The remote campsites at the norther end or Umbagog Lake are wonderful. This trip consisted of my family of five with three kids (ages 5-13), our dog, and friends. We put our boats in at the National Wildlife Refuge and paddled in on Bear Brook. The paddle was just around 2.5 miles and calm flat water. Just perfect for our kids, and far enough feel remote but easy enough for our kids. The sites have a pit toilet and fire ring. While there were plenty of eagles, loons, and fish we only saw two other boats the entire weekend.
I had heard about Umbagog Lake for years from my father who had taken multiple canoe camping trips in the area, but had never been here myself. Although it was my first time, it won't be my last. My review addresses the base camp, because I haven't been to the remote sites. This was a private campground converted to a state park about 20 years ago. Reservations are available online via Reserve America. It's also one of the few NH state parks that offers hookups (water & electric) if that matters to you. They have small bathrooms with flush toilets and showers (cold water free, hot water $0.25 for 5min; water pressure inconsistent. In addition, there are a few pit toilets scattered around.
Sites are generally small and wooded, but sites 1a-d and 3-4 are open/sunny and near the beach. Sites 41-43 are also lakefront, but wooded, large and level. I started in site 7 (the numbering system here makes no sense) and moved to site 48 after a couple of days. I had space for my teardrop trailer, but site 48 was much smaller. It was also close to the entrance and the parking lot. Avoid site 49 unless that's you're only option (it's on the point at the entrance)
The lake is a bright spot here and rowboat/kayak/canoe rentals are available as well as boat slips. Bring your own boat and there is a separate lot for parking your trailer. If you want a fire, buy your firewood when you arrive. I made the mistake of waiting and the office closed by 5pm on a weeknight and there weren't many options outside the campground.
Things to do: canoeing, kayaking, boating. In addition to Umbagog Lake itself, the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge has multiple boat launches. I recommend heading over to Steamer Diamond Landing for early morning paddle with the loons. UNWR provides waterproof maps at the launches or at the visitor center (heard toward Errol and turn right/north on 16)
Moosewatching: pick up same map mentioned above from UNWR and look for the moose icons to give you a heads up where to look. Then as you drive along, look for the muddy wallows on the side of the road.You're most likely to see moose very early (sunrise) or as dusk. I saw 5 during my 5 days there.
Birdwatching: I loved the loons, bald eagles, and herons
Stargazing: it's be great if it weren't from the lights shining from the big trailers near the waterfront. Enjoy the dark sky during a new moon.
Grafton Notch State Park (Screw Auger Falls, Old Speck Mtn, Baldpate Mtn, AT crosses here); Step Falls Reserve (waterfall/swimming); and Bethel Maine are 30-60 minutes away in the opposite direction.
Stayed at site R18-gorgeous views, clean site with tent platform. Primitive port a potty set up. Worst part is that you will have to figure out how to get firewood there. Which is tough when you are in a kayak, canoe or other small paddle craft. We hade none and what was around to burn was sparse. Thankfully we had a jet boil for cooking or it would have been granola bars and dried fruit for dinner. The other problem was that the sign for the site is tiny, you have to be really close to shore to see it. Make sure the map you get has all of the sites marked out or you will get lost on the lake, use a compass! That being said we will be staying there again.
We went tent camping and seemed to be one of the few tenters. We stayed at base camp 1C. It was a very nice site near the water with water and electric. However not a lot (any) privacy. The bathrooms were very nice and there were showers, though not a lot of water pressure. The camp office folk were very nice. The site was large enough for my 10x12 tent and an ez up and to park the van. Site also had a picnic table and fire ring with Cook rack on it. Gorgeous view of the lake, just wished for more privacy
Very small campground with small sites for tents. Very close to other sites. The lake is very pretty but there’s not much else to do on the grounds. You can rent canoes and kayaks. The campground is right off a main road and you hear a lot cars and trucks. Our site was near the main entrance.
My family and I stayed on site 1C Lakefront in a 15 ft. travel trailer. We found our campsite to be smaller than expected, and the water and electric hookup were in a rather difficult spot to get to. Not much privacy between campsites, but neighbors were friendly. Our site was close enough to the lake, which made it easy to drop in our kayaks and canoe. The campground does have boat slips, as well as a gas pump, so there were larger boats, but that didn't get in the way at all. We were minutes from Grafton Notch State Park, which had 2 hikes that had waterfalls and swimming holes, Step Falls Preserve, and Screw Auger Falls. There are also several turnouts and a parking lot leading to trails, and a picnic area. We enjoyed early morning and late evening kayak/canoe trips, that were filled with fishing, and wildlife viewing. The beach is shallow, and perfect for young children. The staff were friendly, the coin operated showers were hot, and the bathrooms were clean. Would definitely recommend coming, and enjoying the beautiful lake.
Some remote sites allow dogs you can book a boat ride out and back if you want to.
We found it easier to book the boat out will all our gear and food and water and wood.
We canoed back which was easier with out the weight of the food, ice and wood.
The remote campsites have pit toilets in an outhouse, fire pits with heavy gril and picknick table w extension for camp stove. There are tent platforms.
Sites are very clean and private the water is excellent for swimming. There is plenty of wildlife including loons, ospreys, eagles and other birds. Moose and Bear maybe spotted. The fishing is excellent!
Wood needs to be purchased at the camp store and at the main campground there are coin operated hot showers! The Staf and Rangers are very helpful and extreamly polite.
Canoes can be rented there also.
We plan on going back each year!j
The remote sites at Umbagog are some of the best camping I have ever experienced. Take a party boat to your site and get dropped off for the time of your stay. You can kayak with Bald Eagles soaring over your head, swim in a crystal clear lake and enjoy a near wilderness camping experience. Bring the bug spray mosquitoes are fierce!
Be aware: the main campground (on the mainland) is closed for the 2017 season for renovations. However, backcountry sites are open for the 2017 season.
I love coming here! We load everything (and everyone) into our canoe and head out for a long weekend at the start of each season. We like going the first weekend the campground opens, as it can get super busy as the summer unfolds. There are several local operations that spend time on this lake (and many others in the area) so be advised that there may very well be large groups of teenagers out and about.
We stay at R17 and R37 a lot. We like being totally on an island so our dogs don't bother anyone else. The fishing is also really good here.
Most sites have newly renovated privies and tent platforms, picnic tables and fire rings. Be sure you take plenty of fresh water or enough to treat water from the lake.
The bugs aren't bad if you can find a campsite with a point, the wind certainly helps. Be prepared to fall asleep to the sound of loons and begin and end each day with incredible sun rises and sets.