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Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area (Photo: Nancy Sferra/TNC)

Few places in the Northeast give visitors the remote wilderness feeling they get from exploring Maine’s Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area.

Often overlooked by visitors in favor of nearby Baxter State Park and Katahdin, the Debsconeag area features incredible hiking and paddling opportunities in pristine wilderness that features New England’s highest concentration of remote ponds. Nearly half the forests in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area show no signs of past logging, and trees as old as 300 years old have been found in remote areas.

Debsconeag Map

For paddlers, the area is a slice of heaven. They can explore the Debsconeag Lakes by choosing a trip ranging anywhere from 6 to 18 miles, and from 5 hours to several days. Along the way, today’s paddlers use the same ancient portage paths carved out by Native Americans as they carried their birch bark canoes around rapids and waterfalls. In fact, “Debsconeag” means “carrying place.”

Hikers have thousands of acres of mature forest to explore. The Debsconeag Backcountry Trail is a 12-mile figure-eight loop that can be done as a long day hike or an overnight backpack. Primitive campsites can be found along it on First, Second and Third Debsconeag lakes. The Horserace Pond Trail (4 miles round trip) takes visitors to pristine Horserace Pond, surrounded by granite cliffs and boulders, and featuring three backcountry campsites. The Blue Trail (5 miles round trip) takes hikers to the largest lake in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, Rainbow Lake, a great spot for seeing loons and bald eagles. The Ice Caves Trail (2 miles round trip) takes hikers to the Ice Cave, a deep hole under boulders that has a cool environment and can retain ice deep into summer.

Read about the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area in Maine.

Video: Aislinn Sarnacki