Best Tent Camping New England  by Lafe Low

Best Tent Camping: New England Guide Book

by Lafe Low (Menasha Ridge Press)
Best Tent Camping New England  by Lafe Low
In Best Tent Camping: New England, veteran writer and outdoors enthusiast Lafe Low has compiled the most up-to-date research -- in the region he knows so well -- to steer you straight to the safe and scenic treasure spot you had in mind.

© 2012 Lafe Low/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Tent Camping: New England" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 60.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 60.

“Forever wild” perfectly describes Baxter State Park. Its remoteness, size, and grandeur are profound. Baxter’s intent was to keep the park undeveloped. Today, it’s managed as a wildlife preserve first and as a recreation resource second. At more than 200,000 acres, Baxter State Park is a huge place. There are actually 10 campgrounds within the park. Truth is, no matter where you end up in the park, you’re bound to have a remote wilderness experience. Eight of the campgrounds you can reach by driving; the other two are hike-in areas.
Millinocket, ME - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Bear Brook State Park is enormous—it’s the largest state park in New Hampshire. Its size (the entire park spans more than 10,000 acres) and the myriad outdoor activities available here make this as much a destination as a place to set up camp. On the long road leading through the park and to the campground, I was convinced I had missed it. If you get this sensation, keep on going, because you’re almost there. You’ll come to another BEAR BROOK STATE PARK sign that points the way into the campground. The last stretch is a beautiful ride through a stately forest of pine and spruce trees that are at least 100 feet tall. Bear Brook State Park has a massive network of trails, some of which pass right through the campground. You’ll see trailheads for the Broken Boulder Trail and the Pitch Pine Trail on the last section of the campground road. Both of these trails eventually lead to Smith Pond.
Allenstown, NH - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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Beartown State Forest is home to a beautiful, intimate campground set along the shores of Benedict Pond, a good-sized body of water ready to accept anglers, swimmers, and paddlers. The campground only has 12 sites, but if there were a rating for perfect sites, Beartown would be way out in front. Camping here is by reservation only (in season), so plan ahead, call ahead, and try to get yourself one of the spectacularly scenic pondside sites. All sites have at least one picnic table and a fire ring.
Monterey, MA - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
The moment you pull into Big Rock Campground, you’ll see the unique geological feature for which the campground was named: a huge rock. Besides being a namesake and a curiosity, this massive chunk of granite (a phrase that proved far too cumbersome for a campground name) gives climbers a good spot for a little spontaneous bouldering. It’s a nice way to warm up for or cool down from a day spent climbing the massive walls of Cathedral Ledge in nearby North Conway. Big Rock is actually quite small, but that makes it an excellent place to set up camp. It has only 28 sites, many of which have a decent amount of space and some privacy. If you’ve come camping with a group or need several sites, try to secure something in the range of sites 23 through 28. There’s a small central parking area, so you’ll have to haul in your gear, but not too far. These sites sit atop the small hill around which the campground is situated, isolating them from the rest of the campground, if not from each other. A restroom is right down the access road. Other prime tent spots within Big Rock are sites 7, 8, 9, 12, and 13 through 18. All are on the same loop (the main loop of the campground).
Lincoln, NH - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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There may be just six sites set aside for tent camping at Blackberry Crossing Campground, but its character, history, and location on Kancamagus Highway make a trip here time well spent. It’s another of the area’s fairly small campgrounds, about the same size as Big Rock. The six tent sites are in a small field on the eastern edge of the campground. They are tent-only owing to the fact that you have to lug your gear in a short distance from the parking area for this loop. Sites 21 through 26 are at the woods’ edge around a central clearing about one-quarter the size of a football field. The open space between these tent sites adds a community flavor to this part of the campground. On crystal-clear, jet-black New England nights, you’ll be thankful that you’re far from any light pollution that might interfere with stargazing. The break in the trees over the field affords magnificent views of the skies. Keep an eye to the sky if you’re there in mid-August, and you could catch the Perseid meteor showers.
Albany, NH - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
For such a huge campground, most of the sites at Blackwoods still have a cozy atmosphere. The three-lane paved road (two lanes in, one out) accessing the campground might make you wonder what you’re getting into, but rest assured, this is a great place to pitch a tent. For one thing, Blackwoods Campground is just off Park Loop Road, which winds its way around Acadia National Park. Better still, from your campsite it’s a short walk to the ocean, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliff... the list goes on. The campground rests on the mostly flat forest floor beneath a loosely spaced forest canopy of mixed pine, balsam, hemlock, and hardwoods. The open forest lets lots of light filter through to the campground floor on sunny days, and a cool, nearly constant breeze blows in from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.
Bar Harbor, ME - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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It's a bit surreal to be camping on an island and sitting on a rocky ocean beach with a view of the Boston skyline. The soundtrack includes the crackle of campfire, the birds and other sounds of the forest...and planes coming in and out of Logan International Airport. After all, you're just minutes from the city. Make no mistake, though: this is primitive island camping. Even though you'll probably take a ferry to here and you can see the skyline in the distance, you must be 100 percent self-sufficient. Bring all your food, all your water, anything you need to cook with...everything.
Hingham, MA - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Despite its location, the campground at Bradbury Mountain State Park is exceptionally quiet. A bit of sporadic road noise emanates from ME 9, but the fragrant evergreen scent wafting through the loose forest is constant. There’s an open, airy character to the forest that lets sunlight brighten the campground floor and the breezes blow through. Pick your campsite and the ranger will come by to register you. Sites 3, 5, 6, 14, 15, 25, 28, 34, and 35 are first-come, first-served. You can reserve any of the other sites. A host site is on the right as you enter the campground, if you have any questions.
Pownal, ME - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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There are two separate camping areas at Branbury State Park. One is pretty nice, but the other is positively spectacular. Branbury State Park is on the eastern shore of Lake Dunmore, and there’s plenty to do on this beautiful central Vermont lake: paddling, fishing, sailing, swimming, or just sitting on a beach chair burrowing your feet into the sand. The camping area near the lake is set on an open field back from the beach. For the Lake Dunmore side of the campground, the privacy rating is one star, since it’s an open field. A few trees are spread out within the field, but for the most part, the only thing between you and the neighboring sites is air. The campsites across the street rate a four on the privacy scale, and some a solid five.
Salisbury, VT - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
The Chittenden Brook Recreation Area campground, like many campgrounds perched along the spine of the Green Mountains in Vermont, offers a deep-woods atmosphere and easy access to some of the world-class hiking trails that wind through the state. The 2.5-mile access road (Forest Road 45) into the campground is quite a trip in and of itself. It leads up and over a ridge, with Chittenden Brook running on either side along the way. Farther up, as you near the campground, the road falls off steeply to the right. Even though the forest is dramatically beautiful here, keep your eyes on the road.
Chittenden, VT - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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Clarksburg State Park is up in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, along the Vermont border. The sites at the park’s moderately sized campground are carved out of a dense forest of pine, spruce, and hemlock that gives the woods a dark, cool feeling. Even on the most brilliant, sunny days, the whole campground is immersed in the shade of the verdant forest. The coniferous trees blanket most of the campground with a velvety layer of pine needles. The sites are spread out along a large, central loop road bisected by a crossroad. Sites 9 through 14 (including site 12A) are situated along the crossroad; the rest are on the outer loops.
Clarksburg, MA - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Cobscook Bay State Park comes the closest of any park in this book to providing the remote, oceanside, wilderness feeling of island camping without requiring you to actually travel to an island. You’ll find numerous waterfront sites here, all of them spectacular and dramatically beautiful. Because there are so many of them, you have an excellent chance of scoring one of these pristine sites. When you do get a waterfront site, you’ll bear witness to the extreme tidal swing in this area. In fact, the name Cobscook is from the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy dialect for “boiling tides.” The change in tidal depth runs from 24 to 28 feet! Be extremely careful if you venture out onto the mudflats at low tide to dig up some clams (which is perfectly legal, by the way—up to a peck a day). When the tide turns, it comes racing in.
Dennysville, ME - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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When you’re hiking through the gentle trails of Coolidge State Park (so named for the nearby birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States), you’ll come across lots of old stone walls and what’s left of foundations. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine what this area was like when the homes of farmers stood here. The land upon which you’re hiking and camping looked a lot different just 100 years ago. What was once agricultural land has been thoroughly reclaimed by the forest’s persistent growth. The campground at Coolidge State Park is set within a dense, mixed forest of mostly deciduous trees. There’s a stately character to the forest, as most of the trees tower 75 to 100 feet overhead. Most of the trees are maple, birch, and pine. The tent sites are generally very spacious, with lots of space and trees between most of the sites, so the sense of seclusion is supreme. The campground is very quiet. The only sounds you’ll hear are the woodland birds and the breezes rustling through the trees.
Plymouth, VT - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
What do big rock and covered bridge campgrounds have in common (besides the fact that they’re both on Kancamagus Highway)? As soon as you pull in to either, you’ll see the campground’s namesake. In the case of Covered Bridge Campground, it’s a classic New England covered bridge that spans the Swift River. The original bridge was built in the late 1800s by the townsfolk of Albany; it was rebuilt in the 1970s. On either side of the road leading to the bridge, huge timbers span the road at a 7-foot, 9-inch height to ensure that “adventurous” RV or camper owners don’t try to drive through the bridge. Effective in preserving this historic covered bridge, the timbers also help keep the larger RVs out of Covered Bridge Campground. (You can get into the campground from the Dugway Road, 6 miles west of Conway... but don’t tell anyone in an RV!)
Albany, NH - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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Nestled within the wilderness of Crawford Notch, the campground of the same name is a perfectly peaceful spot to pitch your tent—whether you’ve come to this part of the state for the climbing, hiking, fishing, or just sitting and watching the Saco River flow by. Crawford Notch is meticulously maintained, with a clean, sandy surface on the roads throughout the campground and on the individual sites. A dense forest, mostly young maples and beech, covers the campground. The deciduous trees display a brilliant, shimmering-green character, especially when their leaves are backlit by the sun. This dense forest also gives most of the sites a marvelous sense of seclusion. Many of the sites here are on or near the shores of the Saco River; these are by far the most spectacular.
Harts Location, NH - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
If you’re wondering how this state park came by its name, you’re not alone. A variety of theories exist. One thing folks do agree on is that the name refers to the numerous holes bored into the rock at the base of Chapman Falls. The most oft-repeated “explanation” is that these are the result of the devil hopping from rock to rock to avoid getting his hooves wet, burning holes in the rocks with each hop. If you can think of a better or more entertaining theory, feel free to share it with your fellow campers. The Chapman Falls Campground at Devil’s Hopyard State Park has 22 sites spread out in a wooded grove right near the campground’s namesake. The falls not only provide a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy the view right outside the campground, but the constant rush of the water is a welcome addition to the forest’s soundtrack.
East Haddam, CT - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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You can escape some of the crowds who may not head any farther north than the outlets by heading farther north yourself, to Dolly Copp Campground. The campground is just north of Mount Washington and right off NH 16. Don’t make the mistake of pulling in to the Dolly Copp picnic area—the campground is another mile up the road. Dolly Copp is a good-sized campground, and it’s not packed with sites. Instead, 173 sites are distributed in nine separate areas, between which there is plenty of room. You won’t find any tent-specific areas within Dolly Copp, but there are a few areas where trailers aren’t allowed.
Gorham, NH - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Don’t get confused as you drive up through Crawford Notch State Park. The state-park campground is called Dry River Campground. There’s also a Crawford Notch Campground, but that’s a private campground across US 302. Both are excellent camping spots near some fantastic hiking and climbing routes. Dry River is one of those campgrounds where there’s not a bad site in the place. It’s a small campground set within a moderately dense forest of mixed deciduous trees: maple, birch, and ash. All the campsites are very clean and spacious. The setting in Crawford Notch doesn’t hurt one bit either. From your campsite, you’re minutes from dramatically beautiful and challenging trails, world-class rock-climbing at Frankenstein Cliffs, and towering waterfalls. You won’t run out of things to do or places to explore when staying here.
Twin Mountain, NH - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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You can’t help but notice the steep embankment leading up from one side of the road and down from the other as you drive into the Emerald Lake State Park campground. This place was essentially carved out of the hillside. It makes for a dramatic setting, but consequently, a steep bank encircles many of the camping areas here, so keep an eye on any little ones you may have running around. You’ll hear a little road noise from nearby US 7, but hardly any at night. The first area you’ll come to, Area A, has a pleasing mix of tent and lean-to sites, much like the rest of the campground. In the 1-through-12 section of the loop, most of the tent sites are set toward the center of the loop, with the lean-tos on the outside. For the most part, the lean-tos are secluded on the sides, with the open side of the lean-to facing out from the A-loop road.
East Dorset, VT - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Fort Getty Recreation Area will appeal to history buffs and anyone wanting to combine a little paddling or beachcombing with their camping experience. It’s also a perfect spot to capture some island-camping mystique without actually loading up a boat, canoe, or kayak and rowing off across the water. Set on a windswept bluff near the southern tip of Conanicut Island in the middle of Narragansett Bay, this is a beautiful oceanside campground. Even though this campground is on an island, rest assured you can get there by car.
Jamestown, RI - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
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