What vision pops into mind when you think about camping in Maine? Is it a well-equipped home-on-wheels parked in a full-service campground overlooking the Atlantic? Perhaps you dream vacation is a colorful tent tucked between the trees at a more low-keyed campground, providing just the basics. The more adventurous among you just might want to pack everything in a sturdy backpack and hike into the wilderness to bond with nature. Campgrounds in Maine are just as varied as those dreams and welcome you to come and stay a while.
Maine RV & Tent Campgrounds
Just as there are different types of RVs, there are different types of campgrounds that accommodate RVs. Private campgrounds tend to have larger spaces and more amenities, including swimming pools, sundry stores and full hook-ups. Even the largest bus-like Class A rigs can find a spot along the Acadia Coast within sight of the Atlantic or at Skohegan, in Maine’s rugged interior.
RVs are welcome in some of Maine’s state and national parks. Lakeside RV camping is available at Sebago Lake State Park, which can handle the largest rigs and does offer water and electric hook-ups. Smaller rigs, up to 22 feet long, are welcome in Baxter State Park between the latter part of May until mid-October. The lack of hook-ups provides a more back-to-nature experience.
Tent campers often share campgrounds with the RVs. State and national parks, as well as some private campgrounds offer campsites with limited or no amenities suitable for pitching a tent or parking a small camper. Besides Sebago Lake and Baxter State Parks, Mt. Blue, Rangeley Lake, and Bradbury Mountain State Parks all offer both tent and RV campsites. Depending on the park, campgrounds are open from May until September or October.
Some campgrounds, such as Chimney Pond in Baxter State Park, allow winter camping with prior reservations. Maine winters, particularly in the interior, can be unpredictable. The scenery is eye-popping, and worth the effort, but be sure you are prepared for your adventure.
Island Camping in Maine
Maine’s undulating coastline is home to a number of unpopulated islands. The Maine Island Trail, running for 375 miles from Kittery in the south up to Machias Bay, offers the chance to do some island camping. Hermit Island has a campground that is accessible by car or small RV. Isle au Haut and its Duck Harbor Campground in the Acadia area, is open from mid-May until mid-October. The island may only be reached by kayak, canoe or boat.
Wildlife-rich Swan Island in the Kennebec River, famed for its bald eagle nests, and Warren Island State Park, off the coast of Lincolnville, also have primitive campgrounds that can only be reached by water. Both are open from the end of May until mid-September, weather permitting.
Camping on the Appalachian Trail
Maine’s portion of the Appalachian Trail is 281 miles long, ending at Baxter State Park. Wilderness campsites are found every 15 to 20 miles along the trail, providing tent sites or simple lean-tos for shelter. With the exception of campsites within Baxter State Park, use of the campsites is free and are first-come, first-served. The trail is busiest from July until late September, when the fall foliage is at its peak.
Hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail is not for the faint of heart. You may have to climb over tree roots, wade through streams or deal with steep terrain. All food, water and supplies must be carried in, and trash carried out. Black flies are an issue, particularly in June, so carry bug-spray. Store food away from your campsite, either on a bear pole or tree limb, at least 15 feet off the ground. The reward for all your effort is to see Maine’s heartland in its pristine and natural state.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway – Camping by Canoe
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway runs for 92 miles through north western Maine. After registering at the ranger station, put your canoe or kayak in the water and paddle from one scenic lake or pond to another. Along your way, spend the night at designated, primitive waterside campsites. Hike trails through the woods leading to abandoned logging camps from the early 1900s. Like camping on the Appalachian Trail, all gear and food must be brought in, trash carted out and care taken to avoid attracting bears and other scavengers. But when you are sitting around your campfire at night, surrounded by a million stars, you discover that this is wilderness camping at its best.