I grew up only 2 hours from this state park, albeit across the Canadian border, but I would look out the window as we drove down I-95 to visit family in Portland & Rhode Island every Christmas. The snow peak of Mount Katahdin was like a mystery. Later in life a big regret was to discover the park and summit the tallest peak in the region later in life.
My goal after my first visit, was to make this a regular visit so that I can take advantage of this area.
Baxter State Park is a fantastic model of an independent park and reserve that many land managers here in Canada should be looking at. roll back the clock 70 years or more and you will find that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick was the outdoorsman playground, not Maine. But a change did happen and I you can’t fuss about it now. I mean there’s a mile high mountain and terminus of the Appalachian Trail as one of the main central selling points.
So, for the last few years, I’ve been making the journey to Baxter to enjoy the wilderness. However, as I’m getting older, I do prefer the comforts of the cabin as compared to crawling out on my knees from a tent in the morning. Luckily Baxter State Park has a number of cabins and seem to be adding a few more with each year.
My personal favourite is Daicey Pond. It has the best view of the mountain (Katahdin from the Abol side) and you can have a campfire, get firewood and enjoy the hiss & glow from the propane lantern over the lakeview.
I’ve Stayed in cabin number 1 (Olw’s nest), 8 and 9 (Whispering Pines) for the last 5 years, but managed to snag some pics from the other cabins during labour day weekend as the young family crowd switched to the quiet grey beards.
Best Time Of Year To Stay
Early June is great as the season is just starting and not as busy in my opinion. However once you get into August and fall then things get a bit crazy. However the crowds change noticeably once Labour Day Weekend, where families are back home to school and is replaced by an older crowd.
How Does Baxter Camping Reservation Works
This is often a complicated aspect when planning a trip to Baxter is navigating the camping reservation system. Camping reservations can be made 4 months until your arrival date, meaning that if you want to book the July 4th holiday and want to arrive on July 1st, then the earliest you can place the reservation is on March 1st. The detailed grid to help you plan is right here.
No Online Reservations For Some Sites
Not all sites are available for online reservation, depending on the time of year. For example, for all winter sites, reservations are only accepted by mail or in person.
Some of the other sites that will require reservation either by phone, mail or in person during the month of May due to park slowly opening up or allowing for traffic on the soft dirt roads:
- Chimney Campground
- Russell Pond Campground
- All backcountry sites
- Group sites
How To Make Reservations At Baxter
Once you have your dates and site figured out, your best bet at success is to take a chance with the online reservation system. From prior experience, it is best to have a plan B and C for sites and dates. Also best to try reserving the sites very early in the morning.
- Baxter Online Reservation System
- Mail (Fill out form & Mail in no sooner than 14 days before processing date)
- in Person (64 Balsam Drive, Millinocket)
Daicey Pond Map Layout
I love these hand drawings from the Park Authority. Download the PDF here. My only complain is that you don’t get a good idea of the scale until you arrive. Some points seem shorter and some points seem longer. I haven’t measured but cabin 1 & from the parking isn’t more than 200m. (update- walk in distances from parking are below)
All cabins will have the following items:
- wood stove
- campfire ring
- picnic table
- wood chairs (at least 2)
- small table for camping stove
- bed matress
- propane lantern
What you will need to bring (at the minimum)
- sleeping bag
- utensils & plates
- wash bucket
- water, water filter
- camp axe
- cooler & ice
- flashlight / headlamp
- propane stove
What Not To Bring
- No vehicle over 9 feet high, 7 feet wide or 22 feet in length or 44 feet if hauling a trailer/RV
- Groups more than 12 people
More about the rules & regulations, you can read them right here.
The park recommends that you store your food & cooler in your car overnight so that large black fur critters don’t come knocking. To be honest, we haven’t seen a black bear so far in from our visits. I’ve only seen bear scat along the trail at Chimney Pond once. To be honest, I think I’d be more concerned about running into moose. The key here is to keep extra food stored away.
The big selling point of the park is its rustic nature. There are no trash cans, no running water, no waste water drains, no electricity, no cell phone coverage and no showers. Most of the cabins will have their own dedicated pit toilet which are kept clean by the Park Ranger on duty.
Upon check-in you can either sign to the Park Ranger on-duty at the Ranger station or generally they will show up at your cabin. They will post the weather forecast each morning and will alert campers of other park news. They have great knowledge of the park, and their time estimates to accomplish a number of trails are spot on. Canoe rentals and wood bundles fee can be paid at the Ranger Station via slot at the door.
The Library / Boat Rental / The View
On those truly terrible days, the campground has a cabin dedicated to books, board games and other distractions. The building also has on the side the paddling life jackets and paddles for rental which is payable at the Ranger station. You’ll find a number of Old Town discovery canoes.
You will also find wheel barrows that you can haul your gear from your car to your site.
Cabin 1 – Olw’s Nest
This was our first experience at Daicey Pond. We did early June visits for 2 years straight. The big benefit of this space was that it was the end of line, so no camper traffic. However, the AT trail runs about 100 feet from the outhouse right behind the cabin. The main downside is that the picnic table & fire ring is surrounded by boulders so it’s doesn’t accommodate that many unless you can find a flat spot for your camp chair.
What’s great about this cabin:
- great view of the lake and mountains (Katahdin, double top)
- large screen windows with large chairs
- 2 rooms (2 single cots)
- 182m walk-in
Cabin 2 – Lady Slipper
This is a nice cute cabin for 2 people. it has a nice landing for your canoe / kayak. The main downside is that the path to get to cabin #1 is only a few feet from the fire ring.
- 163m walk-in
Cabin 3 – Tamarak
Another small 2 person cabin where the walking path to cabin #2 & #1 passes within a few feet behind it. The upside is that you are very close to the edge of the lake.
- 106m walk-in
Cabin 4 – Chipmunk Hollow
This cabin is further up on the hill, out of view of the main path towards cabins 1-3.
- 79m walk-in
Cabin 5 – Mt. View
This is the usually the first cabin you see when you get up the hill to the main parking area for the campground. It is closest to the Ranger station cabin.
- 70m walk-in
Cabin 6 – Blue Lodge
This is the only wheelchair accessible cabin in the campground. It includes an accessible pit toilet within 20 feet from the cabin and is closest to the wood shed & library.
- drive-up site (wheelchair accessible)
Cabin 7 – Loon Lodge
This cabin is up along the lake and short distance from the wood shed. Along with Cabin #5, these would be the ones where you’d get the most foot traffic as they along the trails to the other cabins.
- 69m walk-in
Cabin 8 – Birch Bark
At top of the hillside, this little cabin doesn’t offer much in terms of views but it’s closest to the pit toilet that services Cabin 8-10. This is a great size for a couple or 3 person family.
What’a great about this cabin:
- Straight line from the woodshed loading area.
- Close to outhouse
- Larger flat area around the fire ring than other cabins
- Cabin 7 & 9 make great pairings if want to come with another couple or family
- 99m walk-in
Cabin 9 – Whispering Pines
This cabin offers a nice deck to compensate from the lack of views of the pond. The interior offers a nice large area for the picnic table & wood stove while the single beds are divided into rooms with furniture (ie dresser). This cabin along with #1 would be great options for late fall extended stays.
- 129m walk-in
Cabin 10 – Nature At Peace
The most recent cabin and available in the winter for large groups. It is the furthest cabin, isolated and the longest walk to the pit toilet.
- 196m walk-in