There’s a designated camp site approximately every ten miles on the Maine Appalachian Trail (MAT), sometimes a little less or more depending on the difficulty of the terrain.
Essentially, the camp sites were planned out at safe distances so that hikers can make it from one to the next in the course of a day. These sites usually have both a lean-to and tenting spaces, though some are tenting only. For the tenting spots, some have platforms while others are simply cleared spots on the ground—the platforms are most prevalent in the stretch of trail from the Maine-New Hampshire border to Route 26 maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club. The Maine Appalachian Trail Club runs the rest and they mostly put platforms in the heavily used sites around Saddleback and Bigelow mountains.
The thing is that you’ll often find yourself getting to a designated camp site with plenty of good daylight left, but perhaps not enough go-get-’em in your legs to make it to the next site. You’re not alone. Over the years hikers have been over and undershooting the designated sites and have carved out perfectly good stealth sites along the trail. The general rule of thumb is that wherever there’s a water source you’ll find a stealth site, though this isn’t 100 percent, the most notable exception being around Moxie Pond. Stealth sites are missing amenities such as lean-tos, platforms and outhouses, but, quite frankly, that’s part of the charm. They receive less foot traffic and thus often provide more of a tranquil setting—a relative statement, I know, considering where you’ll be in the first place.
Below is a listing of the stealth sites along the MAT. I got the idea for this post while on the trail and started marking the sites on my maps, but I wasn’t consistent with this so some of these are from memory alone. I’m confident there are more sites that I haven’t included, but I didn’t want to list one unless I was positive that it exists. I wish I’d thought to take pictures of them, my apologies that I didn’t. Nevertheless I hope you find this helpful to your trek planning. It should also be noted that camp fires aren’t permitted at stealth sites, and there are a few areas along the trail where camping isn’t permitted, so make sure to check for signage.
The location breakdown is organized per The Official Map and Guide to the Appalachian Trail in Maine maps and are listed in order of a northbound hike.
- At the East end of the Mahoosuc Notch boulder gorge there’s a large tenting area—for northbound hikers it is just to the right of the trail after completing the gorge. There is a stream available, though you’ll definitely want to boil or filter from it. It’s a great spot for thru hikers on a budget who want to avoid the fee at the Speck Pond Shelter. Also an ideal spot for southbound hikers looking to enter the gorge with fresh legs (definitely a good idea).
- In Dunn Notch twenty yards or so up the Cascade Trail on the East B Hill Road end is an open spot. It’s a great option in that there’s plenty of running water from the brook and it’s reachable for most northbound hikers coming from the Baldpate Lean-To or even from Speck Pond. The down side is that it’s close to the road; however, the East B Hill Road isn’t heavily traveled, especially at night.
- About two miles from the East B Hill Road there is a dirt camp road leading to Surplus Pond. Just over where the trail crosses the road is an open spot that looks like it has been frequented by hikers. This one is a little weird in that it’s likely the property of someone who owns a camp around the pond, but there weren’t any “no camping” postings.
- In the valley between Hall and Moody mountains known as Sawyer Notch there’s an old dirt road that is campable. There are also a couple of flattened tenting spots just a little further along near Sawyer Brook.
- What’s marked on the map as an “old railroad bed” is now an active gravel road—aka, don’t plan on camping here. Not too far further, just before the climb up to Route 17 begins there’s space for tenting near Bemis Stream.
- A couple miles past the Piazza Rock Lean-To on the ascent of Saddleback Mountain you’ll come to a four-wheeler trail near Eddy Pond. There’s a short cutoff to the Pond with space for a tent or two. If nothing else, this is a good spot for a lunch/snack break.
- There are a couple of camp sites on the Crocker Mountain side of the South Branch of the Carrabassett River. Previous to the river is a steep descent down numerous boulders occupying the Northwest shoulder of Sugarloaf Mountain, and the climb up Crocker is no slouch either, making this site a good place to rest up. We stayed here and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the river throughout the night. These spots are close to the Caribou Valley Road, a regularly traveled gravel road, so there’s a decent chance of running into fisherman or day hikers in the early morning or evening hours.
- Shortly after passing a small sand beach on East Carry Pond there are a couple of tenting spots just into the woods on the left. Enjoy listening to the loons at night, this was one of my favorite camps.
- Not a camp site but there was trail magic at the Route 201 crossing courtesy (I think) of Northern Outdoors. Thank you!
- Prior to reaching Moxie Pond you’ll pass through an open powerline area where there’s a tent site on the far side as you re-enter the woods. It also looks like people have camped in the open under the powerlines in a few spots. I presume these sites exists because hikers were hoping to find camping spots around Moxie Pond but there aren’t any because the trail parallels the road around the pond.
- I can’t remember if there’s a spot or not where the trail crosses the East Branch of the Piscataquis River, but there was trail magic here courtesy of an affable gentleman named Strider whom we had the pleasure of meeting. An alum of the entire trail, Strider keeps a cooler of sodas and a weather printout near the riverside. A big thank you to him!
- At the end of Map 3, the beginning of Map 2, there are several tenting spots in the short stretch of trail between the Ki Road and the the West Branch of the Pleasant River. We found a couple of really flat spots down by the river. Just make sure you stay on the south side of the river, there’s no camping allowed on the Gulf Hagas side. Also worth noting that there was trail magic just prior to the Ki Road — sodas and the most wonderful whoopie pies — courtesy of the Pine family. Double thank yous to them!
- There’s an open area near Crescent Pond, albeit sloped. I wouldn’t plan on staying here, but you could make it work if short on daylight.
- About a mile and a half further along there’s a spot to the right of the trail and Pollywog Stream.
Of course, if you have a single person tent you can always find a place to set up, even if it’s on the trail itself.