Raise your hand if you knew Bradbury Mountain State Park had a campground. If you’re raising your hand, you knew more than us. If you didn’t, it’s tucked away in the woods across the street from the park entrance. Until we started researching state parks, we had no idea it existed. Talk about a perfect example of not knowing exactly what’s in your own backyard. Bradbury Mountain State Park is 20 minutes from our house in Portland and like most young families, we think it’s the perfect spot for a quick day hike. We have visited this park annually since college and it has became a favorite spot to bring Braddock over the years. In fact, we were just here last October catching the last of the peak foliage, 6 weeks before Eloise was born. We still had no idea at that time there was a campground on the property.
Bradbury Mountain State Park attracts a lot of day visitors, especially in the fall. Many families, dogs, couples in flannel holding hands drinking fluids made of pumpkin. The “mountain” stands less than 500 feet but there are lots of trails to the summit so you can extend your hike. If you just wanted to get it over and done with, there’s a trail from the parking lot to the summit in .3 of a mile. This portion of the park is what most people know and it’s what we knew.
There’s a beautiful picnic area near a large playground for the kiddos. Talk about a perfect spot for a kid’s birthday party. Eloise is a winter baby and that’s going to force us to get creative over the years. Yes, there’s some summer birthday jealously going on already and we haven’t even celebrated the first one yet!
Don’t be surprised if there is a line of cars when you pull in to the park and most of the parking spaces are taken up. A park like this and some of the state beaches are all the more reason to get the Maine state park pass for the year. We have friends that live near Bradbury and they have the pass as well. It’s a no brainer when you are going often.
Freeport is the next town over and a road trip is always better when you can stop in at L.L. Bean. There is a lot more to Freeport than the downtown shopping area, as we highlighted in the Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park post. Also, something we won’t pretend to know about is mountain biking. Bradbury Mountain State Park seems like a popular spot in the mountain biking world. There is a giant network of trails totaling up to around 20 miles. Don’t quote us on that, coming from a couple of former Huffy bike owners. We saw lots of day trippers and weekend campers with bikes attached to their vehicles and folks really seem to take advantage of the shared trails. Traveling these trails by foot or horse are welcomed as well and the trails connect straight from the campground.
Onto the campground. We set up shop in site #11 for the weekend. We checked the week of and only 4-5 sites were reserved over the week so we thought it would be a ghost town. Boy were we wrong. The sites are a little close to one another but it’s a really nice place. We liked it here, but we didn’t love it here even though we kept wanting to.
When thinking of this campground, the word “transient” comes to mind. People don’t stop coming and going. Most seem to use it as a place to crash for the night, last minute and only do a one-night stay. Takeout food, they don’t make a fire and just toss up a tent near their car. Some people didn’t even step foot out of their RVs. It ended up filling up both nights with the majority of folks doing a self-check in and showing up after 5PM. In fact, there were several people who showed up after 8PM. You’re not supposed to be able to check in after dark but like MANY of the state park rules, no one follows it. People show up and drive around a couple times before settling on the site they want. When you take multiple people doing that over and over again, it makes for steady traffic into the night. Given that 50% of the people doing this had some type of muffler issue, you can imagine it started to get comical.
It was a funny mix of people. You had young families like ours, definitely some locals and lots of random people just crashing overnight. No one was rowdy or rude and it was pretty quiet after 10PM. It just felt like no one was ever settled in but us and a few others. Have you ever had a pet that keeps getting up and moving around the room and you finally yell at them to just lay down and relax? That’s kind of Bradbury Mountain State Park in a nut shell. We were relaxed and having a nice time, but this seemed to be the typical vibe of the park. There isn’t any supervision by park staff on this side so that meant a lot of the rules were just for show. Again, we didn’t have any issues but the little things start to slide when the parents are away. There’s just so many rules at these parks and they often don’t enforce them. It almost makes it confusing when you’re trying to do the right thing. We will better explain this in a future post about “lessons learned from 2017.” It should be pretty helpful if you plan to stay overnight at state parks in the future. We certainly would have been happy to know some of these things before we got started.
Honestly, it’s a great little getaway that provides you with lots of things to do. It’s a perfect spot if you’re tackling your first camping trip as a family. We even brought both dogs on this trip; which probably won’t happen often. It made for a lot of extra work and most times we forgot Eloise was there because we were too busy tending to the dogs. As you can tell from their bios, they carry a lot of baggage and most of it is probably our fault; well Braddock’s issues at least. It was important for us all to be together for this weekend even if it was an added stress because who knows how long it will be the 5 of us. Braddock is already playing with house money being a 10-year-old bulldog. Seeing him climb up Bradbury Mountain like he has done so many times in the past, made it all worth it. He was loving every second of it and Eloise would follow her brothers anywhere. Maybe this winter we will all get into a sled and just have Baxter pull us to the top.
The sites were well kept and our fireplace was the best one built that we’ve seen on our park visits. We opted to buy our wood down the street at a residence instead of at the park this time. Classic Maine honor system to the point we were able to break a $20 bill with a $10 bill in the cash box. Where else, but Maine? The dish washing station at the park was elite. I know it sounds silly but full sink, motion lights and all that counter space, it felt like we were at The Ritz. Well that’s if you had to wash your own dishes at The Ritz. Bathrooms were bathrooms but they had showers! If camping might be a little out of your comfort zone, especially with children, this would be a great campground to break you in because of the added amenities.
Momma Dukes had to work on the Friday we went up and with this park being so close to home, we did our 2 vehicle tango. Needing some special fuel before setting up, Dad swung by Maine Beer Co. (5 miles away). A nice little tasting and a bottle of the Lunch IPA to-go did the trick. Maine Beer Co. is about as good as it gets when it comes to beer in Maine and that’s saying a lot. With mom feeling left out, we made a special trip on Saturday afternoon over to Portersfield Cider (1.6 miles away). We had bought some of their cider at the farmers market in Portland over the summer and loved it. It was a wonderful tasting but the setting wasn’t the most ideal spot for two dirty parents and a wild child. We felt a little out of place in a classy joint, gross from camping. Well, Eloise didn’t care because they had crackers! We picked up another bottle to-go. If you cut out the two special drinking stops, we spent around $150 for the weekend and that is including everything. Toss the extras in and it was still under $200 for a fun and easy weekend away.
All in all, it was wonderful weekend and we highly recommend a day trip if by some small chance you have never visited before. Camping wise, it was an enjoyable experience as well, just lacking in the atmosphere like explained above. We would certainly return in the future for a quick and easy getaway. In the end, we gave Bradbury Mountain State Park 7 Rubies. It averaged out to a 7 because the camping side brought down the score a notch. Funny feeling though, this might go down as one of the special ones. Lots of laughs and quality time as a whole family. We might have looked like a traveling circus to others at times, but when this circus is in town, it’s a good time.
Baxter, who does not like being covered, all tucked in to his own sleeping bag Our old guy, wants nothing more than to be on our laps
No place he’d rather be
Bedtime side eye
Spaghetti feast with ground turkey meatballs and garlic bread cooked over the fire
Chicken coup at Portersfield Cider
Helping mom look somewhat presentable for a trip to the cider house
Bax creeping on the neighbors
Brad being a rockstar on the hike up Bradbury
Friday night’s dinner: Pizza on the fire! We brought our stone from home. Came out great!
Beautiful double rainbow on the way to Bradbury
Spaghetti feast in the making