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One in a series of occasional stories marking the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

This August, the National Park Service celebrates its centennial, honoring 100-years of conservation and stewardship. Though there are 59 “official” national parks in the system, the NPS oversees hundreds of national monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, and scenic rivers and trails. Here’s a look at some New England National Park System sites to visit during the centennial.

CONNECTICUT

New England National Scenic Trail

Spanning 215 contiguous miles, the New England Trail winds its way from the Long Island Sound in Guilford, Conn., to the mountains of northern Massachusetts, leading visitors through a variety of natural landscapes including forests, valleys, and farmland. Created in 2009 upon combining the Mattabesett, Metacomet, and Monadnock trail systems, the trail is one of only 11 long distance national trails in the country and is accessible from numerous points along its path offering everything from short, half-mile walks to multi-day treks. (www.nps.gov/neen/index.htm)

Trail maintenance volunteer Bob Nodine pauses to admire the beauty along the Mattabesett Trail.
Trail maintenance volunteer Bob Nodine pauses to admire the beauty along the Mattabesett Trail.Clare Cain for the boston globe

Weir Farm National Historic Site

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Situated on 60-acres of forest and farmland, Weir Farm is the only National Park to honor American painting. Beginning with American impressionist painter Julian Alden Weir, the farm has been the home to three generations of artists since 1882. The site underwent an extensive renovation project that was completed in 2014 and the farmhouse and studios have been completely restored. Visitors can tour the farmhouse and surrounding gardens, hike to nearby Weir Pond, or borrow some supplies for their own artistic endeavors using the surrounding landscape as inspiration. (www.nps.gov/wefa/index.htm)

RHODE ISLAND

Blackstone River Valley

National Heritage Corridor

Not a national park in the traditional sense, the Blackstone River Valley represents a living historical landscape where visitors can trace the valley’s transformation from an agrarian to an industrial society. Seven information centers serve the 46-mile Blackstone River region between Worcester and Providence, Rhode Island, each offering a unique look at the history of the industrial revolution, from mills and canals to railroads and immigration. A tour of the area includes stops at cultural and historical sites as well as outdoor recreational areas like Blackstone River State Park and Riverbend Farm. (www.nps.gov/blac/index.htm)

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Roger Williams National Memorial

A celebrated crusader for religious freedom, Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island in 1636 after being banished from Massachusetts by Puritan authorities for what were considered dangerously progressive beliefs. His forward thinking helped pave the way for freedoms included in the language of the Constitution. Situated on four and a half landscaped acres, the memorial stands on the location of the city’s first European settlement where anyone could worship freely without risk of condemnation. (www.nps.gov/rowi/index.htm)

MASSACHUSETTS

Boston National Historic Park

The Revolutionary era comes to life in the heart of downtown Boston where a collection of eight historic sites allows visitors to examine America’s quest to break free from British rule. Of the eight, seven are linked along the Freedom Trail, a two and a half mile walking tour leading past sixteen historically significant landmarks. For the chance to step back in time stop by the Faneuil Hall visitor center for a reenactment of a town hall meeting rallying colonists against Britain’s policies of oppression or join a park Ranger on an hour-long guided walk along the Freedom Trail. Ranger-led tours take place at the Bunker Hill Monument and the Charleston Navy Yard as well. (www.nps.gov/bost/index.htm)

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Paul Revere House
Paul Revere House handout

Boston Harbor Islands National

Recreation Area

34 islands and mainland parks make up Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, all of which are home to hiking trails, tide pools, salt marshes, and abundant wildlife. A breeze to reach from downtown Boston, visitors can board seasonal ferries to get to eight of the islands while 19 others are accessible by private boat or charter. Celebrate the 300th anniversary of historic Boston Light on Little Brewster Island with a tour, visit Fort Warren, a Civil War landmark, on George’s Island, or pitch a tent and lounge on Lovells Island’s beautiful beach. (www.nps.gov/boha/index.htm)

Cape Cod National Seashore

Extending 40-miles into the Atlantic Ocean, the flexed-arm peninsula of Cape Cod plays host to diverse coastal ecosystems including miles of protected beach, wetlands, dunes, and forest. Wildlife here is abundant with over 450 species of animals making the park their home, several of which are considered rare or endangered. Grab a bike and go exploring, pedaling along one of the seashore’s three designated bike trails. Maintained by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Cape Cod Rail Trail runs for 26-miles between Dennis and Wellfleet and six of those miles are within the national park. Head to one of the seashore’s two visitor centers in Provincetown and Salt Pond for guided beach and marsh walks, bird watching, and history tours with park Rangers. (www.nps.gov/caco/index.htm)

A Truro beach along the Cape Cod National Seashore.
A Truro beach along the Cape Cod National Seashore.Hostelling International

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

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Drink in views of Mount Ascutney and Vermont’s Green Mountains from the home, studio, and gardens of renowned American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Tour the galleries and grounds where over 100 works of art are on display, take a stroll through the surrounding woodlands on the park’s small trail system, or watch the work of the sculptor-in-residence. From June through October, half and full-day sculpture workshops are also offered. On Sundays in July and August, pack a picnic and settle in to enjoy an afternoon outdoor concert featuring everything from ragtime to bluegrass to Dixieland, big band, and opera. (www.nps.gov/saga/index.htm)

A plaster cast of former president Abraham Lincoln at the studio of Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Cornish, N.H.
A plaster cast of former president Abraham Lincoln at the studio of Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Cornish, N.H. AP

VERMONT

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller

National Historic Park

Opportunities to explore history, nature, and conservation are endless at this beautiful year-round national park destination near the charming New England village of Woodstock, Vermont. Fans of Acadia’s carriage roads will love strolling along Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller’s similar pathways amidst ancient hemlocks and shady sugar maples. Across the way, Billings Farm and Museum showcases the history of Vermont dairy farming at its best. (www.nps.gov/mabi/index.htm)

MAINE

Maine Windjammer Association National Historic Landmark Schooners

Who says a national park needs to be on land? Set sail on a piece of the nation’s maritime heritage with the Maine Windjammer Association — five schooners in their fleet are designated as National Historic Landmarks, a program overseen by the National Park Service to commemorate or illustrate places of great value to United States history. Privately owned, MWA’s schooners offer day and multi-night sailing adventures throughout Maine’s Penobscot Bay from late May through early October. On August 2, the entire windjammer fleet will be celebrating the National Park centennial with a parade through Acadia’s Somes Sound. (www.sailmainecoast.com)

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Anyone age six and older is welcome on the 22-passenger, 128-year-old Isaac H. Evans, a classic but comfy schooner, designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Anyone age six and older is welcome on the 22-passenger, 128-year-old Isaac H. Evans, a classic but comfy schooner, designated as a National Historic Landmark. Maine Windjammer Association

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Running 2,180-miles from Maine to Georgia including through every New England state, hiking the entire Appalachian Trail is a long-time dream of many. But if months of backpacking aren’t in the cards, sections of the trail can be tackled a bit at a time. In honor of the NPS centennial, the National Park Service has launched the A.T. 100, challenging folks to hike 100 miles before Dec. 31, 2016. One memorable, albeit challenging, trek is the Hunt Trail to the summit of Mount Kathadin in Maine’s Baxter State Park, which marks the emotional northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail for through hikers who began their adventures months earlier in Georgia. (www.nps.gov/appa/index.htm)


Gina Vercesi can be reached at gdvercesi@gmail.com.