Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area - Rainbow Lake

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In the shadow of Katahdin, just south of Baxter, the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area provides access to remote ponds and pristine forests. A set of trails provides access to some of these remote ponds at the heart of the preserve.
Trail Activity
4.1 miles, Network
Advanced, Strenuous
Rainbow Twp, T3 R11 WELS
Dirt/Forest Floor
Not Permitted


Nestled in the shadow of Katahdin, just south of Baxter State Park, The Nature Conservancy’s Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area (DLWA) is a vital link in nearly 500,000 acres of contiguous conservation land. Debsconeag means "carrying place," named by native people for the portage sites where they carried their birchbark canoes around rapids and waterfalls. The DLWA contains the highest concentration of pristine, remote ponds in New England, as well as thousands of acres of mature forests.

The Horserace Pond Trail (4 miles round trip) and Blue Trail (5 miles round trip) provide access to some of these remote pristine ponds in the heart of the preserve. Both trails cross a wooden bridge over a stream and pass through the forest for about a half-mile before splitting at the intersection of the Horserace Pond Trail and the Blue Trail.

Follow the left fork for the 1.5-mile hike to Horserace Pond. The Horserace Pond Trail continues to meander along the picturesque Horserace Brook that drains the pond, as well as through a stand of old-growth hemlock. The pristine Horserace Pond is surrounded by deep green conifers and granite cliffs and boulders. There are three backcountry campsites on the banks of the pond (See TNC website for camping guidlines).

The Blue Trail is the left fork and is a steeper 2.3-mile hike past Clifford and Woodman ponds, ending at Rainbow Lake. This trail is strenuous, so make sure to bring good shoes and plenty of drinking water. The path leads through some remarkable stands of old-growth forest, and loops around Clifford and Woodman ponds. Rainbow Lake, the terminus of the trail, is the largest of the lakes in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, and is a great spot to see Loons and Bald Eagles. It is also one of seven lakes in Maine with arctic char, a native fish related to salmon and trout.

Nearly half the forests in the DLWA show no signs of past logging. Trees as old as 300 years have been found in more remote areas. Old, undisturbed forests like these are rich in diversity and complexity. The forest floor is covered with logs and mosses and ancient trees, whether standing or fallen, provide habitat for many woodland creatures.

Other Information

The Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area preserve Guidelines:

  • Hunting and fishing are allowed according to state laws and regulations.
  • Vehicles are restricted to designated roads. ATVs are not permitted anywhere in the reserve.
  • Horses, pets, and other domestic animals are not permitted.
  • Fires are allowed by permit only in existing fire rings at designated locations. Use only dead and down wood.
  • Do not collect or remove plants or animals.
  • Camp only in designated campsites. No reservations or fees required.
  • Camping at any one site is limited to a two week maximum stay.
  • Please use the latrines installed at campsites.
  • Carry water for washing at least 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap.
  • Pack it in, pack it out! Remove all trash and leave your campsite looking better than when you arrived.

Trail Manager

Visit The Nature Conservancy online for more information or contact:

The Nature Conservancy, Maine Field Office
14 Maine Street, Suite 401
Brunswick, ME 04011
Phone: (207) 729-5181
View website

Nearby Events


Trail Tips

Plan Ahead and Prepare
Tell someone your plan and when you’ll return, just in case.
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Trailhead Information

From Millinocket, take the Golden Road about 18 miles to Abol Bridge and then 5 miles further west. Take a left turn onto a road marked with a white sign at the top of the hill just west of the sign for Horserace Brook campsite. Follow the dirt road several hundred yards and park at the trailhead near Horserace Brook.

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