I always struggle with the notion of rating a full amenities campground with a no-frills place like this, so when it comes down to it, I'm rating the experience. If you want to get off the grid (no wi-fi, cell service, or running water) to a quiet, dark campground with opportunities to bag some peaks, see some wildlife, and cool off in a river after a long day on the trail, and you don't mind traveling over miles of dirt roads to get there, then it is hard to beat Nesowadnehunk Field campground.
I stayed in a lean-to, drove up to it and pitched my tent inside…grateful for a little extra protection in the tent as I listened to animals scratching around the lean-to at night. There was a large bush in front of the lean to and woods behind. I could see and hear my neighbors, but wasn't disturbed by them. The site also had a picnic table. Trails led to the river behind the lean tos. There are also a number of tent sites that you park and walk back to, plus a small bunkhouse.
As the sun sets, it is the sky that catches your attention and doesn't want to let it go. Without light pollution, you'll see more than stars than you imagined you could see (tip: if you need a light, use the red setting on your headlamp so your eyes don't have to re-acclimate to the dark).
I used this as a base for bagging Coe, South, and North Brother, finishing the Maine 4000-footers here. It was so windy I decided to forego the bushwhack to Fort. It's nice to be able to get an early start because you're already in the park.
Things you need to know about low frills Baxter State Park:
- Make reservations online, though if you want a group site or a bunkhouse, give them a call or send a letter. Reservations open 4 months ahead of time.
- Plan to arrive before 8:30. It takes a while to get to the campgrounds from the gates, wildlife starts moving around at dusk, and you don't want to have to set up camp in the dark
- Bring either water or a filtration/treatment system so you can use surface water.
- Bring what you'll need…don't expect a convenient store to replace that missing item! It's a long way back to Millinocket. Pack out your trash.
- The general camping season is May-Oct, though winter camping (Dec-Mar) and activities are also possible. Snow may arrive early (which is why they sometimes have thru-hikers jump ahead to Katahdin and hike backwards if they aren't likely to make it to Katahdin ahead of the snow)
- No pets. No alcohol in public places (i.e. don't celebrate on a summit with a sip of your favorite beverage)
- There are a lot of rules, conditions of the donation. Take time to read the rules on the website.
This place is gorgeous. You have to park and use carts to bring stuff to your site. It's not very far but it is something to consider. Moose are known to be in the area although we didn't see any while here. Outhouses are by the parking although that is not far, as mentioned above. Water has to be filtered and treated or carried in.