These National Parks Are the Best in the Northeast

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View of Acadia National Park in the northeast

When you think about the National Parks of the United States, you probably think of Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite.

Perhaps Zion, Arches, Glacier, and Mount Rainier also come to mind. People often leave the Northeast out when conversations turn toward the beauty, history, and culture these National Parks protect.

But don’t sleep on the National Parks east of the Mississippi. There are several National Parks in the Northeast that preserve America’s natural beauty, history, and culture. Let’s learn which National Parks you should add to your list in the Northeast!

About the National Park Service

Although Yellowstone became the world’s first National Park in 1872, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service in 1916 when he signed the “Organic Act.”

This federal bureau in the Department of the Interior became responsible for maintaining national parks and monuments. Initially, there were only about 14 National Parks and 21 National Monuments. Today, the National Park Service manages 423 units.

How Many National Park Designations Are There? 

National Parks aren’t the only designation within the National Park Service. In fact, there are more non-National Parks in the system than there are National Parks.

In total, there are 63 National Parks, including one in the US Virgin Islands and one in American Samoa. However, there are 18 other designations than “National Park.”

For example, there are 84 National Monuments, 73 National Historic Sites, 62 National Historical Parks, and 31 National Memorials. There are also dozens of National Battlefields, National Lakeshores, National Seashores, National Preserves, National Wild and Scenic Rivers and Riverways, and more.

What Are the States in the Northeast?

Usually, the Northeast region of the United States is the New England states of Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York.

The United States Census Bureau sets the boundary for the Northeast Region between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

How Many National Parks Are in the Northeast of the US?

The National Parks in the Northeast consists of one National Park, Acadia National Park, and dozens of National Park sites.

These include the Appalachian National Scenic Trail extending from Georgia to Maine and the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail traveling through nine East Coast states plus Washington, D.C.

Not including these two trails, Maine has five National Park sites, Connecticut has three, Rhode Island has three, Massachusetts has 16, Vermont has two, New Hampshire has one, New Jersey has nine, and New York has 29 National Park sites.

View of Appalachian National Scenic Trail, one of the national parks in the northeast

Best National Parks in the Northeast Region

Although the Northeast only has one National Park, there are several National Park sites worth visiting.

Some you can see in a day, while others require several days to experience their history and beauty. Acadia National Park sees more than four million visitors each year, making it one of the top ten most-visited parks in the country.

Acadia National Park

Location: Maine

About The Park: The oldest National Park east of the Mississippi River, the government established Acadia National Park in 1919 as Lafayette National Park. When officials added the Schoodic Peninsula to the National Park acreage in 1929, they adopted the current name. Acadia’s history is unique.

It was the first national park private citizens gifted to the public. Conservation-minded individuals like John D. Rockefeller, Charles W. Eliot, and George B. Dorr donated much of the land making up Acadia National Park.

Today the park encompasses nearly 50,000 acres, including Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula, 60 miles of coastline, 33 miles of scenic motor roads, 45 miles of carriage roads, and more than 150 miles of hiking trails.

Why It’s Worth A Visit: Tidepooling, hiking, biking, scenic driving, and wildlife viewing are some popular activities visitors enjoy at Acadia. The famous drive to Cadillac Mountain draws millions of visitors yearly to witness one of the first sunrises in the United States.

Hiking trails with rungs, ladders, and cliffs lure experienced hikers to explore the beautiful land. Overlooks along Park Road Loop provide guests of all ages and abilities the chance to witness Acadia National Park’s beauty in the Northeast.

Keep in Mind: Start packing and get ready to hit the road after reading Everything You Need to Know About Acadia National Park Camping

View of Acadia National Park in the northeast

Boston National Historical Park

Location: Massachusetts

About The Park: The 43 acres of Boston National Historical Park include parts of downtown Boston, Charlestown, and South Boston. There isn’t another city in America encompassing as many historical movements and events as Boston.

From the beginnings of the American Revolution to the fight against slavery, this city led the nation through decades of change. In addition, the Charlestown Navy Yard offers visitors opportunities to walk aboard the USS Constitution and the USS Cassin Young.

Why It’s Worth A Visit: The house where Paul Revere lived is in downtown Boston. The historic Old North Church is available for self-guided tours. The Freedom Trail connects landmark sites and museums, retelling the history of the city and the nation.

For any American, a trip to Boston National Historical Park in the Northeast is a trip you won’t forget. You’ll leave feeling like you’ve truly experienced the country’s complex history.

Boston African American National Historic Site

Location: Massachusetts

About The Park: Boston was a critical city during the American Revolution, but it remained significant even afterward.

The African American community of Beacon Hill led the nation in the fight against slavery and established a hub for the Underground Railroad here. Harriet Tubman made numerous trips to Boston as she helped fellow enslaved people escape bondage.

Why It’s Worth A Visit: The fight against slavery and the Civil War is a defining time in our nation’s history. The Boston African American National Historic Site preserves this struggle for freedom and celebrates the bravery of individuals and communities willing to risk their lives to bring about change.

Visitors can walk the 1.5-mile Black Heritage Trail connecting historical sites in Beacon Hill. At the Museum of African American History, join park rangers in a re-creation of the historic meeting in Faneuil Hall.

In that meeting, community members debated the federal 1850 Fugitive Slave Law.

Keep in Mind: Is the ugliest national park in the country actually worth visiting? What is the Ugliest National Park?

Minute Man National Historical Park

Location: Massachusetts

About The Park: Visit the location of the “shot heard ‘round the world” in Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord at Minute Man National Historical Park. The over 1,000 acres commemorate the opening battles of the American Revolution by preserving significant historic sites, structures, and landscapes. 

Why It’s Worth A Visit: At Minute Man National Historical Park in the Northeast, visitors walk where Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride. They can watch a musket demonstration and hear the stories of the Hartwell family, who owned a tavern in town.

The five-mile Battle Road Trail connects historic sites where thousands of Colonial Militia and British Regulars fought. These hallowed grounds are where the fight for independence began.

Cape Cod National Seashore

Location: Massachusetts

About The Park: Forty miles of sandy beaches, lighthouses, and wild cranberry bogs offer serenity and beauty for visitors to Cape Cod National Seashore. Popular activities at this National Park site in the Northeast include hiking, biking, paddling, and fishing, in addition to sunbathing and swimming along the coast.

Six beaches make up Cape Cod National Seashore. The park protects the shoreline, dunes, woodlands, freshwater kettle ponds, marshes, and historic sites like the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station and the Highland Light.

Why It’s Worth A Visit: There’s something for everyone at Cape Cod National Seashore. Visitors can rest and relax while enjoying the beautiful scenery. They can also book a paddling adventure or bike miles of trails.

Families can make memories by building sandcastles, and couples can enjoy a romantic sunset stroll. There’s a reason the great Henry David Thoreau wrote, “A man may stand there and put all America behind him.”

View of Cape Cod National Seashore beach, one of the national parks in the northeast

Statue of Liberty National Monument

Location: New York

About The Park: The government dedicated the Statue of Liberty on October 28, 1886, and designated it as a National Monument in 1924. The Statue of Liberty has been in the care of the National Park Service since 1933.

This 305-foot statue stands on a concrete foundation of 54,000,000 pounds on Liberty Island in New York Harbor’s Upper Bay. There are fees for ferry rides, access to the crown, and access to the pedestal.

Why It’s Worth A Visit: There are a handful of monuments across the United States that people recognize worldwide. The iconic Statue of Liberty is one of them. It’s one of those places Americans long to see at least once.

It symbolizes freedom and the positive relationships between America and France, a country that joined the American Revolution and supported the Continental Army’s fight for independence. Plus, the view from the crown is breathtaking.

Saratoga National Historical Park

Location: New York

About The Park: In 1777, the Battle at Saratoga was the first time in history that the British Army surrendered. It was a crucial battle in America’s quest for independence and a turning point for future world wars as other countries witnessed the fall of Britain.

Tours of the park are self-guided. Visitors can hike along the Wilkinson Trail or drive on the Tour Road. This is one of the National Parks in the Northeast you shouldn’t miss!

Why It’s Worth A Visit: This battlefield is the site of the first significant win during the American Revolution. It’s a monumental piece of American history.

It also marks a decisive point in the fight for independence when France, after the British surrendered, joined the Continental Army and recognized the independence of the United States.

There is no entrance fee to walk or drive around this acreage of early American history.

View of Saratoga National Historical Park, one of the parks in the northeast

National History and Natural Beauty: The National Parks of the Northeast Region

Although the Native Americans were here long before the first white settlers arrived from Europe, our nation’s modern history started on the East Coast. Here is where our government was born. We fought for our independence and struggled against slavery here.

You shouldn’t ignore the National Parks of the Northeast. They capture our national history and tell stories of a complicated past.

They also preserve the breathtaking beauty of rocky shorelines and sandy beaches. The next time you plan a National Park road trip, consider venturing to the Northeast to explore one or more of these national treasures.

Which site will you visit first?

1 comment
  1. Very unhappy that you didn’t even mention Pennsylvania! My favorite is the Delaware River bordering NY, NJ,Pa and De. I have paddled it from the beginning in NY all the way south. It is the ONLY UNDAMMED River east of the Mississippi. It has earned “Wild and Scenic” National designation in the Upper, Middle, and Lower. There has been a weeklong Delaware Sojourn paddled for over twenty five years, missing only 2020 die to Covid.

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