Best campsite at BSP

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Super Moderator
Staff member
Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
I was getting worried when I saw the headline from Wow I can get the real beta on the best camping in the park.

Here is the source of the article, Reader Digest is not what I normally consider a source of outdoor Beta. Another piece of filler.

So now the drumroll, the best campsite in BSP, South Branch Pond.

Yes I do regard the South Branch Pond campground as a nice place although the reality is the majority of the sites, except the leantos with frontage on the pond, are not that special and even the leantos given how closely they are spaced, if the wrong neighbors have booked an adjacent shelter they can be less than pleasant. Those lean to's get grabbed quick and then the rest of the sites are a long walk through the woods to the waterfront in the woods (including the bunkhouse). I guess the same could be said of Katahdin Stream, Nesowadnehunk, Abol and Roaring Brook but I would be hard pressed to compare South Branch Ponds as the best overall campsite to Russell Pond or Chimney Pond.

If we stuck to actual campsites versus campgrounds, I could click off several remote sites like the newer one on the west end of Wassataquoik Lake, Wassataquoik Stream Shelters and course Davis Pond with its own private cirque. I still need to connect up Russell Pond with South Branch so I still need to take a look at those remote campsites and I have not yet visited any of the newer sites in the NE corner of the park of the ones on The Freeze out trail.

The good thing about the article is it does not mention that BSP requires reservations and to get a great site means booking very early so those reading the article and making plans are going to be disappointed and probably leave a bad review on Trip Advisor ;)
So now the drumroll, the best campsite in BSP, South Branch Pond.
I think South Branch is an awesome campsite and among my favorites of the actual campgrounds I stay at in New England. I actually prefer the outer loop of the sites, not the "coveted" lean to sites on the pond for the exact reasons you mentioned (lack of privacy, noise, etc). That back loop, even when the campground is full, is usually pretty quiet and private. Stayed in many of those sites during busy season late Summer. The walk in/paddle in sites on the pond are also pretty awesome. Of course, everyone likes different things when camping so "best" is pretty subjective.

I think South Branch is a great combination of remoteness, scenery, good amenities (beach, ample outhouses, full time ranger, wood, kayak and canoe rentals, away from the "through hiker" scene/crowds, etc.), great hiking and paddling right out of the campground or nearby, and travel range accessibility to many New England metro areas. In my opinion it is the best of any of the other car-accessed campgrounds in Baxter (with my personal 2nd being Nesowadnehunk).

Now having said all that, I get what you're saying about better sites but I'm sure the article is geared toward the casual adventurer/car camper (I couldn't read the article - prompted to subscribe - so I'm making a big assumption). For an ordinary outdoor person South Branch checks a lot of boxes. The backcountry sites you mentioned are no doubt more appealing to hikers and serious outdoor people but are far less convenient.
Dont subscribe there is little or no detail, just a lead to the readers digest article.
There is a lean-too on the edge of Nesowadnehunk field that faces Doubletop and has its back to the open field. It's one of my faves. Good access to the steam, lake, and hiking trails for Coe, Brothers, Fort etc. There is also a hidden spring at Nesowadnehunk that provides sub-surface fresh water. It's got it all!

On another topic, check out this excerpt from the Baxter Park website. It actually advertises / promotes climbing opportunities in the Park. A real shift in approach from back in the day.

Baxter State Park offers some of the most remote and challenging technical climbing in New England. Climbers can find any type of climbing to challenge themselves, from bouldering to multi pitch climbs. Most of the Katahdin climbing routes are accessed from Chimney Pond via the Roaring Brook Campgrounds, a 3.3 mile hike. Approaches to these climbs can take from ½ hour to 2 hours. For the Armadillo, Flat Iron and Pamola 4 routes it is recommended to leave Chimney Pond by 8:00am.

Wow that is quite the change. I wonder if that is influenced by the new chief ranger who came out of the AMC organization? I dont hold out much hope for the new park director making big changes as he is a retired game warden probably more interested in the status quo.

Unfortunately it also makes the Day Use parking at Roaring Brook more in demand.

I do hope the park reverses the decision to let Nesowadnehunk field grow in but given its past use I expect the soil is severely compacted so it will take a while for it to grow in. I know that the last time I visited Chimney Pond, the entire campground has grown back in significantly to the point that many of the view are obscured.
I don't think it is actually much of a change it all;. No change in policy regarding climbing - at least based on what is posted here. Most of the area climbers that are interested in doing that type of climbing are already well aware of its existence and the fact that it is mentioned on the web site isn't exactly breaking news.