Hiking the Ice Cave Trail to 1st Debsconeag Lake
Hiking to the Ice Cave at 1st Debsconeag Lake
Another great hiking destination, either by itself or in combination with a hike on the AT near Abol Bridge, is the ICE CAVE TRAIL.
The Ice Cave Trail is on property owned by the Nature Conservancy and is known as the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area (DLWA). The DLWA is a 46,000 acre Wilderness Reserve that is open to the public for a variety of recreational uses.
The trail is very easy to get to, short in length (3 miles round trip) and is about as "easy" a trail as can be found in the Katahdin Region!
Directions to the Ice Cave Trailhead
To get to the trail, drive the Golden Road to Abol Bridge. There's a Campground and store on the east side of the bridge if you need supplies before or after your hike. Drive across the bridge but do not loiter on it. The Golden Road is an active logging road and the logging trucks have the right of way.
As soon as you get on the west side of the bridge turn left and follow the dirt road downstream along the West Branch of the Penobscot River. You will pass two nice sets of Class III rapids, Abol Falls and Pockwockamus Falls enroute to the trailhead. There's also a beautiful sand beach just below Abol Falls, a great place to refresh yourself if it's a hot day. You may see whitewater rafters and kayakers on the river if you're there at the right time of day. Continue down the dirt road until you reach the Hurd Pond gate. The Ice Cave Trail parking lot is on your right.
The Ice Cave Trail
After you get "geared up", walk around or under the gate and start down the trail. The first section will take you through a mixed hardwood/softwood forest. A slight elevation gain will be experienced along most of the trail going in. You will eventually reach an old "skid trail" (used by the loggers to get the trees out to a "yard"). Follow the markers for a hundred yards until the trail goes back to being a forested path.
On this second section you will pass numerous massive, fern covered boulders. Almost like the forest depicted in one of the battles on the original STAR WARS movie! (If you hear a James Earl Jones voice saying, "Luke. I am your father", run like hell!)
Just a little further down the trail you will come to an intersection. The Scenic Lookout will be 0.2 miles to your right. First Debsconeag Lake and the Ice Cave will be to you left. The views you get from the scenic lookout are very nice indeed. To the East you will see Debsconeag Deadwater and Omaha Beach. This is a very tranquil section of the West Branch of the Penobscot and a big, white sand beach.
Just south of you will be First Debsconeag Lake, a clear, deep tributary of the Penobscot watershed. This lake is home to brook trout, lake trout and land-locked salmon. There are four remote campsites on the lake (paddle in) and the nicest one is the one with the beautiful sand beach that you see just across the lake.
Once you've had your fill of the scenery head back down the trail and decide whether you want to go see the Ice Cave or sit on the shore of the lake. From the sign post it's 0.1 miles to the Ice cave or 0.2 miles to the shore of First Debsconeag.
The Ice Cave
The Ice Cave is a talus type, which means it's a pile of heavy boulders that were plowed together by glaciers during the Ice Age. They didn't fit right so they formed a cave. Large talus caves like this one are not very common. The Nature Conservancy drilled holes and installed steel rungs in the rocks to provide safe access into the cave. PLEASE, BE CAREFUL. There is almost always condensed moisture on the rungs and the rocks once you enter the cave. Very Slippery. Bring a flashlight or two so that you can explore the inner reaches of the cave. Ice and snow can usually be found until mid-August or later. It is thought that early loggers and sportsmen used to caves to store perishables during the summer season.
Once you're back out in the sunlight head down the trail to the shore of the lake. Note the massive boulders that line the north shore and the clarity of the water. This is a great lunch spot, just remember to "Leave No Trace", carry out what ever you carried in.
For more information:
For a short video of the hike:
Ice Cave Trail Map
(See bottom of right column for download options)
More Hiking Trails in the Katahdin Region
The Katahdin Region is blessed with many scenic, challenging, interesting or wildlife-filled hiking opportunities created naturally as the last Great Iceage Glacier retreated north of the Appalachian Divide.
We know these hikes very well, having lived in the area all our lives. We hope you enjoy the photos and trail information of some of our other favorite hikes on these pages:
Hiking Trails on Mt. Katahdin
Mt. Katahdin, or K'tahdn as the Abnaki tribes refer to it, is Maine's highest peak at 5,267 feet above sea level. It is surrounded by 200,000 acre Baxter State Park and miles of forests beyond that.
Every room at 5 Lakes Lodge looks directly at Mt. Katahdin, a view that beckons guests to come closer. Many climb to the top. Others hike to its base. Everyone enjoys the numerous scenic views of Katahdin.
More about Hiking Trails on Mt. katahdin
Katahdin marks the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail that starts 2,181 miles to the south at Springer Mountain in Georgia. Many hike its full length each year, generally ending at Katahdin. Many times, more folks hike short sections either on day hikes or overnight backpacking trips.
5 Lakes Lodge is located along the Appalachian Trail's section known as the "100 Mile Wilderness" because the trail runs that distance between paved public highway crossings. However, numerous logging roads now cross thr trail, providing access to many short hiking opportunities.
Additional Baxter State Park Info
For more information on Baxter State Park, visit:
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If you're looking for incredible scenery, warm hospitality and rustic elegance, 5 Lakes Lodge Bed and Breakfast, on "the other coast of Maine", is a wonderful place to experience the best that Maine has to offer.