Bringing a large group to Acadia? You’ll need a permit

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — If you have more than 20 friends and want them all to join you for a hike, a run or a motorcycle ride in Acadia National Park, be sure to get a special use permit. 

That is if you plan to be on hiking trails, bike paths, carriage roads or motor roads in the Mount Desert Island section of Acadia. On the Schoodic Peninsula, a permit is needed for groups of more than 15. (The limit is 30 at Frazier Point.) 

According to park officials, Acadia has limits on the size of groups “to lessen the impact of large groups on vegetation, trails and the experience of other hikers.” 

If you think the National Park Service won’t enforce group size limits, consider the case of a Washington state man who announced on social media that he was organizing a group hike at the Grand Canyon on Oct. 24, 2020, and 139 people showed up. 

Grand Canyon began limiting the size of “under-the-rim” groups to 30 in 2014, and it lowered that limit to 11 after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Backpacker magazine reported last week that the man who organized the group hike pleaded guilty to violating park regulations. He was sentenced to two years of probation and was banned from entering Grand Canyon or any other National Park Service site in northern Arizona for two years. 

In Acadia, if you are planning a group activity that is beyond the scope of a typical visit or involves a large number of people, you might need a special use permit. Event organizers can download a permit application from the park’s website and then mail it to the park permit office along with a $50 nonrefundable fee. Permit applications must be submitted at least 14 days prior to the planned event. 

Park staff will use the information provided in the application to determine if a permit is appropriate and compatible with park regulations,” said Public Affairs Specialist Katie Liming. “The permit may include some conditions to lessen potential impacts on resources and other visitors.”  

She said those conditions might include limiting the number of participants or moving the event to another location in the park. The permit might also require the applicant to pay for any costs the park incurs because of the event. 

In addition to group hiking, running and other on-the-move events, Acadia requires a special use permit for some single-site events such as memorial services, weddings with more than 10 participants and family reunions and picnics with more than 30 participants. 

Commercial use authorization 

If the organizer of an activity charges participants a fee, then a commercial use authorization (CUA) is needed. This applies to such activities as guided bike tours, kayak trips and photography workshops. 

Each application for a CUA must be accompanied by a payment of $300 and a certificate of general commercial liability insurance. CUAs are good for up to one calendar year; they expire Dec. 31 each year. 


Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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