Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: June 7, 2023

Acadia reservation system: Great views and parking, but some issues

granite boulders on hilltop with harbor in the distance Courtesy / Kent Miller, National Park Service Cadillac Mountain’s summit is one of Acadia’s most popular spots.

Two years into a vehicle reservation system to access the summit of popular Cadillac Mountain, a survey commissioned for Acadia National Park found that nearly all respondents love the unobstructed views of the scenery and the ease of finding a parking spot.

But 42% of respondents reported issues with the system, largely because their first choice of a time slot or day was unavailable or limited cellular data made it difficult to make a reservation online.

The survey was conducted in June through August 2021 to look at user experience with the reservation system, which has been in effect seasonally at one of Acadia’s most popular spots, Cadillac Mountain, since 2020.

Many respondents said they found it difficult to get a reservation for the sunrise time slot at the mountain, Rebecca Stanley told the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission at a recent meeting.

Stanley conducted the survey when she was a graduate student at the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources.

The survey polled 1,500 people at Cadillac’s summit; of those 1,250 drove their personal vehicles up the mountain.

Most said they learned about the reservation system, also called a managed access system, through Acadia’s website or word of mouth. Others found out about it through Acadia’s visitor center, their hotel, social media or other avenues.

Just over half said the survey caught them as first-time visitors to Cadillac.

map with squiggly red line
Courtesy / Acadia National Park
For 2023, vehicle reservations are required for Cadillac Summit Road from May 24 through Oct. 22.

The survey identified attributes that respondents said were important to them. Receiving over 90% of the votes were the opportunity to explore at their own pace, unobstructed views of the scenery from the summit and finding a parking spot.

When asked how well the reservation system accomplished those attributes, over 90% said they were “extremely satisfied” or “satisfied.”

Over 80% of repeat visitors said the system either improved their experience of Cadillac or was the same as in the past. Only 13% reported a negative effect from the system.

Stanley said the use of the system is variable, with a 20% no-show rate that appeared to be largely dependent on weather.

Although more reservations were available in 2022 and the number of days the system was operating was slightly higher, the total number of reservations sold last year was fewer than in 2021:

  • Days in operation: 147 (2021); 151 (2022)
  • Reservations available: 235,817 (2021); 244,129 (2022)
  • Total reservations sold: 199,631 (2021); 191,592 (2022)

All of the sunrise reservations sold in both years. But both years had an average 25% no-show rate.

For 2023, vehicle reservations are required for Cadillac’s summit road from May 24 through Oct. 22.

The system was established due to growing visitation, which has caused severe traffic and parking congestion at the park’s most popular destinations, including Cadillac Mountain.

Adam Gibson, a social scientist at Acadia, said Acadia and other national parks that have reservation access are collaborating to figure out optimal functionality.

Cadillac’s summit road has been seeing some reconstruction over the past winter, including repaving and culvert replacement. The work paused when the road reopened May 11, but will resume at a later date. 

Acadia encompasses nearly 50,000 acres, mostly on Mount Desert Island but also on Schoodic Peninsula, Isle au Haut and other outer islands. The park has 60 miles of coastline, 33 miles of scenic motor roads, 45 miles of carriage roads and more than 150 miles of hiking trails.

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF