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 were the outdoorsman playground, not Maine. 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.
Usually we go to Daicey Pond, but we reserved at Kidney Pond and found it to be a great alternative depending on your party. Personally I think Kidney Pond works better for families with children as it is more open and the lake is more accessible as opposed to Daicey where you have rocks & roots everywhere and the lake isn’t used as much.
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.
First week of August is great as the bugs are mostly gone and not really an issue. If you have a thermacell, might want to bring it for those early mornings and late evenings.
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)
Kidney Pond Map Layout
I love these hand drawings from the Park Authority. 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. Also note that as of 2019 that the Ranger station has been replaced with a new building across the road. Also there are 13 cabins not 12.
All cabins will have the following items:
- wood stove
- campfire ring at cabin (cabin 1, 2 & 13)
- picnic table
- wood chairs (at least 2)
- small table for camping stove
- bed mattress
- 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
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.
Kidney has three main parking areas for cars which are easy to find with the signage.
- Day use parking (near the wood shed)
- Cabins (1-6,13)
- Cabins (7-12) adjacent from day-use parking area.
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.
You will also find wheel barrows that you can haul your gear from your car to your site.
Note that the Ranger Station is across the road where a new building has been erected. The Ranger is on duty usually until 9:30pm and if you miss him/her, they will stop by your site to check-in.
The Library / Boat Rental / Communal Fire Pit
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.
Directly across from Cabin 6,7 is an open field which has a picnic table underneath a shelter and the communal fire pit where you can cook food or have a campfire.
We found that campers who booked cabin 1, 12 & 13 would simply pay 8$ per day and take a canoe to their cabin so that they can launch whenever. Overall we found the lake to be more inviting for paddling & swimming than Daicey pond. However, lots of small leeches if your feet gets into the muck.
Cabin 1 – Green Drake
Cabin 1 is probably the best cabin to get withing the main groupings. It has a decent canoe launch, large site and you can drive up to the site with your car if the Park Ranger is in a good mood. A picnic table and fire ring make this a valued site.
There is a double outhouse at the access road that you will share with Cabin 2.
- 64m walk-in
- fire ring
Cabin 2 – Bears Den
We stayed here, also because of the fire ring at camp. (in the back). This shares the access road or walk-in to cabin 1 and 13. As with cabin 1, you can drive up your car if the Ranger allows it. However it is a short walk and we didn’t mind walking .
There is a double outhouse at the top of the access road that you will share with cabin 1.
- 41m walk-in
- fire ring
Drive Up Sites (Cabin 3 to Cabin 6)
The next four cabins are located directly from the parking lot, so you can can un/load from your parking spot or drive up to the edge. These cabins will be close to traffic and some have access to the lake.
You will be sharing an accessible outhouse from the parking lot and there is a double outhouse about 50m towards the open field and communal fire pit.
- Cabin 3 – Spruce Haven
- Cabin 4 – Katahdin
- Cabin 5 – The Landing (wheel chair accessible)
- Cabin 6 – Doubletop (45m walk-in)
Cabin 7 – Sentinel
This cabin didn’t appear to have access to the lake, rather walk towards the library and access it that way. You also share a path where many campers would walk to get to the back of the library for PFD’s and paddles.
As with cabin 6, you have a front porch looking over the open field along with a deck looking over the lake. As you can see from the images, you are about 12 feet from the main path.
- 64m walk-in
The next group of cabins are to the right of the library and required a bit of a walk. You cannot see the cabins from the ranger station or the library. Since the campground was booked solid, we didn’t venture down to disturb the other campers (as of August 2019).
Cabin 8 – Merganser
- 101m walk-in
Cabin 9 – Woodchuck Hollow
- 129m walk-in
Cabin 10 – Loons Nest
- 145m walk-in
Cabin 11 – Lone Pine
- 170m walk-in
Cabin 12 – OJI
This cabin requires a hike and a paddle.
- 805m Walk-in
- 483m Canoe paddle
- fire ring
Cabin 13 – Moosewood
This appears to be a newer cabin that is not listed on the campground map, but you walk past cabin 1. During our stay we noticed people walking woth their gear and a car driving down. If anybody has information they’d like to donate for this post, please contact me.
- 181m walk-in
- fire ring