Mud season is a great time to start making plans for summer fun. Doing so can help get our minds off the between-seasons doldrums while our favorite hiking trails are just starting to dry out, bike paths are firming up, the ice is leaving our choice paddling haunts, and public and private campgrounds are spiffing up for the summer onslaught.

And why not zero in on a few possible overnight camping dates and locations, and, where necessary, make some early reservations so you can be sure to get your pick of the best sites, especially ones you’ve enjoyed in the past or have been recommended by your camping friends?

We always like to firm up plans to return to familiar destinations, while at the same time researching unexplored campgrounds to add to our growing list of spots we will plan to return to in summers to come.

We also like to include as much of the state as we can, with a mix of coastal and inland sites so we can take advantage of Maine’s stunning geographic and scenic diversity.

Additionally, to vary our camping experience as much as possible, we’ll plan visits to both easily accessible and more remote hike-in or paddle-to spots, so that come fall we’ll be satisfied that we have hardly left any figurative stone unturned as we look through the summer’s collection of photographs.

For years, in great part because our then-young twin sons had a special affection for one particular corner of Baxter State Park – the South Branch Pond Campground, accessible by the North Entrance to the park – was often included in our summer plans.

It possesses virtually everything that constitutes the perfect family camping getaway: quiet and comfortable sites deep in the north woods, shore access for launching the canoe we always took along and a network of hiking trails on the mountains that cradle the two interconnected ponds.

Twelve lean-tos complement 21 tent sites right on the shore of the lower pond, and a short thoroughfare connected to the upper pond allows you to explore the shoreline of both small ponds.

Traveler Mountain to the east and Black Cat Mountain to the west offer some great hiking and vistas, and Howe Brook that flows into the lower pond has some beautiful falls and pools.

The campground is open from May 15 to October 15. Bear in mind that reservations are required, and as with campgrounds throughout the park, there’s a lot of interest, so make your plans early. A visit to www.baxterstateparkauthority.com or a call to 723-5140 will get you details, and in line.

Two jewels in the network of campsites in the state’s Public Reserved Lands can be found down east in the Cutler Coast section and Donnell Pond.

The former requires a hike of some five miles to three tent platforms right on a bold coastal headland, starting from a parking lot on the road from East Machias to Lubec, past Cutler. The reward is what I’ve determined may be the perfect place to camp for a couple of nights to soak in the best of what the Maine coast has to offer, with a view out over the Bay of Fundy.

Donnell Pond is only about 12 miles east of Ellsworth via Route 182 or 183, but the hike-in or paddle-to sites will have you feeling you’re a thousand miles from humanity.

For the perfect way to experience what the Rangeley Lakes region of western Maine has to offer, let me suggest you include Cupsuptic Lake Park and Campground in Oquossoc in this summer’s itinerary. It’s a 125-acre slice of heaven owned and operated by the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust. The park, in which the campground sits, has more than two miles of shore frontage on Cupsuptic Lake, complete with a sand swimming beach.

The campground itself has more than 60 sites, many with full hook-ups for RVs, as well as new bathrooms (2011), and a complete camping store. Boat and kayak rentals are available to access several remote sites over on the west shore of the lake, out on Birch Island and up the beautiful Cupsuptic River. The latter ones are our camping spots of choice, especially upriver, where almost every cast will snag a trout.

Any of the above camping choices I can promise you will be a winner, but for more summer fun consider Lamoine State Park with its evening sunset views to the west of Mt. Desert Island, and remote sites up in the Deboullie Preserve.

John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son Josh write in Outdoors about places to enjoy the beauty that only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at:

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