Update: See new story on Schoodic Woods Campground including shower facilities offered by local businesses and extensive photo display of sites.
Bar Harbor retiree Alice Long was so excited about the new Schoodic Woods Campground in Acadia, she set up a lawn chair in front of the gate at 7 a.m. on opening day, and couldn’t wait to become the first happy camper.
“After months of waiting for the campground to open, I was thrilled to arrive there and get a tent site,” said Long in an e-mail, recalling the fun atmosphere on Sept. 1, chatting with others in line behind her, and earning a little notoriety while she was at it.
When park officials finally let her and other early-bird campers into the new Schoodic Woods Ranger Station to register, “they kept telling everyone that ‘the lady in the green chair was number one’ – from then on, that’s what everyone called me,” said Long, who is also a park volunteer.
It’s not only Long who’s excited about the opening of Schoodic Woods Campground in Acadia, which will feature 94 RV and tent sites once it’s fully completed next year, and already boasts 8.3 miles of bike paths and 4.7 miles of hiking trails for campers and day trippers.
Park officials had Long sign a dollar bill, to be framed and hung in the new ranger station. US Sen. Angus S. King, Jr., camped with his RV at site B12 after he helped cut the ribbon. And so many other campers have wanted to be part of the inaugural season at Schoodic Woods, the limited number of available RV and tent sites have been filled up on a first-come, first-served basis several nights this month already.
Other reasons Schoodic Woods has been long awaited: The land that the campground and hiking and biking trails are on had been threatened by a proposal to develop a resort with hotel, golf course, sports center and luxury villas, until a change of ownership in 2011 led to a change in fortunes, so that Schoodic Woods is now part of Acadia National Park. Plus area businesses have been looking forward to a much-needed boost to the Schoodic Peninsula economy.
The campground was made possible by an anonymous buyer who purchased the property and donated 1,400 acres south of Route 186 in 2011. The donor also paid for planning and design, construction and furnishing of the beautiful Schoodic Woods Campground, 100-seat amphitheater, ranger station and visitor center, maintenance building, multipurpose paths styled after the park’s carriage roads, new hiking trails, an underground utility line along the main road and a causeway bike lane and bridge.
Here are some of the highlights of Schoodic Woods Campground in Acadia and the area, to help you plan a camping or day trip to Schoodic Peninsula. The campground was open on a first-come, first-served basis through Columbus Day in the inaugural year. Going forward, it will be open late May through Columbus Day, with reservations recommended through www.recreation.gov.
The hiking trails and bike paths are open year-round, weather and conditions permitting, according to John Kelly, park management specialist. A 100-space day-use parking lot, a seasonal Island Explorer bus stop, and two sets of restrooms, one open in season and another open year-round, help complete the picture.
Something for everyone at Schoodic Woods and surrounding area
Campground – Only 46 of the 94 RV and tent sites are available this inaugural season, but there’s already a full calendar of programs available for campers and day visitors at Schoodic Woods Campground in Acadia through Oct. 10. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., the campground’s 100-seat amphitheater hosts ranger-led programs, such as talks about monitoring birds, butterflies and bats, and the role that Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt played in preserving national parks. On Fridays at 11 a.m., there’s a 2-hour ranger-led program, “Ecology Along the Trail,” that leaves from the ranger station. And on Saturdays at 3 p.m., there’s a “Ranger’s Choice” program at the amphitheater. The ranger station bulletin board lists other activities being held at the campus of the nearby Schoodic Education and Research Center and elsewhere in the only section of Acadia on the mainland. There are no shower facilities at the campground, a conscious decision to encourage local business development of camper-focused services. Of the 94 camp sites, 33 are RV sites with water and power hook-up; 50 are car/tent sites with power hook-up; 2 are group sites with a shared picnic shelter; and 9 are hike-in sites. (A ranger tells us that hike-in site H2 has the best views of all the campsites, looking toward Cadillac, but it’s a ½-mile hike and won’t be available until next year when the hike-in sites are open.)
Hiking trails, new and old – The 4.7 miles of hiking trails in the Schoodic Woods section are a nice complement to the existing trails further south on Schoodic Peninsula. The 3.2-mile Buck Cove Mountain Trail starts at the group camping area and takes you by a cave-like formation, past wetlands with cotton grass and the insectivorous pitcher-plant, over Buck Cove Mountain (elevation 224 feet), and leads you to the top of Schoodic Head (elevation 442 feet). The trail is still so little used, that we came across the elusive Spruce grouse during our recent hike there, a bird we’ve only seen once before, on the less-traveled Hunter’s Brook Trail on Mount Desert Island. The easier 1.5-mile Lower Harbor Trail begins across from the entrance drive to the Schoodic Woods Ranger Station, and takes you along the coast line, offering the possibility of viewing seabirds. These trails more than double the mileage of the existing trails on Schoodic: Alder Trail (easy, 0.6 miles); Anvil Trail (moderate, 1.1 miles); East Trail (moderate, 0.5 miles); Schoodic Head Trail (moderate, 0.6 miles); and Sundew Trail (easy, 0.7 miles).
Bike paths – The 8.3 miles of well-graded gravel bike paths echo the carriage roads on Mount Desert Island, down to the carved wooden signs. In addition to adding to the 6 miles of the one-way Schoodic Park Loop Road that bicyclists have long been able to enjoy, these new paths provide an important connection between the east and west sides of the peninsula. That means bicyclists don’t need to ride on busy ME 186 to circle back to the Schoodic Woods Ranger Station, if they decide to bike the Park Loop Road. The bike paths intersect with Buck Cove Mountain and Lower Harbor Trails, so visitors can combine a bike ride with a hike. Among the destinations you can bike to, as marked by the carved wooden signs: Winter Harbor, Frazer Point picnic area; Schoodic Point; Bunker’s Harbor and Wonsqueak Harbor.
Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) and the Schoodic Institute – SERC, one of about 20 National Park Service research learning centers, is run cooperatively by the park and the non-profit Schoodic Institute and located on the old Navy base at the tip of Schoodic Peninsula. Among the free public programs available through SERC and the institute: “Playing with Nature,” a found-art project and nature walk with artist Jennifer Booher (bring a camera!), Sept. 26, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., Frazer Point picnic area; and “Walking the Maine Coast,” a lecture by Booher on her art and history project of walking the entire Mount Desert Island coast, Sept. 26, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m., Moore Auditorium. Through the end of October, these other free public programs are also being offered on the SERC campus: “Acadia Art Adventure,” a 2-hour walk and art lesson leaving from Dorr Hall, Saturdays at 1 p.m.; “Marine Touch Tank,” a 1-hour drop-in program to visit the Schoodic Tidepool Touch Tank at Eliot Hall, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m., and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m.; and a “Schoodic Point Geology Hike,” a 2-1/2 hour hike that leaves from the Eliot Hall info kiosk, Fridays at 2:30 p.m.
Area businesses and activities – The Schoodic Chamber of Commerce lists more than 60 members that offer shopping, dining, lodging, activities and other services, in the communities of Winter Harbor, Prospect Harbor, Gouldsboro, Corea, Sullivan, Sorrento, Franklin, Birch Harbor and surrounding area. Nearly half of the member businesses offer year-round services, as we’ve blogged about. There’s plenty to explore on Schoodic Peninsula, beyond Acadia. The small-town feel of the area got rave reviews from Arthur Frommer – yes, that Frommer, of Frommer’s travel guides – when he and his wife rented the Captain Bickford’s House in Winter Harbor for 9 days in the summer of 2014.
Island Explorer and Bar Harbor-to-Winter Harbor ferry – While the ferry service ended on Sept. 14 this year, the Island Explorer’s Schoodic line continues until Columbus Day, Oct. 12 this year. The fare-free bus has official stops in Winter Harbor, Schoodic Woods Ranger Station, Schoodic Point, Birch Harbor and Prospect Harbor, and can also make stops at request if it is safe to do so. Be sure to get a park pass at the ranger station, which helps to cover the cost of the bus. During peak season, the Bar Harbor-to-Winter Harbor ferry allows you to get from Mount Desert Island to Schoodic car-free, and you can even bring your bike on board and catch the Island Explorer over to the Schoodic section of the park. There’s a separate charge for the ferry. When the Island Explorer and ferry are running, you can make any combination of one-way hiking or biking trips, and take the bus or ferry back to the start. Just be sure to have a copy of the bus and ferry schedule with you. Otherwise, the only limit is your imagination.
No matter what your interests, the new Schoodic Woods Campground in Acadia National Park is a draw. It’s one more reason to visit Schoodic Peninsula, and all that the park and area communities have to offer.