Meet Katherine Strain

Park Guide at Acadia National Park

In this series, we’re spotlighting the talented and dedicated staff of Acadia National Park who deliver an incredible visitor experience day after day. Whether working directly with park visitors or behind the scenes, seasonally or year-round, these are the people who make the park hum. They work hard and wear many hats, keeping the park in incredible shape, keeping park visitors safe, and rising to the occasion as visitation has reached peak levels in recent years. We at Friends of Acadia appreciate the work they do. Thank you!
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Acadia National Park Park Guide Katherine Strain assists visitors Judy and Bryan Rudisill, of Chattanooga, TN, in finding the best trails and destinations for their visit to Acadia National Park on Friday, September 2, 2021 in the Hulls Cove Visitors Center in Acadia National Park. (Photo by Sam Mallon/Friends of Acadia)


The Hulls Cove Visitor Center is the first introduction to Acadia National Park for scores of visitors. All season long, they step up to the information desk full of vacation energy—and questions.
From directions and hiking recommendations to “Where can I take my dog?” and “We’re here for three days, now what?” the park staff behind the information desk field them all.

Park Guide Katherine Strain is one of those helpful and information-filled people who answers questions and points visitors in the right direction (sometimes literally).

Strain grew up in Longmeadow, MA. She came to Acadia to camp with her family every summer. After
college, when it came time to apply for jobs, “I only applied to Acadia,” she said. Her first season working in Acadia was the summer of 2020—the pandemic summer—when the need for open air saw visitor center staff move to the parking lot, under a tent fitted with plexiglass for added protection. With national parks busier than ever that year, Strain said it was quite a learning experience.

Acadia National Park Park Guide Katherine Strain leads a “Bike With a Ranger” program, a carriage road bike tour. (Photo by Sam Mallon/Friends of Acadia)

She was excited to be there, talking about Acadia and guiding visitors, but the plexiglass made those
interactions feel less personal. Being able to connect with people is one of the big reasons she loves this job.

She returned in 2021 as a seasonal employee, and this year came on board as one of two permanent park guides. Strain’s schedule includes shifts on the information desk at the visitor center, responding to emails and phone calls, guiding “bike with a ranger” tours in the park, and answering questions at the nature center.

She gets “roving time,” too—hours spent mingling with visitors in the park at popular areas like Jordan Pond. In the field, she said, “The most common question I get is, ‘Where is the bathroom?’” This winter, her work will move to the visitor center location in downtown Bar Harbor.

During a “Bike With a Ranger” program, Acadia National Park Park Guide Katherine Strain discusses the history of Acadia’s carriage road system and visitors participate in a friendly “vote” about how they would chose to build or maintain the carriage roads if it were to be their responsibility today. (Photo by Sam Mallon/Friends of Acadia)

She’s keenly aware that her interactions with visitors have an impact. “It might be the thousandth time I’ve given directions to Sand Beach,” Strain said. “But it might be that person’s first time talking to a park ranger.” She endeavors to make those interactions helpful and positive. “I want people to have an emotional connection to Acadia.”

One memorable interaction she had was with a young park visitor who was thrilled to meet her. The little girl’s parents told Strain, “Meeting a park ranger is like meeting Santa Claus to her.”

Strain sees herself working in the National Park Service for a long time, and while she doesn’t know
what her future might hold, “When I’m asked what I want to be when I grow up,” she said, “this is it.”

Acadia National Park Guide Katherine Strain in the field. (Photo by Sam Mallon/Friends of Acadia)

5 Ways Parks Visitors Can Ease the Burden on Hardworking Park Staff

Visit the park website and review the Top 10 Things to Know Before Visiting Acadia
This will answer many of the frequently asked questions visitors have (like how to purchase a park pass or make a reservation to drive up Cadillac Mountain). It’s also a good expectation-setter, reminding visitors to have a back-up plan for when the park is crowded.

Know what you’d like to see or do
You don’t need to have your entire trip planned, but know some basics: Do you want to ride a bike on
the carriage roads? Are you eager to eat popovers at Jordan Pond House? Or would you rather explore Acadia’s summits? Park staff can help but arriving with a plan is helpful.

Book your reservations on
Park staff are fonts of information. But they can’t make reservations for you. Whether you’re reserving space at a campground or making a reservation to drive up Cadillac, you’ll need to do that yourself on (ideally before you arrive).

Know your limits
Acadia offers an array of experiences for every ability level, so take a minute to decide: are you looking for a leisurely walk or do you want a sweat-inducing challenge? Park staff have plenty of recommendations, but it’s up to you to know your fitness and experience level and what kind of adventure you’re aiming to have.

Let the park know about your experience
Park staff want to hear about your visit – the good and the bad. If you found a trail sign to be confusing, let them know. If a ranger did an awesome job, they want to know that, too. You can provide feedback on cards at every visitor contact station, or on the NPS “contact us” page.

SHANNON BRYAN is Friends of Acadia’s Content and Website Manager.