It's no surprise that Maine has a national reputation when it comes to camping. Few other states in the East can offer the kind of wilderness opportunities that exist in the Pine Tree State. Hundreds of thousands of acres of the North Woods remain undeveloped, providing outdoor enthusiasts with a vast playground of mountains and lakes, rivers and forest. Camping is a long and beloved tradition here.
Of course, wilderness camping is a term that means many things to many people. Some think of a resort campground where they can park their RV. Others picture a remote site where they can drop their backpack and pitch a tent. Still others imagine a sporting camp, where they can enjoy a week by a lake in an old cabin. In Maine you can find the best of all these worlds.
The options are numerous and vary widely, from the salty coast to the tall peaks of the north. The Maine Island Trail, an Appalachian Trail of the sea, provides boaters with more than 180 wild isles and coastal sites to camp on, thanks to the generosity of land owners. Many of these are uninhabited and pristine. The state itself owns public lands like the Cutler Coast Reserve, which is a backpacking area along the largest undeveloped stretch of coastline in the East, and camping areas like Warren Island State Park, a fine, woodsy isle in Penobscot Bay.
Venture inland and your choices for wild places multiply. Baxter State Park, a huge green spot on the map of northern Maine, is internationally known as a 205,000-acre natural wonderland of “forever wild” mountains and lakes, and it's dearly beloved by hikers. Likewise, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a world-famous canoeing destination where you can paddle for days, camp by lakes and rivers at night, and see more moose than people.
Many other state-owned parks, like Rangeley and Lily Bay, Grafton Notch and Mount Blue, are filled with fine campsites and are great bases for exploring wild areas nearby. The Appalachian Trail runs for 281 miles through Maine, including truly wild stretches like the 100-Mile Wilderness, where backpackers find solitude in deeply forested and mountainous areas. And while many people think of the White Mountain National Forest as a New Hampshire phenomenon, more than 45,000 acres of it – and five campgrounds - are actually in western Maine.
Add to all of these several dozen more state-owned public reserves – which together cover more than a half million acres of wild lands – and innumerable backcountry camping areas. Then throw in the 3.5 million acres of timberlands managed by North Maine Woods, Inc., and hundreds of commercial campgrounds, and you have more possibilities than you could exhaust in a decade. Talk about happy campers.