Millinocket, ME: Debsconeag Loop

Cross the northeast’s wildest moose country beneath fall’s fiery canopy.
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Cross the northeast’s wildest moose country beneath fall’s fiery canopy.

Some of Maine’s best-kept wilderness secrets are lost in translation. Literally. Take this 18.5-mile loop in the Debsconeag (deb-SCON-egg) region to Nahmakanta Lake. In the Abenaki tribe’s language: Hike from “ponds at the high place” to “plenty of fish” lake. Pack a rod, hit the Fourth Debsconeag trailhead, and head down a jeep trail. Bear left at the fork and north onto the blue-blazed Debsconeag Trail. Follow it 1.4 miles over three easy stream crossings to Stink Pond.

As you climb above the pungent aroma, look southwest to 2,524-foot Farrar’s twin peaks, and south for 2,905-foot Jo-Mary Mountain’s rounded top. Dip into a creek-filled gap, then rise to views of Nesuntabunt (translation: “three heads”) Mountain and marshy Seventh Debsconeag Pond. Turn south at mile 4.6 and camp near the shoreline.

Next day, continue to Sixth Debsconeag Pond, turn west at the junction and head downhill .7 mile to Nahmakanta Lake. Cruise the shoreline for 1.3 miles (stopping to cast for landlocked salmon) with views of 1,560-foot Nesuntabunt’s slope ablaze with fall foliage in early September. Turn west on the West Trail at mile 8.5, and continue .7 mile (with a shallow ford of 15-foot wide Rainbow Stream) to a jeep road. Go west for .4 mile to a bridge over Pollywog Stream and turn right on the Appalachian Trail.

At mile 10.6, take the 150-foot side trail to view 100-foot-deep, 300-foot-wide Pollywog Gorge. Horseshoe around Crescent Pond, cross a road at mile 12, and reach views of 3.5-mile-long Nahmakanta. Climb through old-growth red spruce and white pine to a minor summit on Nesuntabunt, where a 75-yard side trail leads to a view of Katahdin and the last stretch of the AT 15 miles away. Start downhill and reach the wave-lapped beach in 3.8 miles. Camp or continue to a dirt road, turn northeast, cross Nahmakanta Stream, and close the loop’s final .9 mile.

USGS TOPO MAP Nahmakanta Stream, Rainbow Lake East, Rainbow Lake West, Wadleigh Mountain

GEAR UP Northwoods Outfitters, 5 Lily Bay Rd., Greenville. (866) 223-1380; maineoutfitter.com

-Mapped by Christopher Keene

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 18.5

Waypoints

DEB001
Location: 45° 45' 43.53" N, 69° 5' 28.68" W
From the Fourth Debsconeag trailhead, hike northeast along a jeep trail.
DEB002
Location: 45° 45' 10.32" N, 69° 5' 2.34" W
Bear left at the fork and north onto the blue-blazed Debsconeag Trail. Follow it 1.4 miles over three easy stream crossings to Stink Pond.
DEB003
Location: 45° 46' 4.86" N, 69° 5' 26.75" W
Pass Stink Pond. As you climb above the pungent aroma, look southwest to 2,524-foot Farrar’s twin peaks, and south for 2,905-foot Jo-Mary Mountain’s rounded top.
DEB004
Location: 45° 46' 29.16" N, 69° 6' 14.88" W
Dip into a creek-filled gap, then rise to views of Nesuntabunt (translation: “three heads”) Mountain and marshy Seventh Debsconeag Pond.
DEB005
Location: 45° 46' 23.05" N, 69° 7' 4.43" W
Turn south at mile 4.6 and camp near the shoreline of Seventh Debsconeag Pond.
DEB006
Location: 45° 46' 8.79" N, 69° 7' 11.38" W
Spend the night at Seventh Debsconeag Pond. The next day, continue to Sixth Debsconeag Pond, turn west at the junction and head downhill .7 mile to Nahmakanta Lake.
DEB007
Location: 45° 45' 13.07" N, 69° 8' 11.52" W
Cruise the shoreline for 1.3 miles (stopping to cast for landlocked salmon) with views of 1,560-foot Nesuntabunt’s slope ablaze with fall foliage in early September.
DEB008
Location: 45° 47' 36.92" N, 69° 9' 6.37" W
Turn west on the West Trail at mile 8.5, and continue .7 mile (with a shallow ford of 15-foot wide Rainbow Stream) to a jeep road.
DEB009
Location: 45° 47' 44.87" N, 69° 10' 8.51" W
Go west for .4 mile to a bridge over Pollywog Stream and turn right on the Appalachian Trail.
DEB010
Location: 45° 47' 45.98" N, 69° 10' 21.15" W
Cross bridge over Pollywog Stream.
DEB011
Location: 45° 46' 24.91" N, 69° 11' 5.87" W
Take the 150-foot side trail to view 100-foot-deep, 300-foot-wide Pollywog Gorge.
DEB012
Location: 45° 46' 14.59" N, 69° 11' 58.57" W
Horseshoe around Crescent Pond.
DEB013
Location: 45° 46' 48.59" N, 69° 11' 32.65" W
Cross a road at mile 12.
DEB014
Location: 45° 46' 35.63" N, 69° 10' 52.91" W
Reach views of 3.5-mile-long Nahmakanta Lake. Climb through old-growth red spruce and white pine to a minor summit on Nesuntabunt, where a 75-yard side trail leads to a view of Katahdin and the last stretch of the AT 15 miles away.
DEB015
Location: 45° 45' 23.53" N, 69° 10' 54.80" W
Start downhill and reach the wave-lapped beach in 3.8 miles.
DEB016
Location: 45° 44' 9.86" N, 69° 7' 55.04" W
Camp at this beach, or continue to a dirt road.
DEB017
Location: 45° 44' 9.51" N, 69° 6' 12.41" W
Turn left (northeast), cross Nahmakanta Stream, and close the loop's final .9 mile.