Acadia National Park visitors face roadblocks to buying pass

Visitors to Acadia National Park are finding it can be hard to get there from here.

acadia national park visitors

A big orange “Road closed ahead” sign, posted at the foot of the steps at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center at Acadia National Park, warns people that the center is inaccessible during renovations.

The Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the main venue for selling park passes, could be closed until the end of June while it undergoes $1.2 million in renovations including upgraded restrooms.

Just outside the 1960s-era center, a large electronic sign warns of the closure, possibly discouraging Acadia National Park visitors from turning into the parking lot, where they might see an exhibit that includes information about buying a pass at other locations, a map or park programs. And if visitors do enter the lot, they are greeted at the center steps with a big “Road closed ahead” sign.

On top of Cadillac Mountain, the first stop for many Acadia National Park visitors, the gift shop, which also sells passes, is closed because of ice and snow damage and mildew issues. A sign urges motorists to buy a pass at the gift shop for display in their vehicles, but people walking up to the shop to make the purchase on Monday were turned away by a sign on the door that says “Temporarily closed.”

And along the main state highway that leads to Acadia and Bar Harbor, road construction, detours and one-way traffic are sometimes causing long backups and confusion. The construction, scheduled to be complete by mid-June, prompted at least one recent visitor to get lost in the dark and call the hotel she was registered at for step-by-step directions via cell phone.

cadillac mountain gift shop

A visitor on Monday peers into the window of the closed Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop, which was damaged by snow and ice this winter and also has mildew problems.

Further adding to the potential frustration this spring and summer for Acadia National Park visitors who are unprepared or unaware, in trying to get there from here:

–          New paid parking meter and kiosk system in Bar Harbor, approved by the municipality
–          Culvert replacement and other work on the Park Loop Road and related bridges
–          Intermittent closures on carriage roads for drainage work
–          Maintenance and rehabilitation of Kurt Diederich’s Climb, Cadillac West Face Trail and Valley Cove Trail
–          Random rock stacking or vandalized Bates-style cairn trail markers, which can mislead hikers

Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist for the park, wrote in an email that it has been “a challenging year” with the Route 3 detour and the closures of the Cadillac gift shop and the Hulls Cove Visitor Center.

Acadia and others working to open visitor center, gift shop, Route 3 ASAP

Contractors will be working at Hulls Cove until mid-June and then it could take a week or two for the park to prepare the floor that visitors enter, according to Anastasia. The park is trying to open the visitor center as soon as possible, she added.

Dawnland LLC, the concessionaire for the Cadillac Mountain gift shop, is trying to open the gift shop as soon as possible, she wrote. The park was aware of the sign that says passes are sold at the gift shop and was hopeful the gift shop would open earlier, but Anastasia has asked for a temporary cover for the sign.

Some Acadia National Park visitors may be misled by this sign that says passes are sold at the Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop, which is closed because of winter damage and mildew.

Until the Hulls Cove center opens, NPS staff sell all passes at the Thompson Island Information Center off Route 3, but the majority of Acadia National Park visitors don’t choose to stop there, she added.

When visitors see a big electronic sign that says the Hulls Cove Visitor Center is closed, do they keep driving by the parking lot and then maybe don’t know where to buy a pass?

“We have signs up everywhere and we are posting to social media [including the park’s Facebook page],” Anastasia responded. “Many visitors make their way through the Sand Beach Entrance Station on their tour of the Park Loop Road, so thus buy an entrance pass there.”

The improved Hulls Cove Visitor Center was expected to open in late May, but now it could be the end of June.

Even with the “stop gap renovations,” the visitor center is not adequate to meet the needs of visitors. The park is hopeful that queuing of visitors in line will improve and visitors will move through the center more efficiently until overall issues can be addressed, according to Anastasia.

The final transportation plan for the park calls for the Hulls Cove center to be redesigned and relocated on site, but on grade with the parking lot.

acadia visitor center

Construction tools stacked outside visitor center entrance in early April. (NPS photo)

Hulls Cove Visitor Center was built in a time when the park was seeing about 275,000 visitors per year to the visitor center, or about 12 percent of overall visits to the park. The park estimates that the visitors center now sees about 1.4 million visitors a year, or 40 percent of the 3.5 million visits to the whole park.

The visitor center, which was initially also park headquarters, was completed in December of 1968.

Even with the work on the visitor center and road construction, there are ways to cope.

Until Hulls Cove reopens, people can obtain all types of passes at Thompson Island, she added. When Hulls Cove reopens, NPS staff  will stop selling at Thompson Island and focus selling at the Hulls Cove center. Chamber staff will remain at Thompson Island and only sell weekly passes.

The Village Green Information Center, across from the Island Explorer bus stop in downtown Bar Harbor, is also selling all types of passes.

A guide to get there from here for Acadia National Park visitors

Here’s a survivor’s guide for Acadia National Park visitors to help get you around more easily this spring and summer, which can also come in handy just for dealing with the typical crowds. Whether you’re trying to buy a park pass, navigate the one-way detours, bicycle the carriage roads or hike the trails, these tips will get you there.

Look for less stressful places to buy the Acadia National Park visitors pass

acadia park pass

A bulletin board next to the closed walkway of Acadia National Park’s Hulls Cove Visitor Center details alternative sites for buying a weekly pass to the park.

  • Online and print it in advance
  • Village Green Information Center across from Island Explorer bus stops in Bar Harbor
  • Blackwoods, Seawall or Schoodic Woods campgrounds
  • Jordan Pond House gift shop
  • Mount Desert Town Office, Northeast Harbor
  • Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, Cottage Street
  • Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce in Trenton
  • Southwest Harbor/Tremont Chamber of Commerce
  • Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce
  • Schoodic Institute, Rockefeller Hall (Welcome Center)
  • LL Bean in Freeport, ME

Learn the Maine Route 3 detour, new Bar Harbor paid parking rules in advance

Here are a series of maps and links that can help you navigate your way around the state highway construction and new town parking meter and kiosk system.

bar harbor project

The Maine Department of Transportation offers this map on its Web site. The project is expected to be completed by mid-June, conditions permitting. (Image courtesy of Maine Department of Transportation)

acadia detour

Acadia National Park has shared this image on its social media. (NPS image)

acadia national park visitorsA local hotel chain gives guests this colorful detour map. Atlantic Oceanside stayed on the phone with one registered guest who was lost, until she got to her destination. (Image courtesy of Atlantic Oceanside)

acadia parking

The new Bar Harbor paid parking system is in effect through October. (Image courtesy of town of Bar Harbor)

Once the Island Explorer starts up on June 23, this map will help get you around. Be sure to get a park pass, which helps pay for the fare-free bus and other park services. The bus system is celebrating its 20th year on June 14th at an event at the Jordan Pond House at 10:30 a.m., and with the purchase of 21 new propane-powered buses. (Image courtesy of Downeast Transportation)

Know the Acadia hiking trail closures and Leave No Trace(R) principles

Through June 6, expect a partial closure of Beachcroft Path for repair. Through July, Kurt Diederich’s Climb will be partially closed as the trails crew works on the century-old trail.

A damaged area on Kurt Diederich’s Climb is marked with yellow tape and set to be repaired as part of a major rehabilitation of the trail this summer.

The trail down to the base of Bass Harbor Head Light, which allows for that iconic picture-postcard perfect lighthouse photo, has also been closed for maintenance, although a secondary footpath remains open.

And as usual during peregrine falcon nesting season, the Precipice Trail, Valley Cove Trail, a portion of the Orange & Black Path, and Jordan Cliffs Trail are closed, to be reopened in mid- to late August, depending upon when any falcon chicks may have fledged.

Stay up to date by checking the park’s Web page for current conditions.

To successfully get there from here on the hiking trails, you will want to not only know the trail closures, but also carry a detailed hiking map or guidebook (we’re partial to our own books, of course, the award-winning “Hiking Acadia National Park” book, and “Best Easy Day Hikes, Acadia National Park,” latest edition published on April 1, 2019 – see sidebar about Amazon.com affiliated partner links).

Also helpful to have on hand, to allow you to create a loop back on carriage roads or take the fare-free Island Explorer bus back to the trailhead: The new colorful carriage road map that just came out this year; and the schedule for the bus, which is celebrating its 20th year in 2019 (be sure to buy a park pass to help support the bus and other park services, and thank Friends of Acadia, the state of Maine and L.L. Bean for being major sponsors).

cairns

Hopefully signs, such as this one on Norumbega Mountain’s Goat Trail, will keep people from adding to or taking away from Bates-style cairns.

But perhaps most important of all in helping hikers get safely to where they are going: The Acadia trails crew and volunteers like the Waldron’s Warriors, who keep the footpaths in good shape, and maintain Acadia’s special trail markers known as Bates cairns, named after Waldron Bates, the Bar Harbor pathmaker who designed the iconic trail markers in the early 1900s.

As Gary Stellpflug, Acadia trails foreman, recently described to us the work of the Waldron’s Warriors, “They are unsung heroes.”

And we may also add, so are the Acadia trails crew; the Summit Stewards; and the many volunteers who work at the sign shop in the off-season, rebuild the long bogwalk on the west side of Jordan Pond Path, drop in on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings at park headquarters to sign up for short-term trail maintenance, or staff the Friends of Acadia membership table (training being held on Monday, June 17, at 10 a.m.).

Unfortunately, random rock stacking and defacing of the park’s Bates cairns can make it difficult for hikers to get there from here, and otherwise counteract all the good work being done by park staff and volunteers.

Please do your part, even if you are not one of the Acadia National Park visitors who are among the park’s avid hikers, and learn the 7 principles of Leave No Trace(R).

DO NOT do any of the things depicted below, as we were offended to see on our recent trip to the top of Cadillac, and to learn from others who’ve also seen the vandalism over the years.

If we all do our part, together we can get there from here.

Acadia National Park posted a “Leave no Trace” sign on the Cadillac Mountain summit loop trail, but someone seemed to mock the message by stacking rocks atop the wooden frame for the sign.

cadillac south ridge trail

A vandal destroyed the lintel, or horizontal platform, of this Bates cairn, on the Cadillac South Ridge Trail. (Photo by Tim Henderson)

cairn

This photo of cairn vandalism and rock-stacking on the east face of Dorr Mountain along what is now known as Schiff Path was taken in the late 1990s. (NPS photo provided courtesy of Charlie Jacobi)

Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

About Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

Dolores Kong and Dan Ring are co-authors of the Falcon guides Hiking Acadia National Park and Best Easy Day Hikes Acadia National Park, and also blog at acadiaonmymind.com. They’ve backpacked the 270-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and are members of the Northeast 111 Club, having hiked all major peaks of the Northeast. Dolores, a former staff reporter at The Boston Globe, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional and senior vice president with Winslow, Evans & Crocker, Inc. (member of FINRA/SIPC) in Boston. Dan, a journalist and former Statehouse bureau chief in Boston for the old Ottaway News Service and for The Republican, the daily newspaper for Springfield, Mass, is also an operations professional with Winslow, Evans & Crocker, Inc. (member of FINRA/SIPC), in Boston. They are married and live outside Boston.