18 National Parks In Massachusetts

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The Bay State, otherwise known as Massachusetts, is a fantastic place to explore. Situated in New England, Massachusetts is crammed full of national park sites on the USA’s east coast. With unique historic sites, epic trails and diverse cities, Massachusetts has it all. Massachusetts national parks cover a diverse range of sites and include scenic trails, historic parks, heritage corridors, a historic site, a recreation area, a heritage area and a national seashore.

This guide will take you through the 18 national park sites in Massachusetts, the best time to visit, park highlights, where to stay and the park fees. Let’s explore Massachusetts!

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Contents

18 Massachusetts National Parks

National Scenic Trails

1- Appalachian National Scenic Trail

massachusetts national parks mount greylock in autumn
When exploring the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in this Massachusetts national park site, Mount Greylock is the place to see stunning fall views.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail isn’t just any trail, it is 2,200 miles (3540 km) of breathtaking pathways and is so long that it has earned the title of the ‘longest hiking-only footpath in the world’.

The trail starts in the Springer Mountains in Georgia and snakes up north through North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and then finally reaches Mount Katahdin in Maine.

The Appalachian Trail was first dreamt up by forester Benton MacKaye, who desperately wanted a place that city dwellers could escape.

After much planning and geographical dilemmas, the trail was complete in 1937.

The National Park Service, US Forest Service, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) now run and manage this imaginably long trail.

Since its opening, the ATC has been keeping track of the hikers who walk the trail.

Earl Shaffer (in 1948) was the first person to complete the entire Appalachian Trail. Yes, all 2,200 miles.

The Appalachian Trail has become popular among thru-hikers, those aiming to complete the entire walk from end to end.

Thousands of hikers attempt this gruelling feat each year, but only a quarter of them succeed.

The Massachusetts section of the trail is 91 miles (146 km) in length and starts in the most western corner of the state, staying entirely within Berkshire County before crossing the border into Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest.

With elevation lows of 650 feet (198 m) and highs of 3,491 feet (1064 m), hiking in Massachusetts is usually defined by longer and better-graded paths than in surrounding states.

Mount Everett and Mount Greylock are two of the state’s mountains.

If you want to feel the achievement of a big hike but don’t want to hike the whole trail, then conquering one of these is a good option.

Best Time to Visit

Hiking the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts is possible all year round.

But one of the best times to visit the state and hike is in the fall, when September brings a fantastic colour and vibrance to the trees.

The Appalachian Trail does tend to get busy during autumn because of the ideal conditions and stunning surroundings.

If you don’t mind sharing the trail with a few more people, it is absolutely the best time to visit.

Highlights
  • Mount Greylock
  • Mount Race
  • Sages Ravine
Best Massachusetts Hikes
  • Pattison Road to Mount Greylock
  • County Road in Stamford, Vermont – North Adams, Massachusetts
Park Fees

While there are no Appalachian National Scenic Trail Park fees, some of the parking spots along the trail do require payment.

These fees are usually $5 for Massachusetts residents and $20 for non-residents.

Where to Stay

The Race Brook Lodge in Sheffield, Massachusetts, is a great spot to relax after a day of hiking on the trail.

The lodge is in the forest, offers country-style rooms and even has an outdoor swimming pool.

It’s an idyllic countryside spot to kick off those walking boots and relax.

If you want to hike Mount Greylock, basing yourself in Williamstown is good.

The Williams Inn offers a good dose of sophistication and has a restaurant and bar.

It’s perfect for those aching bodies as everything you need is in one place.

2- New England National Scenic Trail

Immerse yourself in the beautiful Massachusetts countryside with a visit to the New England National Scenic Trail, the second most popular of Massachusetts big trails.

This trail starts on the Connecticut coastline at the Long Island Sound and heads north to Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, the trail runs from south to north, passing in between Westfield and Springfield, then close to Bear Mountain and finishes just after Warwick State Forest on the border with New Hampshire.

The trail runs for 215 miles (346 km), passing through fields, deep forest, over mountains, past waterfalls and along the unique traprock ridges.

Best Time to Visit

Hiking this trail in autumn or spring is most advisable.

These two seasons allow for a more pleasant hiking climate and beautiful foliage and colours, particularly in autumn.

Although summer is also acceptable, it can be humid and insects will come out to taunt you.

Highlights
  • Wildlife sightings: beavers, raccoons, coyote
  • Hiking Mount Tom
  • Wendell State Forest
Park Fees

There are no fees to hike the trail, and overnight camping fees vary depending on the location.

Where to Stay

If you choose to hike for multiple days along the trail, there are various campsites or if you just want to access the southern part of the trail, staying in neighbouring Westfield or Springfield is ideal.

National Historic Trail

3- Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary National Historic Trail

Beginning in New Hampshire, passing through Massachusetts and down to Virginia, the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary National Historic Trail connects many of the region’s large metropolitan areas.

The trail covers 680 miles (1094 km) of roads and pathways that George Washington and the forces used under the control of French Admiral Rochambeau during a 14-week march from Boston to Virginia.

Best Time to Visit

Exploring the trail in spring, autumn and summer is preferable due to the more agreeable temperatures.

Highlights

Bike, walk or paddle along the trails and waterways.

Where to Stay

Having marched all the way to Williamsburg, Virginia and back, Rochambeau’s troops then departed from Boston Harbor for the Caribbean Sea on Christmas Day 1782.

It seems only fitting to find a place to stay near the old Boston Harbor to begin your exploration of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary National Historic Trail.

Park Fees

Walking and exploring this area are free.

National Historic Park

4- Adams National Historic Park

massachusetts national parks old house peacefield
The Old House mansion in Peacefield is another important landmark in a Massachusetts national parks site that focuses on history.

John Adams was one of America’s founding fathers and the second president of the USA, serving between 1797 and 1801.

Therefore, a visit to the Adams National Historic Park is a great place for history buffs to visit.

The park is in Quincy, Norfolk County, around 10 miles (16 km) south of Boston.

The nearly 14-acre (5.6 ha) park, is home to 11 historic houses.

The main attraction of the park is John Adams’ birthplace.

John Adam’s son, John Quincy Adams, the 6th U.S. President, was also born at the site.

You can visit the “Old House” (or mansion), home to the impressive Stone Library, containing more than 14,000 books.

Both presidents and the first ladies were entombed in the family crypt in the United First Parish Church.

Highlights
  • The Old House mansion
  • Take an informative tour
Park Fees and Opening Times

The park costs $15 for adults and children and is open between 9 am to 5 pm from mid-April to mid-November.

Where to Stay

The Adams National Historic Park is so close to Boston that staying in the state capital is your best bet, then just head down to Quincy for a day trip.

Adams National Historic Park is at 133 Franklin St, Quincy, MA 02169.

5- Boston National Historic Park

national parks near massachusetts ship moored in Boston harbour
The historical USS Constitution boat anchored in the Boston harbour in Massachusetts.

Boston is Massachusetts’ state capital, the heart of the American Revolution, home of the Red Socks and a few National Historic Sites.

Boston’s Freedom Trail is a unique amalgamation of museums, parks, ships, historic monuments and churches that tell the story of the American Revolution.

This trail of sites makes up Boston’s National Historic Park.

Along the freedom trail’s 2.5-mile (4 km) route you can visit 16 important war sites.

Some of the main features of the trail include Boston Common, the Boston Massacre Site, the USS Constitution Museum and Bunker Hill Monument.

Best Time to Visit
how many national parks in massachusetts
The Boston Old State House is part of the Boston National Historic Park.

Visiting Boston between June and October is the ideal time to visit, however, it is also good to explore during winter as there are fewer people.

Between June and October, average temperatures are around 68 to 77F (20 to 25C).

Often, prices drop once the popular summer months have finished, but this isn’t so much the case in Boston, with prices remaining consistent.

Highlights
best national parks in massachusetts Boston State House at Dusk
Boston is one of the oldest cities in the States and is rich in history, so it’s not surprising that one of its national parks is focused on the city’s historical past.
  • Massachusetts State House
  • Benjamin Franklin Statue
  • Old South Meeting House
  • Old State House
Park Fees

Wandering around Boston is free and even the USS Constitution Museum is free to explore.

Where to Stay
national parks massachusetts monument and statue against blue sky
The Bunker Hill Monument is one of the attractions in Boston National Historic Park.

There are so many great places to stay in Boston, from luxury options to the more affordable.

The North End neighbourhood is one of the best areas in Boston to stay in if you are interested in the state’s history as cobblestone streets define this waterfront community.

If you want a mix of art and culture, staying in Cambridge around Harvard Square is a great option.

The area has two of the world’s most prestigious universities, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Harvard University.

Boston National Historic Park is at Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, MA 02109.

6- Lowell National Historic Park

masachusetts national parks lowell Lowell National Historic Park
Lowell National Historic Park is an incredible area that is looked after by the US National Park service in Massachusetts.

The textile mills at Lowell represent a significant part of American history in the form of the Industrial Revolution.

Visit Lowell and you can discover the stories behind the nation’s technological and engineering developments and how this impacted day-to-day life in America.

Within Lowell’s visitors centre, several exhibitions show how people lived, from the very first industrial city to the modern communities we see today.

The geography of Lowell is fascinating and reveals a lot about the city’s history.

It is on the banks of the Merrimack River with a series of canals and waterways running through the city.

Best Time to Visit
are there any national parks in massachusetts brick exterior of the mill reflected in the canal
Boott Cotton Mill in Lowell is one of the key sites in Lowell National Historic Park.

Although you can walk between Lowell National Historic Park’s attractions, the visitor centre is only open between June and Thanksgiving (24 November).

Highlights
  • Boott Cotton Mill Museum
  • Canal Boat Tour
  • Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibition
Park Fees

Boott Cotton Mill Museum entry fees are adults $6, seniors $4, youth $3, students $4, children 5 and under are free

Where to Stay

Lowell is small and doesn’t have a great selection of hotels, so staying in a neighbouring town like Chelmsford is another good option.

Lowell National Historic Park is at 67 Kirk St, Lowell, MA 01852.

7- Minute Man National Historical Park

masachusetts national parks minute man statue
The Minute Man statue is a landmark that pays homage to the men who protected their towns.

Located close to Concord, the Minute Man National Historical Park has unique reasoning behind its name.

Minutemen were usually young individuals who were part of the army that protected their towns from invaders.

Minutemen were specifically selected because they could respond quickly to a crisis, were usually enthusiastic, had physical strength, and were reliable.

They played an important role in the American Revolution.

The park reflects one of the first battle sites of the American Revolution in 1775 and covers around 500 acres (200 ha), with about 200 acres (81 ha) of forested wetland, meadows, fields and several ponds.

Best Time to Visit
massachusetts historic battle road trail minute man national park
The historic battle road trail in Minute Man National Park.

The park comes to life on Patriots’ Day on 18f April, when there are impressive battle reenactments commemorating the Lexington, Concord and Menotomy battles, some of the first of the American Revolution.

Not all visitor attractions are open until May, as they close for winter.

Highlights
  • Hike the Battle Road Trail
  • Exhibits detailing the history of the American Revolution
Park Fees

There are no fees to visit the park.

Where to Stay

Minute Man National Historical Park is near the town of Concord, where the North Bridge Inn offers cosy B&B style accommodation perfect for your visit to the area.

Minute Man is at 250 N Great Rd, Lincoln, MA 01773, United States.

8- New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park

national parks in massachusetts whaling statue words on the plaque are 'A dead whale or a stove boat'
The whaling statue is an icon of New Bedford Massachusetts and the whaling industry. The statue was created in 1913 by Bela Lyon Pratt.

Throughout the mid-1700s, the coastal city of New Bedford in southern Massachusetts was a whaling port until whaling was outlawed in 1971.

These days, visitors to New Bedford can learn all about the whaling culture in Massachusetts at the park that covers 13 city blocks, including the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Best Time to Visit

The ideal time for visiting New Bedford is between May and October, when the temperatures are more agreeable.

New Bedford does get almost unbearably humid in September, so if you’re not a fan of slightly sticky clothes it’s best to leave your trip until October.

Highlights
  • New Bedford Whaling Museum
Park Fees

Fees do not apply to visit the area, except for the Whaling Museum – adults $19, seniors $17, students $12, children and youth $9

Where to Stay

Many mid-level affordable hotels in New Bedford are conveniently located near the Whaling National Historic Park.

9- Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Park

At Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Park, you can discover America’s Age of Industry.

Many consider the Blackstone River Valley and Rhode Island the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.

Also known as a heritage corridor this park spans from Worcester, Massachusetts, along the Blackstone River to the river’s mouth in Providence, Rhode Island.

Enjoy much of this area as you explore the banks of the Blackstone River.

Best Time to Visit

If there’s water involved, summer is the perfect time to visit. Explore the waterways of the Blackstone River as the sun beats down on you.

Highlights
  • Enjoy the Blackstone River Bikeway
  • Canoe or kayak along the Blackstone River
Park Fees

You can explore the Blackstone River Valley for free.

Where to Stay

Northbridge is a great place to stay to be close to the Blackstone River Valley or alternatively, you can stay in the larger city of Worcester, where there are an array of accommodation options to choose from.

National Historic Site

10- Boston African-American National Historic Site

The Black Heritage Trail (or Freedom Trail) is a 1.5-mile trail that connects the sites of Boston that explore the hardships of the Black community which lived in the North Slope of Beacon Hill during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Best Time to Visit

Why not visit the Boston African-American National Historic Site during one of the African-American holiday celebrations?

Juneteenth (19 June) is a nationally celebrated day that commemorates the end of slavery in the USA.

Or visit during February when America sees the commemoration of Black History Month.

Visiting and learning about Black culture in a month meant for celebrating the achievements of African Americans is an excellent way to understand more about the hardships faced by people of colour.

Highlights
  • Museum of African American History
  • The Black Freedom Trail
Park Fees

The Museum of African American History is free to enter.

Where to Stay

You can mostly find the Boston African-American National Historic Site in and around Beacon Hill, the most historic of Boston’s neighbourhoods.

The Beacon Hill Hotel is a 10-minute walk from the Museum of African American History and provides a great boutique hotel ambience, with comfortable rooms and a bistro on the ground floor.

11- John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

John F. Kennedy, the United States 35th President, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, now the location of the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site.

The Kennedys lived at the 83 Beals Street address between 1914 and 1920.

When JFK became president in 1961, the town of Brookline wanted to memorialize his house.

At this time, the Kennedy family no longer lived in the property and hadn’t for some time.

Once he became the president, visitors began to appear at the house.

The owner at the time, Martha Pollack, would let them in and show them the bedroom in which JFK was born.

The town desperately tried to purchase the home, but after JFK’s death, the Kennedy family re-purchased the home in 1966.

Rose Kennedy decided to make the house a historic site.

Best Time to Visit

Currently, the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site is closed until spring 2023 for visitor centre renovations and property maintenance.

This historic site is usually open between mid-May and the end of October between 9.30 am and 5 pm.

Highlights
  • Visiting JFK’s childhood home.
Park Fees

It’s free to enter this historic site.

Where to Stay

Located just outside of the city boundaries of Boston, the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site is easily reached from the state capital. Accommodation is plentiful in Boston.

12- Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site

how many national parks are there in massachusetts a sketch of the house
Longfellow House is the centrepiece of the Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, a Massachusetts national park service that preserves this important site.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a 19th-century poet and the Longfellow House in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was his home.

The house is steeped in history, even before Longfellow’s time.

It was also the headquarters of George Washington (the first president of the United States) during the Revolutionary War between 1775 and 1776.

Today the Longfellow House is an excellent location for anyone interested in the arts and literature, offering a peek inside a 19th-century poet’s literary mind.

Best Time to Visit

Longfellow House is closed during the winter and spring, but the gardens and grounds are open all year round.

Summer operating times are between 27 May and 31 October.

Highlights
  • Highly informative guided tour.
Park Fees

There are no fees to view the house, but you can only explore it on a guided tour.

Where to Stay

Cambridge, Massachusetts, is also home to the prestigious Ivy League institution, Harvard University.

The Charles Hotel is a great option to spend a night or two in the heart of Harvard Square and a 10-minute walk to Longfellow House.

13- Frederick Law Olmstead National Historic Site

Brookline is a small Norfolk County town that is home to a fair few National Historic Sites.

Frederick Law Olmstead was a 19th-century landscape architect responsible for designing many of the private estates across America and more recognizable buildings such as Stanford University.

Olmstead moved to Boston in 1883 and established the world’s first-ever full-scale landscape design office. A trip to this national historic site in Boston is a must for any town planners or budding architects out there.

As well as his accomplishments in architecture, Olmstead was also renowned for his environmentalist mindset. He was fundamental in the process of preserving Yosemite and Niagara Falls.

Best Time to Visit

The Olmstead Historic Site opens in spring around 22 April, and 2022 marks the 200th anniversary of Olmstead’s birth, so the Frederick Law Olmstead National Historic Site will be hosting special events throughout the year.

Highlights
  • Explore the architectural exhibits.
  • Take a guided tour through the landscape architecture office.
Park Fees

This park is free.

Where to Stay

As it’s only six miles outside of downtown Boston, you simply cannot beat staying the night in Boston and making the Olmstead National Historic Site a day trip.

14- Salem Maritime National Historic Site

massachusetts national parks salem timber hut and tall ship
One of the cool Massachusetts national parks is the Salem National Historic Site. Photo: Christina Pfeiffer.

This historic site covers nine acres and houses 12 historic structures along the Salem waterfront.

This historic site is steeped in history, with over 600 years’ worth of New England maritime history discoverable in the area.

This area was established in 1938 and became the United States’ first National Historic Site.

Best Time to Visit

A visit to the Maritime National Historic Site is feasible all year round.

However, many choose to visit during the summer months because of the agreeable weather.

As Salem is a coastal city, the summer is the perfect temperature for harbour tours and outdoor dining.

If you want to visit during the city’s most popular and spooky month, you can opt to go in October.

Highlights
  • Salem Visitor Centre
  • Derby House Tour
Park Fees

No entry fees are required at the site.

Where to Stay

Best known as the location of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, the city has become a popular Massachusetts tourist destination.

There are several places to stay in the city, from chain hotels such as the Radisson to the famous Hotel Salem.

15- Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site

massachusetts national parks saugus waterwheel
The Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site is a national park in Massachusetts that focuses on an important era in US history.

Around 10 miles (16 km) north of Boston is the small town of Saugus, where the Saugus Iron Works played an important role in the creation of iron for the United States.

It was 1600 Europeans who were responsible for bringing the ironwork trade to the small community of Saugus.

Spread across 12 acres (4.8 ha) of grounds, there are several things related to ironworks to see at the historic site, including a working waterwheel, 17th-century buildings and a mill.

Best Time to Visit

The park closes between November and April, though the grounds remain open, so it’s best to enjoy this historical site during the spring or summer months.

Highlights
  • Visit the museum
  • Walk along the Saugus Iron Works Nature Trail
  • Seeing the blast furnace
Park Fees

It’s another free historic site for you to enjoy.

Where to Stay

From Saugus, it’s just 12 miles (19 km) to Salem, so combine a visit to this historic site with the Salem Maritime National Historic Site for a full day out.

16- Springfield Armory National Historic Site

The Springfield Armory was where U.S. military firearms were produced for nearly two centuries.

Best Time to Visit

As it’s in the heart of Western Massachusetts, Springfield can become quite cold during winter, and storms have been known to close the armoury.

So, visiting in summer, spring or autumn is ideal.

Highlights
  • Look inside the commanding officer’s quarter
  • Explore the main arsenal
  • Building 104 (where the M1 rifle was produced before America entered WW2)
Park Fees

This historic site is free to visit.

Where to Stay

The Springfield Armory is in downtown Springfield a couple of blocks from the Springfield Museum.

If you want to stay somewhere luxurious, head to the 4-star Hotel Vandivort while there is a splattering of more affordable accommodation across the city.

National Recreation Area

17- Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

The Boston Harbor Islands consists of 34 islands and peninsulas right on the doorstep of Boston’s city centre.

Five of the most popular islands and those that are easily accessible via ferry include Spectacle Island, Peddocks Island, Georges Island and Little Brewster Island.

Spectacle Island is adorned with five miles of incredible hiking trails and a beach overlooking the Boston skyline.

Georges Island is home to Fort Warren, a 19th-century stronghold, which is now a museum housing a collection of antique weaponry, while the tiny island of Little Brewster is home to America’s first-ever lighthouse.

Best Time to Visit

Of the 34 islands, visitors are only allowed to explore 10 of them. Six of these islands are only accessible between May and October, therefore this is a great time of year to visit.

Highlights
  • America’s first lighthouse
  • Peaceful hiking
  • Fort Warren, Georges Island
Park Fees

The Boston Harbor Cruises ferry or a private cruise will get you there but visiting Little Brewster Island is usually only possible as part of a tour.

Where to Stay

Of course, you can again base yourself in Boston to explore the Harbor Islands.

It’s easy to get to Long Wharf ferry port and perfect for exploring the islands.

If you want more of an overnight adventure, head to Peddocks Island. Between June and September, there is the option to camp on the island, or, if you book early enough (we are talking months in advance) stay in one of the island’s six-man yurts.

National Seashore

18- Cape Cod National Seashore

massachusetts national parks hot and sunny weather along the shore of the beach
One of the best national parks in Massachusetts for nature lovers is the Cape Cod National Seashore.

The distinctive hook-shaped peninsular that so defines Massachusetts is Cape Cod.

You may have heard of the area because it’s the destination of choice for many American holidaymakers, including the famous and wealthy.

The Cape Cod National Seashore is a simply breathtaking part of Massachusetts.

Grassy dunes back incredible white sandy beaches and the small coastal towns and villages are beautiful destinations to explore.

You could visit cape Cod for just the weekend, or you could easily turn the trip into a two-week vacation as there is so much to see and do in the diverse and stunning area.

Best Time to Visit

The quieter months of May, June, September and October are a great time to visit Cape Cod when temperatures are cooler but still enjoyable and there are fewer crowds.

During the heart of the summer months, accommodation prices in the area increase dramatically.

While you can visit during winter, temperatures are nippy, and many of the seasonal amenities are closed.

Highlights
  • Mayflower Beach
  • Race Point Beach
  • Dennis Port
  • Wellfleet
Park Fees

There is no fee for entering the Cape Cod peninsula but some beaches charge fees for cars $25, motorbikes $20 and bicycles/on-foot $15.

Where to Stay
national parks in massachusetts list view and beach and ocean aerial view from above.
Provincetown in Massachusetts is a Cape Cod city with a beautiful beach.

Where you stay in Cape Cod depends on where you want to visit and how long you are visiting.

Chatham is often a popular destination among visitors to Cape Cod and there are several hotels to choose from.

The Chatham Bars Inn is a great beachfront resort with an American beach house style feel.

Oh, and there is also a swimming pool, tennis courts and a croquet court. That’s just so Cape Cod!

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harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!