Skiing the Jackrabbit Trail to McKenzie Pond

On Saturday I set out to ski the two miles to McKenzie Pond on the popular Jackrabbit Trail. However, the sign at the trail warned that a bridge over McKenzie Brook was “flooded and impassable.”

I knew that the bridge had been a few feet underwater after a recent thaw, but that was a week ago. I wanted to see for myself if the bridge was still impassable.

So I stuck with my plan.

Earlier in the week, I had skied a few times at Dewey Mountain and enjoyed down-mountain runs in dry powder. On Saturday, alas, the temperature had risen into the mid-thirties; as a result, the snow had consolidated and become sticky.

Still, the Jackrabbit was well packed, and the cover was fine. If conditions were less than ideal, I wasn’t going to complain.

I reached McKenzie Brook in a half-mile or so. The bridge was no longer underwater, but large ice slabs  rested on its surface. Evidently, the brook had frozen when water levels were high and then receded.

The bridge looked intact, and I could see others had crossed it. I took off my skis and followed suit, stepping around the ice slabs and reaching the other side with no problem.

I can’t vouch for the structural integrity of the bridge. Before the weekend, the state Department of Environmental Conservation had warned against crossing the brook. So I am not encouraging skiers to cross the bridge. I am merely reporting what I did.

I continued to McKenzie Pond, where I enjoyed a view of Mount Baker, and then climbed partway up the mile-long hill that leads to McKenzie Pass. The snow cover on the hill was mostly fine. However, I saw open water in two places. I was able to avoid the water on the way back down, but I suspect there are spots of open water higher up as well. If you are starting in Lake Placid, be cautious when descending the hill from the pass.

I saw three other people on the trail. One was a veteran backcountry skier from Saranac Lake who, with his wife, had skied the Jackrabbit from Lake Placid soon after the thaw. By the time they reached McKenzie Brook in the late afternoon, it was indeed impassable. To avoid the crossing, they back-tracked and turned down a spur trail that leads to a housing subdivision. Even then they had to wade through knee-deep water where the brook had flooded a swampy area.

Like me, this skier crossed the bridge on Saturday. The other two skiers I saw were a pair of women who turned back at the bridge.

It’s supposed to be slightly colder Sunday and Monday–good news–but it may rain on Tuesday.



About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

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