If you research visiting the Deboullie Public Reserved Land in the North Woods, the term you’ll most frequently see is remote. Carey Kish, in the “Maine Mountain Guide,” pegs Deboullie as “one of the most remote properties” in Maine’s Public Reserved Land system, and Greg Westrich’s “Hiking Maine” names the hikes in Deboullie “among the most remote” in the state.

Even literature from the Bureau of Parks and Lands makes frequent reference to the remoteness of the 22,000 acres in Aroostook County.

I note the frequent mentions of the region’s remoteness not as a linguistic exercise, but to point out that even in the thousands of acres of Maine wilderness, Deboullie stands out. Situated just a few dozen miles south of the Canadian border, and only accessible by car on about 30 miles of logging roads, the Deboullie PRL is hard to access and lacking in amenities.

And cell phone service? Forget about it.

While this disclaimer might seem like a warning against traveling into Maine’s wild north, it’s not. It’s an endorsement. But if you make the long journey to Deboullie, you’ll be treated to a playground for backcountry hiking, camping and fishing east of the Allagash Wilderness.

Coming from the south, take Interstate 95 to Exit 264 in Sherman, then follow Route 11 for about 70 miles to Portage. A left just before Portage Lakes puts you on West Road, and from here it’s a series of logging roads – Rocky Brook, Hewes Brook and Red River – to reach Deboullie.

Early along these roads, you’ll pass the Fish River checkpoint; here, you can pay the day use fee for the North Maine Woods, currently $10 per day for Maine residents and $15 for folks from away. If you’re planning on camping in the North Woods, there is an additional fee of $12 per night for locals and $15 for out-of-staters.

The Deboullie Public Reserved Land is home to more than 30 miles of hiking, spread across nearly a dozen distinct trails and loops. Three of the best of the bunch – the Tower Trail, the Deboullie Loop Trail, and the Black Mountain Loop Trail – start at a trailhead on the east end of Deboullie Pond. As you head into the Public Lands on Red River Road, just keep bearing right, and you’ll end up at the trailhead.

The Tower Trail, a four-mile loop, hugs the northern shore of Deboullie Pond for a mile and a half, where it crosses a rock slide. After the slide, the trail splits, continuing west to Gardiner Pond and climbing northwest to the summit of Deboullie Mountain. The trail climbs steeply up switchbacks and stone steps for the final half-mile, quickly covering the distance to Deboullie’s 1,981-foot summit. The eponymous Tower, an ancient fire tower at the summit, adds an extra 48 feet to the peak and affords 360-degree views of the surrounding wilderness. Be forewarned that the tower isn’t for the faint of heart – lacking a staircase or railing, it’s a 40-foot climb straight up a ladder.

The Deboullie Loop shares its first quarter with the Tower Trail, leaving from the same trailhead. At the split after the rock slide, the Loop trail continues along Deboullie’s shore, cutting south between Deboullie and Gardner ponds before doubling back east along the southern shore. After about four miles, it skirts along Pushineer Pond before reaching the Red River Road – from here, it’s about a mile back to the trailhead to complete the loop.

Finally, the 51/2-mile Black Mountain Trail takes off just east of the Deboullie Loop and Tower trails, and meanders between Black Pond and Little Black Pond before climbing steeply to an overlook of Black Pond. From here, the trail climbs to the summit of Black Mountain, then through a saddle to the peak of Deboullie, where it joins the Tower Trail.

The other trails in the Public Reserve Land lay to the south and west of Deboullie Pond, ringing a half-dozen smaller ponds and climbing small peaks to scenic vistas. Trailheads dot the logging road that continues west from the entrance to the lands, with parking on Denny, Perch and Togue ponds.

For anglers, trout is the main target, though Togue Pond is also home to landlocked salmon. Somewhat unique to Deboullie is the landlocked arctic char, the northernmost freshwater fish on the planet. There are five boat launches in the Deboullie Public Reserve Lands, four of which can be reached with a trailer. The launch on Sixth Pelletier Brook Lake is hand-carry.

If you’re extending your visit to Deboullie from a day trip to an overnight, there are 29 single-party campsites with privies, the majority of which are drive-to rather than hike-in. There’s also a single group site on Perch Pond. For a bit of a less-rustic experience, the Red River Camps offer cabins (and an option for meals) on property leased from the bureau.

My late father’s family had a camp up in the Portage area when he was a child, and it makes visiting Deboullie a particular treat. It certainly feels as though the area hasn’t changed much in the 70 years between his time in those woods and mine. It’s a gift that, as development moves forward, areas like Deboullie Public Reserved Land have held onto their remoteness.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Jake, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Josh can be reached at:

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