Maine boasts incredible natural landscapes, an iconic craggy shoreline, and beautiful scenery. A Maine camping guide can be useful if you plan on taking a trip to this northeastern gem. The Pine Tree State has numerous campgrounds and beautiful surroundings, including a national park. It's best to know a little bit about the area before heading there, especially since the weather can be quite harsh at times.
Maine is a Beautiful Location
Maine is the largest of the New England states, encompassing 33,215 square miles. It has approximately 228 miles of general coastline and more than 50 mountains, including Mount Katahdin, which sits at the northernmost point of the Appalachian Trail. You can also find numerous lakes and ponds across the state. The largest lake is Moosehead, covering a total of 74,890 acres.
When to Visit
Tourists tend to visit Maine in the summer. Its most popular cities -- Portland, Kennebunkport, Bar Harbor, and Jonesport -- are very crowded during these times. Likewise, the campgrounds near these cities tend to be crowded. This is because the temperatures usually stay between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit with fairly low humidity.
If you want an entire campground to yourself, head up to Maine during the winter. Temperatures often drop to below 20 degrees overnight, and the entire state gets blanketed in snow on a regular basis. The northern portion of Maine that borders Canada tends to be colder than the coast and southern half of the state, which is not balmy by any means.
This leaves spring and fall as the best times to go if you are not interested in extremely cold weather camping. Note that spring tends to be a bit muddy, thanks to snowmelt following winter. The fall offers tempting views with color-changing leaves in the ample forests.
Popular Camping Locations in Maine
Maine offers many campsite opportunities, both in state parks and along the coast. If you've never been to Maine, you may want to check out one of the following camping areas as your first destination:
Sebago Lake Campground
This campground, on the shore of a large lake near Portland, is a good spot for people who like the recreation aspect of camping more than the idea of being surrounded by wilderness. You can walk to a sand beach that features picnic tables, grills, bathhouses, boat ramps, and nature guides. You can also hike on paved trails.
Sebago Lake Campground is open from May 1- October 15. There are 250 tent sites and the park accommodates RVs up to 35 feet. Sites hover around $40-$50 per night with a maximum party of six. This park operates on a first-come, first-serve basis so it's important to make your reservations ahead of time.
Technically just over the state line in New Hampshire, this camping area is on the western side of the state directly between Maine and New Hampshire and has 30 remote state-run sites interspersed on its coastline. These sites only have a picnic table, a pit toilet, and a fire area. You have to bring in water and ice from the main campground. You're likely to see area wildlife, such as bald eagles and moose, and the lake makes for excellent fishing. Developed sites and RV hookups are available, as well.
The park has a base park campground with 27 sites with electrical and water hookups available, 2 cabins, 33 remote campsites, and 4 remote cottages in distant spots around Umbagog Lake that are only accessible by boat. The park also features a boat launch and a marina.
Lake Umbagog camping is open from May 14 to October 10. This campsite is $65 per night for two adults and two children. If there are additional parties, there is a $10 charge per additional adult or $5 per additional child. Reservations must be made for Monday through Thursday night or Friday night through Sunday night at this site.
Baxter State Park
This park offers a happy medium, with 10 different campgrounds, ranging from remote hike-in sites to family-friendly drive-in areas. None of these campgrounds are fancy by any means; they do not have showers or flush toilets. However, most have rental cabins available and water and supplies near the sites. Baxter State Park is located in the mountainous region, so take extra care if camping here in the winter.
Large recreational vehicles (RVs), motorcycles, and generators are not permitted at Baxter State Park. There is no running water and no commercial electricity in the area.
Camping fees vary widely with this park. Maine residents get in the park free. If you aren't a resident, there is a $15 per car charge. A campground tent site is $32.00 per night or you can rent a cabin with prices ranging from $57-$135 per night, depending on the number of guests.
Free Camping in Maine
If you're searching for free campsites, there are numerous areas to visit throughout Maine. Most free campgrounds don't have the amenities other parks do, but they do offer the opportunity to experience the wilderness at its fullest.
Big Eddy Campground
Big Eddy Campground is located four hours north of Portland, two hours south of Bangor, and 30 minutes south of Baxter State Park. There are 15 RV sites as long as your RV is 30-feet or less. There are an additional 12 sites to accommodate trailers. Most who visit this site experience hiking, fishing, whitewater rafting, and amazing views of wildlife. Moose and deer are known to walk through the campsite as well.
Chesuncook Lake is one of the largest bodies of water in Maine, and Allagash Gateway Campground is only minutes away. It is located on Ripogenus Lake and features a protected marina with a boat launch. It comes as no surprise this site attracts quite a few fishermen, but the wildlife in the area is plentiful as well. There are 40 sites total with only some offering electricity and water hookups. Others are pure wilderness without any running water or electric for those wanting a genuine taste of the wilderness.
Machias River Corridor
The Machias River Corridor campground is located in southeast Maine. If you're searching for untouched wilderness, this could be the site for you. The land and river is protected. If you're a fisherman, this area is the largest wild Atlantic Salmon run in the United States. It's open year-round, but if you choose to visit during the cold months, make sure you're prepared.
Several campgrounds may be found along the Machias River Corridor, however, the number of RV-accessible sites is extremely restricted. Some areas only have one or two RV spots available.
If You Camp During the Winter Months
This Maine camping guide would be remiss if it didn't mention winter weather gear. If you're headed to Maine anytime between December 1 and March 31, take the following items with you:
- Insulated boots and an insulated pack
- Cold weather-rated sleeping bag
- Cold weather-rated tent
- Ski goggles or wraparound sunglasses
- A two-day supply of nonperishable food
- A headlamp
It's also a good idea to bring cross-country skis or snowshoes. That way, you can get around easily even during blizzard conditions. It's especially important to inform friends and family of where you will be before you leave and to use common sense when hiking or climbing in dangerous weather.
Make a Plan to Visit
Whether you're camping or glamping, begin mapping out your trip to Maine. Jot down what you're looking for in a campsite. Then, take a look at the various campsites available and see what matches. Keep in mind, Maine does get cold through the winter months, so you'll want to bring the necessities if you're visiting during the cold months.