Difficulty: Easy Distance: 3 miles round trip Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Debsconeag Ice Caves leave no mystery to what they offer; underground caves with ice-coated walls. This 1+ mile hike weaves through tall pine trees overlooking First Debsconeag Lake. The terrain is uneven, with rocky ground under foot, but easy enough for young children and family groups. For those wishing to climb down into the caves, there are metal rungs (courtesy of The Nature Conservancy) that allow you to do so. After exploring the caves, hike to the scenic lookout or down to the lake itself for breathtaking views of the Debsconeag Lakes. First Debsconeag Lake and the Ice Cave will be to you left. To the East you will see Debsconeag Deadwater and a big, white sand beach called Omaha Beach.
From the trailhead, walk around the gate and begin the wooded foot trail. (Don’t follow either of the two roads). You will walk through a mixed hardwood/softwood forest and experience a slight elevation gain. When you reach an old “skid trail”, follow the markers for a hundred yards until you are back on the forested path. On this section you will find numerous huge, fern covered boulders. As you continue on 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 your left. Views from the scenic lookout are spectacular. To the East is the Debsconeag Deadwater and Omaha Beach. South will be First Debsconeag Lake, a deep tributary of the Penobscot watershed, home to brook trout, lake trout and land-locked salmon. Head back down the trail and to see the Ice Cave (0.1 miles) or down to the shore of First Debsconeag (0.2 miles) This is a great place to sit and have lunch.
The Ice Cave is a talus type that means it was formed by a pile of heavy boulders that were plowed together by glaciers during the Ice Age and formed a cave. These types of caves are not common. The Nature Conservancy installed steel rungs in the rocks to provide safe access into the cave. Use caution as there is almost always condensed moisture on the rungs and once you enter the cave the rocks are slippery. Bring a flashlight so you can explore the cave. Ice and snow can usually be found until mid-August or later and you will feel the cool air immediately.
Directons: Travel eight miles up the Baxter State Park road to the causeway between Ambejejus Lake and Millinocket Lake. You will know you’ve arrived as there is a big, green, steel wall on the left and North Woods Trading Post on the right. You will also see a road on the left that runs parallel to the BSP Road. This is the Golden Road – a private, working logging road. Cross over onto the Golden Road and proceed North. It is imperative that while driving this road, you proceed cautiously and give all logging trucks the right-of-way. If you must pull over, please do so in the designated parking areas.
Continue north on 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 this single car bridge but do not loiter on it.
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.