Just a half mile off 302 is the first of the two Sugarloaf Campgrounds. Offering large, wooded sites with more seclusion than the Zealand campground directly on 302, Sugarloaf I and nearby Sugarloaf II offer reservable sites with flush toilets and running water via hand pumps. More of the sites here are better suited to tents rather than RVs. I haven't stayed here, but I've driven through a few times this summer/fall to get a sense of it.
You won’t have cell service, but you’ll be in a prime location for hitting the trail early, whether you want to head up to Zealand, Hale, or over to Mt Washington. The Mt Washington Cog Railway, Franconia Nothc, and Bretton Woods are also just a few miles down the road.
For a short, family-friendly hike, you’ll find the trail to the Sugarloaf Mountains just after Sugarloaf II. There’s a small parking lot just before the Zealand River crossing and the trail is on the far side of the bridge. Venture to the end of the road and you can catch the road to Zealand Falls and Hut, a nice place for a picnic. In addition to Zealand, longer more strenuous nearby hikes include Garfield, Galehead, Twins, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower and more. WMNF trailhead parking is $3/day or you can buy a weekly pass at forest service and other locations; your annual National Parks pass covers parking, too.
Zealand Rd is closed during the winter, opening in the spring only after mud season has passed and the road is dried out. The campground opens after that, in late May and is open until Columbus Day. Print your reservations before you come.
For a shower, head south through Crawford Notch to Dry River Campground where there are coin-operated showers. If you are hiking or exploring in Franconia Notch, there are coin-op showers at Lafayette Place, too, but parking on weekends is a nightmare.
Fosters’ Crossroads in Twin Mountain and Bretton Woods Market and Deli are your closest spots for picking up snacks or forgotten items.
First off, the campground review. Sugarloaf I campground is located on Zealand Road in Carroll, NH. This is a basic, no-frills US Forest Service site. Zealand Road is the access road for 3 different popular trail heads for hikes in the White Mountains. We chose to stay at Sugarloaf to be closer to the Sugarloaf Mtn. trail head since we planned to do a sunrise hike up to Middle Sugar loaf with our children the next morning. Sugarloaf Campground is less than half a mile from the trail head.
Zealand Rd. is off of Rt 302. The campground is far enough down Zealand Road, that there was not any road noise. We visited the campground in the beginning of October on a Thursday. There are were plenty of extra sites, though several sites had signs indicating that they were already reserved for the weekend. You can call the campground management office to reserve, which would be wise for holiday weekends such as Labor Day or Columbus Day. The website is here.
The top of the campground had nice views of Middle Sugarloaf and Mt. Hale. Our campsite, #5, did not have views, but we were not bothered by this! The campsites are spaced a nice distance apart--we camped next to our friends and did not hear them at all when we were in our separate sites. There was a more energetic group two sites down, and we could hear them, but it wasn't loud.
The bathrooms are basic flush toilets, with a sink for hand washing, but no soap. Fresh water for drinking is available at several pressurized spigots that are interspersed throughout the campground.
The campground would be a PERFECT home base for hiking, or for exploring the area during foliage season. There are many maple trees in the campground, and it was exceptionally beautiful while we stayed there. Even with a little rain, the experience was magical.
As a member of the Dyrt Ranger team, I am given opportunities to test out gear from various companies. This trip I was chosen to test out a RoM Pack from RoM Outdoors. I chose the pack in the Tan color.
The RoM pack is a creative design--basically an origami style design that allows it to transform from a pack to a waterproof blanket and also into a hooded poncho. The outside of the pack has large, detachable zippered pouches which are great for things like headlamps and maps. The inside of the pack is made of a soft, brushed microfiber, while the outside is a super tough nylon fabric.
I was excited to test the pack out on this particular trip because we were undertaking a sunrise hike with a bunch of kids ages 4-12, and I needed a pack that would be comfortable, while also holding plenty of gear. I was also excited because the temps on the mountain would be below freezing, and I knew the kids would want something insulating to sit on instead of bare rock. The hike I tested it on was 3.2 miles round trip.I overloaded the pack with hats, sweaters, granola bars, plenty of water, and a down sleeping bag.
I found the straps to be surprisingly comfortable, considering they are wider than any of my other pack straps. The distributed the load well. The waist and sternum strap system was a little tricky, but they did help disperse and balance the load.
The true test of the pack was when I ended up needed to give my 4 year old a ride up the mountain. I carried her in my arms, and the pack stayed secure and comfy while I huffed and puffed my way up the mountain. I really liked that once we were on the mountain, and I had unfolded the blanket, the little removable pouches kept everything small organized, so it was easy to reattach them and not lose things when we were ready to hike back down.
9 kids ended up sharing the waterproof blanket as a seat, and they all thought it was great!
IMPROVEMENTS: I wish there was a way that the back of the RoM pack could be stiffer. It tends to morph to the shape of whatever is inside it, so a bit of stiffness would distribute the load even better. Because of this, I wouldn't take it on long, strenuous hikes, but it is perfect for shorter distances where you want the option of a nice place to sit, and don't mind the slightly heavier weight.
I also wished that the water bottle pockets were slightly larger--I have Klean Kanteen regular sized bottles, and it was a tight fit to get them in.
A short drive off 302 takes you to sugarloaf 1 which has flushing toilets and running water. The sites are spread out and you do not feel crowded or exposed like some other campgrounds. Easy access to all of what the white mountains have to offer including sugarloaf mountains up the road. Zeacliff trail is also just up the road and that is worth a hike as it is one of the best views in the whites. Definitely recommend!
I’d describe this campground as “low frills”. Definitely a step above primitive campsites (there’s a flushing toilet and water), but this site doesn’t have some of the other features you find at some larger campgrounds (no sinks, washbasins, or showers). Overall, though, a nice site.
This site also has easy access to some nice hikes. Zealand, Hale, and the Sugarloafs are walkable from the site, and Franconia Ridge or Grafton Notch hikes are a short drive away.
Quite hrs at 10pm. Not as strictly enforced as other places I’ve camped, but everyone at the campground was respectful and the sites are decently spaced if you do carry on talking a little later.
Great campsite in white mountains which usually has spots available for last minute trips. Sites tucked into woods with lots of privacy.