Back Road Ramblers
September 22, 2022
Stretching across mountain peaks to the Atlantic Coast in Maine and through the rolling hills of southern New Hampshire, a glamping road trip entices visitors to breathe deeper while appreciating the beauty of fall in New England.
This mini fall road trip pays in dividends, with mountaintop vistas, lakeside sunsets, beautiful New England villages, and all the fabulous food that New England is known for. Throw in some beautiful glamping sites, and you’ve got yourself an epic fall experience.
For this road trip, I was generously hosted by Spacious Skies Campgrounds and stayed in either a cabin or one of their new retro-themed RVs.
This small chain of campgrounds is developing a reputation for its family-friendly amenities, and all the sites I stayed at included a pool, playground, rec room, bouncing pillow (like a ground-level trampoline), and gem mining. Each campground has a well-stocked camp store that both kids and adults will appreciate.
While there are commonalities between all of the Spacious Skies Campgrounds, each one embraces the natural features and landscapes of the region they’re located. Some have lovely walking trails, others have ponds for swimming and paddling, or streams for fishing.
With a convincing sleepaway camp vibe, staying at Spacious Skies will encourage you to stay up late eating s’mores and telling ghost stories — don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Here’s a five-night itinerary for a fall glamping road trip through Maine and New Hampshire.
Day One and Two: Moosehead Lake Region, Maine
Remote evergreen forests, mirrored lakes, and ribbons of snow-fed streams make up an endless stretch of wilderness in the Moosehead Lake Region, home to thousands of moose, and a smattering of humans.
Two days will give you a chance to hike some beautiful trails and get out on the water, but you could certainly spend more time in the Moosehead Lake Region without running out of things to do.
Hiking Trails Near Moosehead Lake
Trails in this part of Maine are rugged and remote, but not necessarily difficult. Here are a few of our favorites:
Little Moose Mountain and Little Moose Pond, Greenville Junction: This 4.3-mile loop meanders around two beautiful ponds (look for Moose) and up Little Moose Mountain with several vantage points with far-reaching views. The trail is moderately difficult and located near the southern tip of Moosehead Lake. With so many opportunities for photos, not to mention peaceful reflection, this was easily my favorite trail of the trip.
Borestone Mountain, Guilford: This is a 3.5-mile loop on the difficult side of moderate. There are some steep and challenging sections with rock scrambles, but the trail travels past a beautiful pond and two small mountain peaks with gorgeous views in every direction. The property is managed by Maine Audubon and dogs are not permitted.
Little Wilson Falls, Willimantic: Traveling south on a small portion of the Appalachian Trail, the 2.5-mile hike (round-trip) to Little Wilson Falls in an enchanting woodland journey along Little Wilson Stream, culminating with views of a magnificent waterfall tumbling through a rocky gorge. While the elevation gain isn’t significant, I’d still consider this a moderate hike due to the careful footwork required.
Cruise Moosehead Lake on Steamboat Katahdin
Did you know that Moosehead Lake is the second largest lake in New England? This deep, cold-water lake is nestled in the Longfellow Mountains, and the shore is mostly undeveloped.
One of the best ways to get out on the lake is with a sightseeing cruise on the Steamboat Katahdin with Katahdin Cruises. Built in 1914 by the young shipyard Bath Iron Works, the Katahdin was later converted to diesel. She is affectionately known as the “Kate” by locals.
This historic boat cruises daily from June through mid-October, leaving from Greenville, Maine at the southern tip of Moosehead Lake. Cruises range in length from one to eight hours, but the most common tour is the three-hour cruise past Sugar Island.
During my recent visit, the water was too choppy for the boat to run, but I did get a chance to see the Katahdin and explore the onsite Moosehead Marine Museum, which preserves pieces of Moosehead Lake’s rich history.
Explore the B-52 Crash Site and Memorial
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Located on Elephant Mountain, the B-52 crash site memorializes the seven lives that were lost on January 24, 1963, when a B-52C Stratofortress crashed during a training mission. The pilot and navigator survived the crash and the −30 °F temperatures for a full night in the woods.
After a 20-minute drive on a rough dirt road, you can access trails that will bring you to the crash site and memorial. The remains of the crash are scattered throughout the woods, with many American flags left behind as tribute.
Give yourself an hour to visit the site. It’s quite a moving experience. Here’s a link to the site on Google Maps.
Have a Picnic or Watch the Sunset from Lily Bay State Park
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Sunset lovers rejoice — there are so many great spots to watch the sun set behind the mountains on Moosehead Lake. While the clouds thwarted my own plans to watch the sunset, the western views from Lily Bay State Park in Greenville still made me swoon.
Brave souls can swim in the frigid water, or you can simply enjoy a picnic and the views. A two-mile walking path meanders along the lake, and there is a playground for the kiddos. Dogs are permitted but must be kept on a leash.
Lily Bay State Park is open year-round from 9 am to sunset. The day-use fee is $4 for Maine residents and $6 for out-of-staters.
Spacious Skies Balsam Woods: Abbot, Maine
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Spacious Skies Balsam Woods is located about a half-hour from Moosehead Lake in the rural community of Abbot, Maine. This beautiful campground features 84 private RV sites and six cabins for a glamping experience.
The three deluxe cabins welcome visitors with all the comforts of home, including a kitchenette with a full-size refrigerator, range, cooking utensils, and tableware. A full bathroom with a bathtub, cable television, a sitting porch, and two bedrooms make this a perfect home base for families, including dogs.
Spacious Skies Balsam Woods is also connected to more than 1,000 miles of RV trails. There is a huge ATV parking area, a pressure-washing station, and an air compressor for guests to use.
The camp store at Balsam Woods sells sundries and supplies, but also pizza and Gifford’s Ice Cream. Try the pumpkin flavor for a little taste of fall!
Day Three: An Afternoon in Kennebunkport
Before leaving Abbot, pop into Abbot Village Bakery for some road-trip donuts, whoopie pies, or apple turnovers. This is a gem of a place that may singlehandedly convince you to move to the Maine woods.
Today you’re driving south and east to dip your toes in the Atlantic Ocean before it becomes too cold to do so. From Abbot, you can be on the coast in about three hours.
Yes, Kennebunkport is a popular tourist town, but it’s also got several gorgeous beaches, more seafood than you can even imagine, and a plethora of boutiques, galleries, and gift shops.
Park your car in Dock Square and check out some of these spots in Kennebunkport:
- Mornings in Paris: A sweet little coffee shop in Dock Square with fantastic croissants (yes, I realize we just had donuts, but it’s a road trip!).
- Gooch’s Beach: Dog-friendly in the off-season, this small beach is great for sunbathing, swimming, or just strolling. You can walk here from Dock Square, or try and score street parking.
- The Clam Shack: Worth the wait, visit the take-out window at the Clam Shack for a Maine lobster roll, fried clams, or a bowl of their famous clam chowder.
- Batson River Brewing & Distilling: Visit during Happy Hour for drink and appetizer specials and sit out on the deck for people-watching.
Spacious Skies Walnut Grove: Alfred, Maine
Walnut Grove Campground became the first Spacious Skies Campground in April 2021. Located thirty minutes inland from Kennebunkport, this family-friendly campground features 93 RV sites, three cabins, and two new retro-themed RVs.
Book a night in a Riverside Retro Camper, where you try on RV life without the commitment. With a funky vintage color scheme and modern amenities, this stylish rig will make you feel right at home.
Even the smallest camper rental includes a full kitchen, dining area, bathroom with shower, and a large custom-sized bed for two. AC and heat are included, as is a Bluetooth speaker system, and exterior lights.
Unpack your bags and head back outdoors, where you can relax under the awning, stoke the campfire, and enjoy the after-dark enchantment of the Maine woods.
Day Four: Concord, New Hampshire and Beyond
Back roads and rural villages define the journey between Alfred, Maine, and your next stop in Henniker, New Hampshire, with one notable exception. Concord, New Hampshire is a beautiful capital city and the third largest in the state.
If you’re craving a little urban adventuring after your days in the woods, head into downtown Concord where you can admire the historic architecture, visit one of the country’s oldest state houses, enjoy tax-free shopping, and indulge in local flavors at a downtown restaurant.
Here are a few things you won’t want to miss in Concord, New Hampshire:
- League of NH Craftsmen Gallery: Located on North Main Street, this is the spot to find one-of-a-kind gifts and handmade crafts including jewelry, hand-blown glass, wooden bowls, clothing, sculptural pieces, pottery, prints, furniture, and more — all created by New Hampshire artisans.
- Outdoor sculptures on Main Street: A year-round sculpture exhibit that enlivens Street and surrounding communities while creating an open-air gallery. Art on Main is a rotating exhibit with different pieces showing up each year.
- New Hampshire Pizza Co.: Great local pizza made with New Hampshire’s finest ingredients and baked in a brick oven. This is some of the tastiest pizza around, especially the Eggplant Pesto Pizza! Located on Main Street in downtown Concord.
Canterbury Shaker Village
If you want to stick with the rural flavor of this trip, skip downtown Concord and head to Canterbury Shaker Village, a National Historic Landmark and museum with 29 Shaker buildings and 694 acres of farmland, forest, and trails.
Canterbury Shaker Village was established in 1792, as one of 19 Utopian communities, and opened as a museum in 1992. At its height in the 1850s, 300 people lived and worked in over 100 buildings on 3,000 acres.
Step back in time and meander around 30 historic buildings, including the Meeting House, Dwelling House, Laundry, Schoolhouse, Infirmary, and Syrup Shop. You can also explore the kitchen garden, meet a herd of friendly cows, and meander around the mill pond.
The grounds at Canterbury Shaker Village are open every day from dawn to dusk and are free to visit. Guided tours are offered daily at $25 per person. Leashed dogs are welcome on the grounds and on the trails.
Spacious Skies French Pond: Henniker, New Hampshire
Another night, another cool retro camper to sleep in. Spacious Skies French Pond features 140 wooded RV sites as well as a fully furnished cottage, and four retro camper rentals. The campground is nestled along the shore of French Pond, which is lovely for kayaking, fishing, or swimming.
Fancy an evening out? Spacious Skies French Pond is just 1.5 miles from Henniker Brewing Company. featuring fantastic New Hampshire brews on tap, a dog-friendly patio, and live music on select evenings.
Choose a flight, served in a cupcake tin, before settling on a favorite to take back to camp. Mine was Red Scooter, a smooth-as-satin IPA that went down like water after a day of traveling.
Head to the sandy beach for sunset and stick around to watch the stars come out before heading back to your private fire pit for s’mores and one of our favorite hot drinks for campfires.
Day Five: Hike Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, New Hampshire
Mount Monadnock is reported to be the second most hiked mountain in the entire world (the first is Mount Fuji).
More than 120,000 visitors hike to the top each year. and it’s not an easy hike. At 3,165 feet, this is the most prominent peak in southern New Hampshire, and it is surrounded by thousands of acres of protected land.
Despite the challenging nature of this hike, it’s a relatively short climb for the huge payoff at the end. The easiest and most popular route is to hike up White Dot Trail to the top and to hike down on the easier White Cross Trail for a total of 4 miles round-trip.
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Make reservations at Mount Monadnock State Park ahead of time, and pack your day pack with the 10 essentials for hiking, including layers for the colder temperatures and wind at the top. The day-use fee is $16 and 225 reservations are accepted each day. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted on this trail.
After the first 1/4-mile on White Dot Trail, it’s basically a rock scramble to the top. Take it slow and place your hands and feet carefully, and you’ll be up before you know it.
When you get to the top, you’ll be treated to 360-degree views. Relax with a picnic and rest your legs before scrambling back down. You can expect to spend four to five hours on the mountain.
Mount Monadnock is one of my favorite hikes, and from here, it’s only a thirty-minute drive to your next campground.
Spacious Skies Seven Maples: Hancock, New Hampshire
Of all the Spacious Skies Campgrounds I visited on our road trip, Seven Maples was the most reminiscent of the summer camps I remembered as a kid. The camp store was teeming with children buying candy and ice cream, one-way dirt roads wound through woods and fields, and a small fishing pond glistened in the middle of it all.
With 121 RV sites and four cabins, Seven Maples is a sprawling campground with a diverse collection of campsites, including private wooded spots, waterfront sites, and sunny open areas.
The Bunk House Cabin is large enough for families and includes a kitchenette and a full bathroom, plus plenty of outdoor space. It sits on Birch Hill and feels very private.
As with many of the other Spacious Skies Campgrounds we stayed at, Seven Maples is a mix of seasonal and transient campers. Many of the campers we spoke with had been coming to Seven Maples for years and were thrilled with the new Spacious Skies affiliation.
Hiking trails at Seven Maples lead to downtown Hancock, or you can rent a kayak to paddle Moose Brook into Hancock Pond.
Tips for Glamping at Spacious Skies Campgrounds
Want to plan your own glamping road trip? Here are some tips to make your trip memorable for all the right reasons.
- Pack your own linens and towels: These are not provided for you. Bring sheet sets, comforters, pillows, hand towels, bath towels, and a bath mat.
- Cooking supplies: The cooking supplies available in each spot varied from place to place. The deluxe cabins seem to have everything you could possibly need – pots, pans, plates, cups, and silverware, plus a range and a microwave. The retro campers had utensils and plates, but no pots and pans, and the Bunk House Cabin at Seven Maples didn’t have any cookware at all.
- Don’t forget bug spray: Even in the fall, mosquitoes are pesky!
You can create your own “Follow the Fall” adventure with Spacious Skies Campgrounds, traveling through the eastern United States chasing fall colors. If you stay at two Spacious Skies Campgrounds between now and November 15, 2022, you can even score a discount.
Call Spacious Skies Campground Headquarters at 862-777-0319 and mention promo code FALL13 for 13% off your stay. This is a great way to celebrate fall while getting outside with your family.
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