Schoodic Woods, Maine’s New Campground
By Jeff Ryan
Last September, I had the chance to spend a weekend at the National Park Service’s newest campground, Schoodic Woods, on the coast of Maine.
While close to 3 million people visit Acadia National Park annually — and perhaps many more this summer when the park celebrates its Centennial — almost all of them limit their visit to the celebrated mountains, trails and loop road contained on Mount Desert Island. But a one hour trip further up the coast will introduce you to a section of the park that offers more solitude and an unforgettable camping experience.
Like the Mount Desert section of the park, the Schoodic Peninsula has a paved loop road that winds along the ocean’s edge with views that will have you constantly reaching for your camera. The Schoodic loop is a 6-mile, mostly one-way road. (the exception being a short two-way spur that leads past the Schoodic Education and Research Center to Schoodic Point, where the ocean views are inspiring and often invigorating).
After 2009, when the only campground nearby closed, it was difficult for visitors to justify staying much longer than it took to take a spin around the loop road (perhaps stopping long enough to hike to the summit of 440’ Schoodic Head mountain along the way).
That all changed in 2011, when a philanthropic family foundation (that chooses to remain anonymous), purchased 3,200 acres adjacent to the existing park through a New Hampshire timber holding company. The foundation’s only conditions were that the land be conserved and that public access be ensured in perpetuity. The holding company’s first orders of business were to build a visitor center, 8.5 miles of bike paths, 4 miles of hiking trails and a 100+ site campground. In 2014, they donated all of it to Acadia National Park.
And what a gift it is. Schoodic Woods officially opened on September 1, 2015. I have stayed at a number of campgrounds in the U.S., Canada and overseas, and this one easily ranks in the top three. The sites are well spaced, so you don’t feel like you are elbow to elbow with your neighbors, the bathrooms are clean and the outdoor stainless steel dishwashing areas (each with a generously large sink) are a camper’s dream.
The newly built bike paths made me wish I brought my mountain bike along, but I more than made up for it with a one-way hike on the Buck Cove Mountain trail that led over the spine of the low mountains to the loop road at the southern end of the peninsula (4.4 miles). From there I road walked an additional 3/4 mile to Schoodic Point, where the park’s shuttle bus arrived to take me back to the campground. It was the perfect way to enjoy an autumn day on the Maine coast.
If you go
The Schoodic Peninsula doesn’t have the range of amenities you’ll find on Mount Desert, but you’ll find a grocery store and a few restaurants in Winter Harbor, as well as a few small stores here and there. My advice is to stock up on food and ice on your way into the campground, because you’ll probably want to spend your time hiking or biking instead.
Schoodic Woods, Schoodic Loop Rd, Winter Harbor, ME 04693
Maps and guidebooks
The visitors center at the entrance to the campground has maps and guidebooks for sale. As of this writing, the National Park Service did not have updated Acadia National Park maps (to include Schoodic Woods Campground). Meantime, you may find this black and white map (provided by a website not affiliated with the NPS) handy for trip planning.
The campground has sites for tents (including walk-in sites), vans, RVs and trailers. Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov.
Handy Trip Planning Links