WOLFE IN THE WILD: Descend Into These Maine Ice Caves To Beat The Summer Heat
Looking for a cool summer hike? This scenic trek will take you to caves where winter ice is present nearly year round.
It's become a popular hike in the beautiful Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, the Debsconeag Ice Caves. The two-mile round trip hike takes adventure seekers through breathtaking ancient forest scenes featuring massive boulders left behind by Ice Age glaciers. The hike is moderate in skill level. Hikers should be prepared for trail conditions that feature steep sections, maneuvering through rocky sections, and lots of exposed, twisted tree roots and rocks. The caves are a great place to cool off after the hike in. Ice remains in the caves through much of the summer months. In August and September, there's usually very little to no ice.
How To Get There:
- Take the Golden Road about 18 miles to Abol Bridge.
- Immediately after crossing the bridge, take a left turn. The road to the parking area is marked by a roadside sign.
- Drive 3.3 miles to the trailhead parking area.
- The hike from the trailhead is 1 mile. The trail is designated by blue marks.
- As previously mentioned, hikers should be prepared for trail conditions that feature steep sections, maneuvering through rocky sections, and lots of exposed, twisted tree roots, and rocks.
- After about a mile you will arrive at a trail fork. To get to the Ice Caves, follow the Ice Caves trail markers .2 miles.
- It should be noted that while the hike is moderate in difficulty, the caves require forethought and planning.
- Ice conditions in the caves deteriorate as the summer months heat up. Metal rungs have been installed to assist hikers down into the caves. Some rungs may be entombed in ice which can make getting in and out of the caves difficult.
- A headlamp is highly recommended to keep your hands free for maneuvering around the caves.
- Rope is used to get deeper into the caves, down the ice sheet. Sometimes rope has been left for hikers to use. Check the integrity of the rope before you use it to descend or ascend to the deeper cave section. It's not a bad idea to bring your own length of rope.
- Pack creepers for better footing.
- There's no fee to enjoy the trail system.
- Dogs or any other domestic animals are not permitted.
- No ATVs are allowed anywhere in the trail area.
- Camping is only permitted in designated campsite areas.
Wolfe In The Wild Pro Tips:
- The Ice Caves are a beautiful and eerie sight. Hikers should plan accordingly if you plan to go into the caves. I packed quality creepers (spikes) to attach to my boots. I visited the caves in early June. Lots of ice was still within the cave at the time, as you can see in the photos above. Without proper traction, I don't believe I would have been able to descend into the deeper section of cave. Foot holds punched into the ice gave way as the ice has been heavily trafficked and is ever so slowly melting. Safety rope that was installed at the time of my visit was new and sturdy. A headlamp is a must within the dark cave. A flashlight is okay, but having your hands free to maneuver around the slick cave is best for safety.
- If you go lower into the caves in spring, look up first. At the time, massive ice formations hung overhead. Shortly before I started to enter the cave a huge piece of ice fell. I'm thankful I wasn't under it when the ice came crashing down with a booming thud.
- Later in the summer, with more ice melt, you're able to dive deeper into the numerous caves. It's not for the claustrophobic.
- The scenic overlook is worth the additional hike. I recommend hiking up to the clifftop view before hiking to the caves. It's easier to hike up to the view, then down to the caves, rather than hiking down to the caves, then up the steep caves trail and further up the steep over look trail to the view.
- The scenic overlook is beautiful. From the clifftop, it's wilderness as far as the eye can see. Beware, as I mentioned, it's a clifftop. Be very careful. If you were to slip, it's an unforgiving 100-foot (conservative estimate) vertical fall to the bottom.
- The Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area is open to hunting and fishing. If you visit during a hunting season, wear blaze orange apparel like a jacket, vest or hat.
- Lastly have a hiking plan, and share it with family and or friends. Include where you're going, the trail you're hiking, when you're heading in, and when you plan to return. Cell service is not available on the trail, or even the trailhead parking area. You are a long way from cell service on this hike.
Keep this trail system and caves beautiful and carry out ALL trash and waste.