail was no longer accessible to the public. Bummed out and not knowing any details about this closure, we opted to bail and hike up nearby Whiteface
Not Entirely Accurate
A little bit of googling after I got home revealed that the entire length of the Lake Trail was not closed - just an initial section along the yards of several lakeside cottages and homes. Furthermore, a bypass trail had been developed and signed. Too bad there was no indication of this bypass or its location (at the old start point). In any case, armed with this information, we decided to give the Mckenzie loop another go. In the process of the telling of this trip report, I'll help to rectify this lack of clarity surrounding the new start to the Lake Trail - along with an accounting of the entire loop, of course.
The new start point for the Lake Trail is just a couple of hundred yards away from the old start; After driving in from Lake Placid along the Whiteface Inn Road, turn left at Blodgett Road (instead of continuing down to Chipmunk Lane). Within seconds, you will see that Blodgett Road continues past some stone gateposts. There is also a small set of signs on the left. Somewhat contradictorily, they are: (1) Private Property, No Trespassing, and (2) Trail to Bartlett Pond, Mckenzie Mtn, Loch Bonnie, Moose Mtn. I interpreted (2) to be a qualification on top of the statements made in (1).
Although it is not entirely clear, we elected to park off to the side on the left. There is enough space for a car or two. Alternatively, you could park at the Mckenzie Pond Trail trailhead, which is only a couple of hundred yards back along Whiteface Inn Road. It doesn't really matter, because if you are doing this as a loop, you'll be coming out at that trailhead (i.e. meaning total walking distance will be identical)
Private, but with access
The forecast for the day was mixed - mostly clear and warm in the morning and early afternoon, then turning cloudy, showery, and potentially thunderstorm-y after 2 or 3pm. We therefore had arrived nice and early (in order to finish early), and we were ready to hike off by about 7:10 a.m. The day was sunny and still somewhat cool, but humid.
We walked up Blodgett Road, past the two stone gateposts. The road is gravelled here and slightly uphill. After a few minutes of walking, we could see a modern black steel gate (likely remotely operated) straight ahead, blocking the road. Although we couldn't see it at first, a small side path led left before the metal gate, up through the forest at a shallow angle. Another small brown trail sign (containing a repeat of the text back at the trailhead) gave reassurance that we were on the right path.
New Access Route
Following the marked route, we angled away from Blodgett Road. The trail was a wide path, with ruts and grooves that indicated that wheeled vehicles (likely ATVs) also sometimes travelled here. The trail led upwards through pretty deciduous forest for a minute or two, before turning and following the contour of the slope.
After about 200 yards of walking, a series of pink paint marks on the trees marked an abrupt turn right. The trail became less clear here, with a couple of possibilities presenting themselves. We chose the more southerly way, heading downhill directly for the shore of Lake Placid. Another path heading east seemed to lead into someone's property, so we avoided that.
Sole section along lakeshore
The trail soon crossed a small gravel road (probably linking various private residences). Signage or markings weren't clear here, so we continued straight down (east) towards the shore of the Lake. Just before arriving at the Lake, we spotted the round white SOA markers of the Lake Trail. It looked like we had completed the bypass section.
Turning left here, we followed a fairly indistinct path (but with occasional white SOA markers). Note that this is now the only stretch of the Lake Trail directly next to the shore of Lake Placid. If you are looking for any sort of lake shore view, this is the time to get it.
For the next while, the Lake Trail made its way roughly parallel to Lake Placid, but well inland (and not in sight of) of any cottages or residences along the shore. The only structure directly along the trail was a small utility cabin with a blue door and roof. The signage is varied - sometimes white trail markers, sometimes custom-made "Lake Trail" signs. Often these custom signs occur where the Lake Trail crosses small private access paths. For the sake of continuing to have access and to not disturb people on their private property, I strongly encourage that you stick to the Lake Trail as best as you can through this entire initial section, and do not veer off of it.
The criss-crossings of private paths and the occasional glimpse at a nearby cabin roof gradually faded as we headed northeast along the Lake Trail. The trail is clearly used as a snowmobile route in the winter - and possibly by ATVs occasionally in the summer. After all, this entire stretch of land is managed by the Shore Owners Association (SOA) of Lake Placid - and their rules do not exclude motorized access. Even so, the trail is quite faint in spots, and care is required to stay on it. The white SOA markers (sometimes faded completely, sometimes with the SOA logo) are reasonably frequent, so if you haven't seen one for a while, you are probably off-trail.
The first 2 miles (3km) from the trailhead were relatively flat. At a very detailed "progress" sign (no junction, just mileage updates), the trail began to head uphill. This was followed by another set of signs, this one marking an actual junction. This was an important one for us, because this was the beginning of the trail up to Loch Bonnie and Moose Mountain - our next two destinations.
The uphill began in earnest as we started along the trail to Moose Mountain - initially in open deciduous forest. The dampness of the morning combined with the now-uphill grade had us sweating profusely in no time. Apart from a few soft wet spots under the carpet of leaves, the trail was fairly dry - and again quite indistinct in places. The wide-open forest made it easy to veer off track. A good eye for a faint trail and keeping track of the round white SOA markers is a must.
Soon we gained enough altitude to transition into the mostly coniferous forest zone. Due to the increased brushiness of the forest, it became easier to distinguish the path of the trail from. The tread was beautifully uneroded and soft, with no boulders or mud to contend with. Occasional bits of blowdown had been nicely cleared away.
At around 3000 feet, we arrived at Loch Bonnie - a small pond tucked into a hollow about a thousand feet below the summit of Moose Mountain. There's an old run-down Lean-to near the eastern shore of the pond, and we stopped here for a quick snack break (and to take in the pretty view from the shore of this isolated little pond).
After a short break, we continued, crossing some nice open meadow at the head of the lake. We feared that it might be overly wet and marshy, but passage was easy.
On the far side of the flat meadow, a final flank of Moose Mountain rose up. This flank continued directly up to the summit - some 900 feet higher. Correspondingly, the trail also immediately turned up, very steeply.
Crossing Loch Bonnie Meadow
Putting it in low-gear, we ratcheted our way up toward's Moose's summit. For the most part, the trail's footbed was in excellent shape - a sloping path of soft pine needles and turf. It made the ascent much less tedious.
There were a few severe blowdown sections on this last bit of ascent to Moose's summit. However, someone had done some fairly excellent trail clearing work, and only a few easily-surmounted tree trunks impeded our progress.