Those interested in hiking to a unique, natural phenomenon will enjoy a trip to the Debsconeag Ice Caves in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, during their stay at Lodge at Moosehead Lake.
The Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, just south of Baxter State Park, is home to thousands of acres of mature forest. 300 year old trees have been found in some of the preserve’s more remote areas and nearly half the forests show no signs of any past logging.
“Debsconeag” (pronounced “debs-CON-egg”) means “carrying place” in the language of the region’s original inhabitants. They called it this because they had to carry their canoes around many of the area’s waterfalls and rapids.
In fact, the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area has New England’s highest concentration of pristine, remote ponds. It’s also home to the unique Debsconeag Ice Caves, which maintain their ice well into summer.
Debsconeag Ice Caves
Visitors to the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area will find plenty to capture their attention. Hiking trails, overlooks, pristine lakes and ponds, wildlife, canoeing, kayaking, and the mysterious ice caves.
The Debsconeag Ice Caves are talus caves, meaning that piled up boulders created the underground space instead of erosion. These caves were formed millions of years ago when glaciers pushed a jumble of massive boulders together. More of interest, they retain their winter ice nearly all year ’round!
The ice caves are really just steep gaps between the boulders, crevices creating deep wells of cold, dark air. How cold? The cave maintains ice almost all year ’round, even into August! In fact, if you try to visit outside the May to October window, you’ll likely find the opening choked with ice!
The Nature Conservancy, which protects the Wilderness Area, installed metal rungs and a rope to help visitors climb down and explore the cave. Despite this, you’ll still want to be VERY careful as the rungs can be slippery. You’ll also want warm clothes and a light of some kind.
Visiting the Ice Caves
Those interested in visiting the Debsconeag Ice Caves can either go on their own or hire a guide.
The drive to the Ice Caves Trailhead in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area is a pretty one but takes about an hour and 45 minutes.
Start out with a left on Lily Bay Road from Lodge at Moosehead Lake. The road name will change numerous times during your journey but don’t let that confuse you. Lily Bay Road is Greenville Road, is Baxter State Park Road, is the Golden Road Scenic Byway.
Stay on the Golden Road Scenic Byway for around an hour an a half or until you reach (but don’t cross) the Abol Bridge.
Take right on Water Way, just before the bridge, and follow it for another ten miles to the Ice Caves Trail parking area.
The Ice Caves Trail is only two miles long, round trip but moderate in difficulty with lots of uneven footing. That being said, going down into the ice cave, even with its rungs, is a more advanced undertaking. Do be careful and be sure you have the appropriate clothing and equipment to explore the tight, dark, slippery cave. Learn more about the trail at mainetrailfinder.com.
A guided tour of the Debsconeag Ice Caves is another option, available via a nearby local guide service. This full-day activity includes a scenic ride to the trailhead, a guided hike to the caves, and information about the area’s history and geology.
Whether you prefer a guided trip to the ice caves or something more independent, let us know! Lodge at Moosehead Lake loves sharing the area with our guests and is here to help you make the most of your visit, no matter what shape it takes.