Massachusetts National Parks include incredible historic sites in Boston and all over the state. One of the great things about visiting the National Parks in Massachusetts is there are just so many of them.
You can learn about the Pilgrims' landing in Plymouth in 1620 along with how Massachusetts played a key role in the birth of the United States. There are 15 park sites to visit that will take you from the heart of Boston to the natural beauty of Cape Cod.
National Parks in Massachusetts
Adams National Historical Park
Adas NHP is located in Eastern Massachusetts approximately 7 miles southeast of Boston. The 11-acre park is open from spring through fall offering the opportunity to tour historic houses.
The park preserves the grounds, homes and personal property of five generations of the Adams Family who lived here from 1720 to 1927. The Adams Family includes two Presidents, international diplomats, and notable historians/writers.
There are two houses located 75 feet apart that were the birthplaces of John Adams (2nd US President) and his son John Quincy Adams (6th US President). The Old House was built in 1731 and was home to John Adams, John Quincy Adams along with Charle Francis Adams (Minister to Great Britain during the Civil War), Henry Adams and Brooks Adams (both were literary historians).
The Old House Grounds include a historic orchard and formal gardens. The Stone Library from the 1870s houses more than 12,000 volumes.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Georgia to Maine)
91 miles of the Appalachian Trail passes through the Berkshires. The A.T. passes through the highest point of the state at Mount Greylock with an elevation of 3491 feet.
Mount Greylock is said to have inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick.
For more information check out the Appalachian Trail Guide to Massachusetts.
Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park (RI, MA)
Blackstone River Valley NHP is located in Central Massachusetts and Northern Rhode Island. The park preserves 400,000 acres and is open year-round. You can enjoy hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking and touring historic and cultural sites.
The Blackstone River Valley has been called the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. This area is where English immigrant Samuel Slater took over a failed mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and made it the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States.
The success of this mill brought in more mills setting off a wave of industrialization and immigration that changed the face of the United States.
This is a park in progress that is still building out its programs. Currently, you can pick up a Blackstone Passport Book to find all the places to visit.
Boston African American National Historic Site
Boston African American NHS is located in Downtown Boston and includes less than 1 acre of land. The park is open year-round and offers tours of historic buildings.
The site includes the largest area of pre-Civil War African American owned structures in the United States. These sites include houses, businesses, schools and churches that were part of a thriving community located on the north side of Beacon Hill.
Generations of African Americans struggled for equal rights locally and nationally. The Museum of African American History operates the Abiel Smith School which served as a segregated public school for black children from 1835 to 1855.
They also operate the African Meeting House which hosted speakers including Frederick Douglas and William Lloyd Garrison. Ranger programs are offered at the African Meeting House year-round.
Rangers are stationed at the Museum of African American History for historic talks and programs throughout operating hours. The Museum of African American History charges an admission fee but there is no fee to take a ranger-guided walking tour of the Black Heritage Trail®.
Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
Boston Harbor Islands NRA is located in Boston Harbor. The park is open year-round and offers hiking, camping, swimming, picnic spots, guided boat tours and the opportunity to visit historic structures.
This National Recreation Area was established in 1996 and compromises 34 separate sites along islands and mainland peninsulas. Spring through Fall offers the best opportunity to enjoy narrated cruises of historic Boston Harbor.
You can also tour the 19th-century Fort Warren on Georges Island which served as an active military port until 1947 and is now a National Historic Landmark.
Spectacle Island has the highest point within the park at 157 feet above Boston Harbor. There are 5 miles of hiking trails and epic views of the Boston skyline. Don't miss the visitor center with exhibits on the history of the island.
You can visit the country's oldest lighthouse on Little Brewster Island. Some of the islands are so small that they rarely visited. There are 30 sites within the park that can only be visited via boat. If you are driving you can check out Words End peninsula which offers hiking trails and beach areas.
Ferry boats leave from Boston Harbor, Hingham, Quincy and Hull to visit many of the islands.
Have you visited any of the Hidden Boston sites?
Boston National Historical Park
Boston NHP is located in Downtown Boston and encompasses 43-acres. The park is open year-round and offers tours of historic sites.
Some of the most significant events in the American Revolutionary War and push for independence happened near the city of Boston. Significant events include the Boston Tea Party, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, and the Battle of Bunker Hill.
You can now visit many of these important American Revolution sites within Boston National Historical Park. All of the sites minus Dorchester Heights are connected by the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail. This walking trail runs from Boston Common through the North End to Bunker Hill.
There is a redbrick path that guides you along the trail to make sure you do not miss any of the city's historic sites. Some of the sites along the trail are privately owned and may charge an admission fee.
The park has two visitor centers one is on the first floor of Faneuil Hall and the other in Boston Inner Harbor next to the historic U.S.S. Constitution. The visitor centers are a great place to pick up park maps, junior ranger programs, and learn more about the park.
Cape Cod National Seashore
Cape Cod National Seashore is located in Eastern Massachusetts approximately 90 miles Southeast of Boston (55 miles via ferry). The park is open year-round but Spring through Fall offers the best opportunities to enjoy hiking, surfing, swimming and exploring.
Cape Code NS protects 30 miles of beaches along with salt marshes, freshwater wetlands, and scattered woodlands. The Salt Pond Visitor Center is located at the corner of Nauset Road and US 6 in the village of Eastham.
The visitor center is the perfect place to pick up park maps, watch the park movie and see the museum covering Cape Cod cultural history.
Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
Frederick Law Olmsted NHS is located in Eastern Massachusetts in Brookline a suburb of Boston. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to visit Olmsted's office and grounds.
Frederik Law Olmsted is considered the founder of American landscape architecture. Even though he lacked formal training he was partially or totally responsible for designing notable sites including Central Park (NYC), Prospect Park on the campus of Stanford University, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, the U.S. Capitol Grounds, and the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
He is also credited with working on the preservation of Yosemite Valley and Niagara Fall. Mr. Olmsted moved to Brookline in 1883 and founded one of the world's first offices dedicated to landscape design.
You can tour Olmsted's house called Fairsted, his office, and the grounds. You can also view design documents and historical materials related to the more than 5,000 landscape design projects his office worked on.
John F. Kennedy National Historic Site
John F. Kennedy NHS is also located in Brookline a western suburb of Boston. The park offers tours of the birthplace of JFK the 35th President of the United States.
Four years after the assassination of JFK his mother Rose Kennedy restored the house to reflect her memory of its appearance. The Kennedy Family donated the house to the National Park Service after its restoration.
You can take a ranger-guided tour of the household to see furniture, photos, and mementos including the bed in which JFK was born, his bassinet, and the piano which he took lessons as a kid.
Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site
Longfellow House - Washington's Headquarters NHS is located in Cambridge just west of Boston. The site gives you the opportunity to view the gardens and tour the historic house.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in 1807 and wrote poems such a "The Song of Hiawatha", "Paul Revere's Ride", and "The Courtship of Miles Standish". In 1843 Fanny Appleton's father purchased the house as a wedding gift when she married Longfellow.
Longfellow is one of the best known literary figures in the United States. Guests to the house included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Dickens, and Oscar Wilde.
The house had already gained fame even before Longfellow moved in. George Washington assumed command of the Continental Army on July 3, 1775, and the house served as his headquarters for nine months.
Lowell National Historic Park
Lowell, Massachusetts is about 25 miles north of Boston, and just south of New Hampshire. Lowell National Historical Park commemorates the story of the Industrial Revolution in America.
Lowell was developed in the early 19th century as a planned industrial city focusing on textile manufacturing.
At the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, you can experience the extreme noise of power looms from the 1920s operating in a weaving room (they hand out earplugs before you go into the room.) Take a trolley or a canal ride. The Lowell National Historical Park features exhibits at the Visitor Center, the Mill Girls & Immigrants Exhibit, and the Center for Lowell History. The offerings of the park are either free or inexpensive.
There are many other attractions to visit while you're in Lowell. Interested in fiber arts? Check out the American Textile History Museum and the New England Quilt Museum. Art lovers can enjoy the Brush with History Art Gallery and Studios and the Whistler House and Museum.
Transportation buffs will be interested in the Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society, and the National Streetcar Museum at Lowell.
Minute Man National Historical Park
Minute Man NHP is located 15 miles northwest of Boston. The park offers the opportunity to view historic sites.
On April 19, 1775, American patriot militiamen were ordered to fire back at British Soldiers for the first time. This park preserves sites along the Battle Road. The route followed by British troops marching from Boston to seize and destroy ammunition stored by the colonial militia in the town of Concord.
The Visitor Center is the perfect place to start your visit. You can learn more about Paul Revere's Ride along with the battle of Lexington Green at North Bridge.
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park
New Bedford Whaling NHP is located in Southeastern Massachusetts approximately 40 miles from Providence, Rhode Island. The park offers the opportunity to explore the 19th-century whaling capital of the world.
During the 19th-century whale oil was a lucrative business. It was used in lamps to light homes and businesses around the world. New Bedford, Massachusetts was the world's largest whaling capital. In 1850 more whaling voyages left from New Bedford than the rest of the world combined.
The park preserves and interprets the story of 19th-century whaling. One of the sailors who left from New Bedford was Herman Melville who wrote Moby Dick.
The National Park Service has a partnership with multiple organizations to help tell the story of whaling in New Bedford. The park visitor center is located in an 1853 Greek Revival building that was formerly a bank and courthouse.
The park is one of the top things to do in New Bedford, MA!
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Salem Maritime NHS is located 15 miles northeast of Boston. The park offers the opportunity to view a reproduction sailing ship and multiple historic buildings.
During the decades following the United States' independence from Britain, the town of Salem became one of the nation's most important ports. The park became the first National Historic Site in the country when it was dedicated in 1938.
The park encompasses historic buildings, wharves, and a reproduction tall ship. You can also see the Narbonne House which was built in 1675 for butcher Thomas Ives. The Derby House which was built in 1762 as a wedding gift for Elias Hasket Derby and his wife Elizabeth.
The 1819 Custom House where famed author Nathanial Hawthorne worked from 1846 to 1848. The West India Goods Store which was built in 1804 was used for a warehouse and store for items from all over the world.
The visitor center is located in a former warehouse built in the 1770s. You can pick up park maps, sign up for tours of the Friendship reproduction tall ship and learn more about the park.
Saugus Iron Works NHS is located 9 miles northeast of Boston. You can experience a reconstructed ironworks and learn about the Saugus Iron Works from 1646 to 1668.
The National Park Service also supports the Saugus Iron Works. "Explore this place where European iron makers brought their special skills to a young Massachusetts colony. Three-hundred-year-old artifacts, working waterwheels, and mill machinery help to tell the story of a business failure destined to be a National Park."
There are pictures of the original structures on the site which were uncovered during archaeological digs. These include the blast furnace, forge and slitting mill.
The first integrated ironworks in the US was built at this site in the mid 17th century. Visitors will see a reconstructed ironworks settlement and an open-air museum with working waterwheels. You will want to start your visit with a 12-minute video "Iron Works on the Saugus" which does a great job explaining the importance of this site.
Springfield Armory NHS is located in Southwestern Massachusetts in the city of Springfield. The park offers the chance to learn about the manufacturing of flintlock muskets.
After the United States won its independence, President George Washington ordered Springfield Armory to be used to manufacture flintlock muskets so the US would not be dependent on foreign weapons.
Springfield Armory was in production for 174 years until 1968. The armory developed and manufactured America's military weapon including the muzzle loading Springfield rifle of the Civil War, bolt-action Springfield Model 1903 from World War I, Springfield M-1 Garand Rifle from World War II.
Don't miss the park film which does a great job of explaining the armories history. The site takes at least an hour or more to explore. The organ of guns is one of the highlights of the park.
List of National Parks in Massachusetts
- Adams National Historical Park
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Georgia to Maine)
- Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park (RI, MA)
- Boston African American National Historic Site
- Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
- Boston National Historical Park
- Cape Cod National Seashore
- Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
- John F. Kennedy National Historic Site
- Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site
- Lowell National Historical Park
- Minute Man National Historical Park
- New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park
- Salem Maritime National Historic Site
- Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site
- Springfield Armory National Historic Site
- Essex National Heritage Area
- John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (MA, RI)
- New England National Scenic Trail (MA, CT)
- The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor (CT, MA)
- Washington – Rochambeau National Historic Trail (MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, DC)
There are 15 Massachusetts National Parks with over 10 million visitors a year. These visitors create over $521 million in economic benefits!
National Parks in Massachusetts include 5 National Heritage Areas, 3 Wild and Scenic Rivers managed by the park service along with 3 National Trails managed by the park service.
There are 4,312 National Register of Historic Places listings in Massachusetts along with 189 National Historic Landmarks.
11 National Natural Landmarks along with 1,706 places recorded by Heritage Documentation Program and over 5.3 million objects in Massachusetts National Park museum collection.
For an entire list of US National Parks head over to our list of US National Parks in Alphabetical Order. We also have a printable checklist of all 417 National Park properties in the United States available.
If you have dreamed of working in the National Parks make sure and check out our article on How to Become a Park Ranger. Working in the parks is one of the most amazing jobs you can find. There is just something special about waking up and knowing you are going to work in a beautiful park.
National Parks in neighboring states