Campers at this illegal campsite on Tumbledown Mountain used nearby live trees as firewood. Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands

Camping has been banned on Tumbledown Mountain because overnight visitors have left behind human poop and damaged plant life.

That comes as state officials have seen more campers damaging public lands and leaving litter behind at numerous sites across the state.

While there are no official campgrounds on Tumbledown, dispersed camping has traditionally been allowed. Dispersed camping is the term used for camping on public or national forest lands outside of designated campsites.

According to Bill Patterson, deputy director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, dispersed campers on Tumbledown this summer have discarded equipment, cut down trees, trampled vegetation, burned fires and left behind human and dog feces.

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Part of the problem, according to Patterson, is an increase in the number of people visiting Maine parks this summer.

“While the recent increase in outdoor recreation is good for everyone, ongoing disregard for Tumbledown Mountain’s rules is damaging fragile habitat and creating an unwelcoming environment for visitors,” Patterson said. “Our role is to care for Maine’s treasured outdoor spaces so that the thousands of hikers who love and respect the mountain will find a more enjoyable environment today and for generations to come.”

He said people have lugged large coolers full of beer to the summit, have been blasting loud music on radios and disturbing other hikers. After a busy weekend Patterson said rangers have found discarded equipment on the summit including empty fuel cylinders, clothing and even large tents.

Most people respect Maine’s outdoor resources and those who are causing problems are in the minority, Patterson said 

“The problem is when you have more people out there, there are more of those bad actors,” he said. “If you were to walk through Tumbledown after a busy weekend you would see trash and waste left behind, or if you hike over the weekend you would see people making a ruckus.”

It’s not just Tumbledown. Similar, albeit lesser, problems have been reported in other Maine parks, according to Patterson. 

By closing the mountain to all camping, the intent is to improve the day-use hiking experience for visitors. Patterson said park rangers will be at the trailheads informing people about the camping ban. Overnight camping in designated areas near Tumbledown is available at Mount Blue State Park and Rangeley Lakes State Park.

The 3,068-foot-tall Tumbledown Mountain is west of Farmington.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.