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Acadia to Conduct Reservation System Dry Run

Acadia National Park’s reservation system is slated to go into effect in 2021. A dry run of the system is planned for October of 2020.  Cadillac Mountain and the Ocean Drive portion of the Park Loop Road are slated to be part of the reservation system test.

Acadia to Conduct Reservation System Dry Run

As part of its formal transportation developed over the past two years, Acadia National Park is slated to begin a reservation system for access to the most congested parts of the park in 2021. A dry run of that system is scheduled for some time in October of 2020. That test will affect access to Ocean Drive and the summit of Cadillac Mountain only. 


Plans for the dry run will be finalized later this spring. The questions and answers below cover what we know now.

I thought the park was waiting until 2021?

October provides an opportunity to do a dry run of the reservation system at a time when visitation slows. This will be a chance to learn and adjust the system during the winter season before implementation in 2021.

Which locations will require a parking reservation during the test?

Park planners are exploring the idea of parking reservations for Cadillac Summit Road and along Ocean Drive, past the Sand Beach Entrance on Park Loop Road. You only need a parking reservation if you plan to access those areas in a private vehicle during peak times.

What about the Jordan Pond House area?

The Jordan Pond House area is not currently slated to be part of the test. Cadillac Mountain and Ocean Drive are the top priorities. 

Will the Island Explorer schedule be extended if the dry run goes past Columbus Day when service traditionally ends?

That is one of the details still under consideration by park and Island Explorer officials. To find out more about visiting Acadia without taking your car, visit our car-free options page.

How can visitors make a parking reservation?

Establishing an online reservation portal  is being explored. Some reservations would be available months in advance while others would be held back until just a few days prior. 

Cost of reservations?

Officials still have a lot to work out and will announce details as they become available. Those making reservations will still have to purchase an Acadia access pass or show existing passes such as NPS senior and annual passes. To find out more about purchasing a park pass, visit our pass info page.

What exactly is the reservation for?

A reservation permits access to a controlled area by private vehicle during a set time window. Those with reservations can stay as long as they want. As envisioned now, reservations would not be for specific parking spots nor would they guarantee a parking space would be available.

Will buses be required to have a reservation during the dry run? 

Commercial buses and taxis will not be required to have a reservation. Commercial buses, tours and other entities operating in the park must obtain a commercial use authorization. Those wishing to take photographs or video commercially or hold events are required to obtain a permit. Find out more at the Acadia’s permit page. 

Read more:

Mount Desert Islander News Article

Reservation test article in Outside Magazine

16 Responses to “Acadia to Conduct Reservation System Dry Run”

  1. Bill Harbison

    How will ALL people know that a reservation is required?

    What will happen if people simply drive up to Cadillac Mountain?
    Will there be driving restrictions?


    • Lisa Williams

      The ANP website, information center, signage and other methods of communication including our Friends of Acadia site will be used to inform visitors of reservation requirements.The road to the top of Cadillac Mountain will be restricted to vehicles with reservations during certain hours.

  2. Dr. Ruth

    For local people who want to enter the park, this is a bad idea. We often do not have the ability to plan our itinerary in advance, instead, we travel when the “mood” strikes. I know that if this is implemented, my donations to help preserve this heritage for my daughter will cease. I will invest more into our beautiful state resources that will not limit attenance.

    • Jessica

      At first, your comment raised my hackles a bit, but I think you are onto something. Locals who own or rent (long-term) property within some certain distance should not be required to get a reservation first. Maybe they could give resident permits, and reserve a certain portion of spots for residents? It even could be controlled so that during the very most peak weeks, resident permits aren’t recognized. My point is just that, residents probably should not be held to the same standard as vacationers. Personally, I always bike or walk up, and I don’t (yet) own property there, but I still see your point.

    • Judi

      Note, if you don’t manage to get a reservation when “the mood strikes”, there will still be access via the Island Explorer or other modes of public transportation. Public transportation is better for the environment, and the limited vehicle traffic will make for a much more pleasant visit for everyone.

  3. Victor Roth

    You pay for a reservation and there is no guarantee there will be an available space. How is that going to work?

    • Earl Brechlin

      The reservation is for a time slot for entry, not for a particular space. The number of reservations will be limited, with the aim of not having more reservations than available spaces. And, there will still be access, at least with the permanent rollout, via the Island Explorer or other modes of public transportation.

    • Herb

      The faqs seem to state that the reservations allow access during a specific time slot, but once there a car is allowed to stay as long as they want? Doesn’t that cause more issues? Then someone has made and paid for a reservation and park pass yet still cannot find a place to park and we still have lots of cars slowly traversing the park loop and causing backups. On top of that I could see some irate members of the public who spent the money and still didn’t get the access. Did I read that correctly

      • Earl Brechlin

        You read that correctly. Calculations would determine things like the average length of stay, and the number of slots to allow during specific time periods. Some adaptation would have to be made for no shows or the likelihood some vehicles might be left all day.

    • Carlisle

      I once worked at a large state university that sold parking permits but didn’t guarantee a parking spot. We thought of these as “hunting permits”. There were always-available but super-remote lots with shuttle service. The similarity to the ANP “park elsewhere and take Island Explorer” is pretty strong.

  4. Jule Mitchell

    A reservation system but no guarantee that your reservation can be honored? Anyone else confused?

  5. Jeff

    Wow, this is really going to change the experience and ease of exploring the park. If you have to make reservations and pay days or weeks in advance due to demand and then the weather turns out to be bad at your “assigned time” it’s not going to go well. As we know, the weather changes all the time on the coast. Any idea of what hours of the day will require reservations?

    • Earl Brechlin

      No set hours have been discussed but the fee station there now usually operates from around 7-8 in the morning until 7-8 at night.

  6. Gregory Koster

    Does the Island Explorer go to the top of Cadillac? If it did, we would have no need to take our car up there.

    • Earl Brechlin

      The propane-powered Explorer buses don’t have the horsepower to get up the mountain. Other options are being explored but would not be in place before the proposed dry run in late October.

  7. Phyllis Dykes

    This doesn’t sound like a great idea. A wonderful aspect of the park is the freedom to be spontaneous. I understand the problem, but needing a reservation to drive the Park Loop Drive is extreme, at least to my mind. It also sounds like a very confusing system, sort of this and sort of that. Surely there’s a better way to address this.


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