New center, buses and map aid Acadia National Park visitors

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A view from Bubble Rock, a periodic collection of news briefs about Acadia National Park and related topics

This story was updated 7/2/2019 to reflect the opening of the Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop.

This story was updated on 6/24/19 with information from a press release issued by the park on the opening for the season of the Hulls Cove Visitor Center.

A major asset is back in operation for the busy summer season for Acadia National Park visitors.

The Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the main visitor center for Acadia National Park, opened on Wednesday for the first time this year after $1.2 million in renovations, according to an email from Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist for the park. Hulls Cove is staffed with rangers and open this weekend.

“We are excited to open the doors to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center,” said Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider. “Visitors will experience new information desks, an expanded park store, and more restrooms.”

The contractor, King Construction Services of Jonesport, upgraded restrooms and created an improved arrangement for visitor services. The park is hoping that queuing of visitors in line will improve and visitors will move through the center more efficiently until overall issues can be addressed with a more comprehensive redesign proposed for the future.

The main visitor center usually opens April 15, but the opening was at first delayed until late May and then set for late June. Hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm daily until June 30, then 8 am to 6 pm daily July 1 to Sept. 2 before going back to 8:30 am to 4:30 pm daily from Sept. 3 to Oct. 31, according to the park’s web site.

The recent upgrade was funded through visitor entrance fees while interior displays and exhibits were supported through generous contributions from the park store, according to a press release. Other improvements include new carpet and a separate entrance to the park store from outside the building. Interior displays and exhibits convey real-time information on planning, several over-sized maps and a new display of pieces from the Acadia Artist-in Residence program.

Sound-dampening design and materials should help to reduce the volume of noise in the center.

Meanwhile, the Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop opened on June 23, about two months later than usual. The gift shop had been closed because of ice and snow damage and mildew issues and Dawnland LLC, the concessionaire for the Cadillac Mountain gift shop, had been trying to open the gift shop as soon as possible. The gift shop has been restocked to replace damaged goods. The shop is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week and sells 7-day passes to the park for $30 per vehicle.

Acadia National Park visitor center

Hulls Cove Visitor Center in Acadia National Park reopened Wednesday after a $1.2 million renovation took longer than expected, while the Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop remains closed from ice and snow damage over the winter and mildew issues.

New colorful carriage road map lists names of bridges, suggests loops

Hot off the presses: A carriage road map that names all 17 of the carriage road bridges that Acadia National Park visitors can explore, and also provides mileage for suggested carriage road loops.

acadia national park visitors

New colorful carriage road map lists the names and year of construction for the carriage road bridges, and provides mileage for suggested loops. (Image courtesy of NPS)

An improvement over the old black-and-white carriage road map, which didn’t include the names of bridges or highlight loop options, the colorful map is so new, it may not yet be available at all locations. We got our copy by asking for it at the Sieur de Monts Nature Center.

The map also shows where you can catch the Island Explorer, find a restroom, park your car, or get a bite to eat. It also lists the rules of the carriage roads, safety tips and reminders about winter and mud season. And it gives you the year that each carriage road bridge was completed, so you can do some fun things like visit each bridge in order of the year they were built, or try to find the year embedded in a different spot on each bridge.

The map doesn’t have topographic detail and can’t give you a sense of the elevation gain or loss, which can come in handy whether you are bicycling or walking the 45 miles of carriage roads. Some elevation data is referenced in a Friends of Acadia blog post for cross-country skiiers, which can be helpful.

Another useful resource for elevation data:  A blog post we did about top 6 carriage road loop hikes, which includes embedded Google maps and elevation graphs, like the one below.

Acadia national park visitors

Elevation profile, Amphitheater via carriage road and Asticou & Jordan Pond Path, to go along with the below interactive Google map, describing a 4.58-mile hiking loop that incorporates carriage roads. (Image courtesy GPS Visualizer)

Island Explorer celebrates 20th anniversary of serving visitors

Another important boost for Acadia National Park visitors will also occur when the park’s fare-free shuttle system begins operations on Maine’s largest island.

The Island Explorer, which is celebrating a 20th anniversary this year, will begin serving Mount Desert Island and Trenton on Sunday with a summer schedule that runs until Aug. 26 and a fall service that continues from Aug. 27 to Columbus Day. The system began running on the Schoodic Peninsula, the only part of Acadia National Park on the mainland, on Memorial Day weekend.

island explorer

One of 21 new propane-powered Island Explorers await Acadia National Park visitors during this 20th anniversary year of the popular fare-free shuttle – but be sure to buy a park pass, to help support the bus and other services. (NPS photo)

“The Island Explorer has always been and will continue to be a very important part of the visitor experience at Acadia,” Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider said in a prepared statement.

Over the last 20 years, the Island Explorer has grown from a fleet size of eight buses to 31 buses in operation, plus six spare buses, and four vans and two bicycle trailers. Twenty-one new propane-powered buses will be integrated into Island Explorer operations this year.

The Island Explorer connects hotels, campgrounds, and inns with destinations in Acadia National Park and area villages, according to a press release from the park. Since 1999, the bus system has carried over 7.7 million passengers, reduced private automobile traffic by more than 2.9 million vehicles, and prevented the emission of an estimated 41 tons of smog-causing pollutants and 27,000 tons of greenhouse gases.

Keep in mind that due to road closures and related traffic issues, only limited Island Explorer service will operate for Acadia National Park visitors during celebrations on July 4.

Annual operating funding for the Island Explorer is in partnership through Acadia National Park, the U.S and Maine Departments of Transportation, contributions from L.L.Bean and Friends of Acadia, local municipal appropriations, fees from businesses that receive front door service, and passenger donations. A portion of every weekly and annual Acadia National Park entrance fee is dedicated to financing the shuttle system’s operations.

island explorer map

An Island Explorer map is a vital resource for Acadia National Park visitors (Image courtesy of Island Explorer)

Acadia National Park visitors get relief from Route 3 detour

In another development for Acadia National Park visitors, the state on Friday ended the one-way detour that has sometimes been a headache for motorists during the reconstruction of a key section of Route 3 in Bar Harbor and announced that only final details remain in the multi-year road upgrade.

Two-way traffic has begun again with the completion of paving on Route 3, according to a release from the Maine Department of Transportation. The state had put the one-way detour loop into effect for most of the project in order to reduce congestion that can occur by lane closures during construction.

The state is touting several benefits of the estimated $18 million project, which began in 2016.  Only some final finishing touches remain, the release said.

The project, for example, provides paved shoulders for bicyclists and pedestrians, several new sidewalks and sidewalk improvements for the physically disabled, new bus tournouts, safer crossings with electronic crossing signs, a new multi-use path along part of the project span and where possible,  a 3-foot-wide esplanade added between sidewalk/multi-use path and the road.

The 4.8-mile-long reconstruction and rehabilitation of Route 3 in Bar Harbor starts 0.57 miles west of Sand Point Road and extends easterly to Route 233.

bar harbor project

No more need for this map, as the one-way detour on Route 3 has ended, as of Friday. (Image courtesy of Maine DOT)