There are rules for camping in Maine’s Acadia National Park


182 illegal campers were reported in Acadia last year, according to a park spokesperson.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Camping is a popular activity this time of year in Maine, but so is illegal camping. Over the years, it’s been an issue parks and camping areas in the state have had to deal with.

In recent years, Acadia National Park has seen a steady rise in illegal camping by people setting up secret campsites in the woods or sleeping in their vehicles in parking lots.

“I think probably the biggest problem is people don’t plan or research their trip. And so, they come expecting last-minute options, which, as a popular destination both with the park and with the town of Bar Harbor here on Mount Desert Island, you can’t,” Acadia National Park Chief Ranger Therese Picard said. “You have to truly make a plan and figure out where you’re going to stay before you arrive.”

In 2017 and 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Acadia documented 128 cases and 102 cases respectively of people camping illegally in the park.

There were 146 illegal campers reported in the park in 2019. During the pandemic in 2020, that number surged to 198. It dropped slightly to 182 in 2021.

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Acadia National Park Public Affairs Assistant Sean Bonnage wrote in an email to NEWS CENTER Maine that the park expects to see the same number of illegal campers this year as they did last year.

Picard said illegal campers in the park have at times started illegal campfires in the woods and left bodily waste and trash behind.

“We’re fortunate in that our number of illegal campers has not jumped as much as other areas,” Picard added. “Unfortunately, we see those problems of illegal fires, human waste, and litter just with our everyday visitors.”

Last summer, illegal camping was an issue at Tumbledown Mountain in Franklin County. State officials banned camping on the mountain after campers damaged the landscape and left trash behind, according to Jim Britt, director of communications for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

“Tumbledown is the only instance where we’ve had to make a formal statement about illegal camping,” Britt told NEWS CENTER Maine.

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He said because the state is so remote, rangers can’t monitor illegal camping unless it’s brought to their attention by other campers. For this reason, Britt said the state doesn’t have a known widespread illegal camping issue.

Campsite at Acadia National Park:

  • There is no backcountry camping, “out-of-bounds” camping, or overnight parking allowed anywhere in Acadia National Park.
  • Visitors are encouraged to visit the park’s official website for camping information and park rules and regulations.
  • All campsites require reservations made in advance, which can be obtained through Recreation.gov.
  • There are no first-come, first-serve camping opportunities at Acadia’s campgrounds.

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