For years, bicyclists have savored the scenery in the spectacular Schoodic section of Acadia National Park by pedaling around the one-way loop starting at Frazer Point hugging the rock-bound shore and featuring a stop at the end of the peninsula with its breathtaking views of the mountains on Mt. Desert Island to the west.

And many of them, much like our family, would turn their visit into a multiday outing by camping in the now-closed Oceanwood Campground in Birch Harbor.

Now, thanks to a generous gift of some 1,500 acres south of Route 186 by a benefactor to the National Park Service, there’s not only a new campground on property that lies in both Winter Harbor and Gouldsboro, but over eight miles of nicely groomed, gravel-surfaced trails that course the area now known as Schoodic Woods.

The 11-foot wide, nonmotorized multiuse trails cross the peninsula, linking the east and west sides of the park loop road for bicyclists and hikers. There are an additional five miles of pedestrian trails leading over Schoodic Head and ending at Blueberry Hill.

My recent bike excursion started right in the ample parking area at the Schoodic Woods ranger station from which one can easily find the well-signed trails.

I’d advise picking up a trail system map (50 cents) that shows distances between all the trail intersections and destinations. All the map lacks is contour lines, so a few of the grades may come as a little surprise.

Bring along your best legs, as the ascent from Bunker Harbor and then up Birch Harbor Mountain is a bit of a test if you’re not a seasoned mountain biker. But the difficulty of the steeper pitches, and the occasional hairpin turn, is offset by the outstanding fine-grained gravel surface of every foot of the trails. Large rocks along the trailside add to the charm of many sections, and there are frequent turnouts with rock benches where you can stop for a snack or a gulp.

My route involved first loosening up on a short round-trip ride of about a mile and a half from the campground out to Frazer Point and back. Then it was east to Wonsqueak Harbor, much of it a gentle downgrade, for a distance of a couple miles. From there one can pedal north along the two-way road for a little over a mile to Bunker Harbor where a well-marked parking area signals the beginning of a trail heading back west – and up.

Then, for me it was a right turn at an intersection less than a mile up the trail and a somewhat steeper ascent to Birch Harbor Mountain, where spectacular views await. These promise to be enhanced in the future – a park ranger told me that thinning of dead trees and other obstructions is planned.

A couple miles west down the mountain (a descent that was made more exciting for me as my front brake failed) brings you near the road into the park from Winter Harbor, and a left turn takes you back to the campground and your car. Remember, the trails are shared with walkers, who have the right of way, and be sure to audibly warn them when you intend to pass.

And speaking of the campground, it is typical of the best of the national parks, with nicely paved roads and all the first-class amenities for which such campgrounds are famous. This one features 50 car-side camping sites with power, 33 pull-through RV sites with power and water, nine remote hike-to sites, and two group camping areas. There’s even an amphitheater for program activities.

I was told that this year’s camping season will end Oct. 12, when pipes will be drained for the winter. But the trails will remain open and pit toilets will continue to be available.

Listening to campers wax eloquently about their experience and satisfaction, I have the sense there’s a great future for this facility, which had a little over a month of operation this summer to work out opening bugs. The attentive staff in the ranger station provides excellent advice to campers and first-time visitors, so the grief many of us have long felt about the absence of a campground in the area is now a distant memory.

John Christie is a former ski racer and ski area manager and owner, a ski historian and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. He and his son, Josh, write columns on alternating weeks. He can be reached at:

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