For many locals, summer is the best season in Carrabassett Valley. Everyone knows and loves everything Sugarloaf has to offer in the winter, but the summer is packed with endless activities, from mountain biking, to golfing, fishing, kayaking, swimming and more. While there is plenty to enjoy at the resort, we recommend escaping your ski condo for a weekend and pack up the van to sleep under the stars at one of these special camping areas in the Sugarloaf region along Flagstaff Lake and Chain of Ponds.
Campgrounds with Facilities
Cathedral Pines Campground, Eustis
This stunning campground was Down East magazine’s pick for RV camping in their August 2020 camping special issue and featured on the cover, so the secret is out.
Cathedral Pines Campground is located on the sandy shores of Flagstaff Lake and right next to Pines Market, a perfect stop for picking up last-minute groceries or an extra chair for a forgetful guest. With 115 pet-friendly tent and trailer sites, the campground offers kayak and canoe rentals, paddle boats, a playground and rec hall, nearby hiking trails and more, all with outstanding views of the Bigelow mountains.
Food trucks are also known to park at the campground for the summer.
Natanis Point Campground, Chain of Ponds
Right before the Canadian border, you’ll find the hidden gem of Natanis Point Campground, nestled at the northern edge of the scenic Chain of Ponds that follow Route 27 just before Coburn Gore. The dog-friendly campground features 61 sites (with many waterfront options) and several secluded campsites that are only accessible via kayak or canoe. ATVs are welcome at the campground with direct access to an extensive trail network for exploring the remote region.
The campground’s long sandy beach features a boat launch, perfect for embarking on water adventures or swimming.
Mountain View Motel & Campground, Stratton
While this isn’t a waterfront campground, we would be remiss not to mention the brand-new campground just north of Sugarloaf on Route 27 in Stratton at the Mountain View Motel. The campground offers 17 campsites nestled in the woods with fire pits, picnic tables, access to hot showers and toilets and more.
Rustic and remote, primitive campsites are first-come, first-serve, with no ability to reserve your spot ahead of time. This means these campsites can get competitive in the summer, with many staking their claim in the wee hours of the morning. Don’t be surprised or disappointed if you show up to one of these and find all the sites are already taken; always have a few backup plans.
Most of these sites include a picnic table, a fire pit, and are within walking distance to a privy or pit toilet. Do not expect access to cell service or potable water; either bring enough water for your stay or a filtration method to purify your own drinking water from the lake or nearby stream. Always bring first aid supplies, layers and plenty of food, and be sure to carry in and carry out all of your trash. Please be mindful and leave no trace: we want to keep this region of Maine’s wilderness pristine for everyone to enjoy. In the state of Maine, it is illegal to build a fire anywhere except within a certified fire ring.
Review this map of Flagstaff Lake with primitive tent sites indicated. The Maine Huts & Trails map also indicates campsites throughout the same region.
Most people come to Myers Beach for a day at the beach, offering a wide sandy stretch on Flagstaff Lake overlooking the Bigelows, especially in the late summer when the water is low. The shallow and clear waters are perfect for families and pets to cool off on a hot summer day. There are a few campsites for the lucky few able to secure a spot, but they tend to go quick as these are some of the most easily accessible campsites from downtown Stratton. There is an outhouse in the parking area and a few picnic tables and fire pits designating the campsites.
“Myers Lodge East” is the location on Google Maps; roughly a 25-minute drive from Sugarloaf. Take Route 27 north into Eustis and turn right onto Flagstaff Road (an unpaved gravel road) and follow to the end. Depending on the time of year the end of the road can be muddy or uneven, drive carefully in a car with high clearance just in case.
Big Eddy is the largest primitive campground with 16 sites along the North Branch of the Dead River, downstream (but north) of the Long Falls Dam that created Flagstaff Lake. It is a popular fishing destination and also one of the trailheads to Grand Falls, an 8-mile hike through the isolated wilderness to a spectacular waterfall and the Grand Falls Hut, the most secluded of the Maine Huts & Trails four huts in the Western Maine Mountains. (Please note the Huts are not currently open, check the website for updates.) If you decide to hike to Grand Falls, be sure to pack enough supplies and water for the roundtrip—and know that this hike is noted for its swampy, buggy conditions (and ideal for moose spotting). A shorter family-friendly hike is just upstream from the campground, across the bridge over the river and along Long Falls.
Do not confuse this camping area with the more famous Big Eddy Campground in Millinocket.
Be aware that the Carriage Road, a shortcut past the Carrabassett Valley Town Office that connects to Long Falls Dam Road, is currently closed to the public for the foreseeable future. In order to access these campgrounds on the east side of Flagstaff Lake, the best method is to drive south to Kingfield, then travel east on Route 16 to North New Portland, and then turn left on Long Falls Dam Road and follow it all the way to the Big Eddy campground. Because of this detour, this is roughly an hour drive from Sugarloaf.
Round Barn, Parson’s Brook & Ferry Farm
Round Barn on East Flagstaff Road (an unpaved gravel road) offers 9 campsites and one large group camping site and includes a public beach area with picnic tables. Just past Round Barn is Parson’s Brook, a hike-in or boat-in group campsite, and past that are two more campsites at Ferry Farm. Hurricane Island is another campsite in this region, located across the way on an island along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and only accessible by water.
“Round Barn Campsites” in New Portland is the location on Google Maps. Be aware that the Carriage Road, a shortcut past the Carrabassett Valley Town Office that connects to Long Falls Dam Road, is currently closed to the public for the foreseeable future. In order to access these campgrounds on the east side of Flagstaff Lake, the best method is to drive south to Kingfield, then travel east on Route 16 to North New Portland, and then turn left on Long Falls Dam Road. Follow this roughly 16 miles to a fork, then turn a slight left onto Dead River Road, which becomes East Flagstaff Road. Because of this detour, this is roughly an hour’s drive from Sugarloaf.
Appalachian Trail Campsites
There are several campsites along the portion of the Appalachian Trail that traverse Bigelow Mountain. These sites are not for the faint of heart: this portion of the AT is considered one of the most challenging of the entire trail, with a strenuous 16 miles of wilderness crossing six peaks with significant elevation gain. Park at the Appalachian Trail parking area on Route 27, a few miles north of the Sugarloaf Access Road, and embark on your extreme backpacking camping adventure.
Please note fires are only allowed in the provided fireplace ring at the Little Bigelow Lean-to, though camp stoves are permitted. Camping is not allowed above the tree line (a very delicate and vulnerable area to hike in), and please stay on the trail.