Saint Gaudens National Historical Park may not be on your “short list” of places to see in the United States. As the only National Park Service site that is solely inside the State of New Hampshire, this place is a wonderful spot to spend a half-day exploring the grounds and learning about Augustus-Saint Gaudens, the sculptor after which the park was named.
The highlights of Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park include visiting the private summer residence of Saint-Gaudens and seeing his original sculptures and studio, but what is most surprising is found outdoors. The beautiful gardens, impressive mountain views and two short hiking trails provide a good opportunity to spend time outside if the weather is suitable for such activity.
It’s likely that visiting New England (particularly in the fall) is on your bucket list. Visiting Saint Gaudens National Historical Park is a great thing to do on your journey up here, or while up in Maine visiting the more well-known Acadia National Park or nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in nearby Woodstock, VT.
SAINT-GAUDENS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK HISTORY
Augustus Saint-Gaudens purchased the property in 1885 as his summer residence. Augustus was already a renowned sculptor, creating over 150 pieces of art and public monuments after studying in Italy. As the leader of a group of artists called the “Cornish Colony” (named after the town of Cornish, New Hampshire), he used his summer home as a place to sculpt and recharge.
Saint-Gaudens lived in the property full-time for the last seven years of his life and ultimately passed away in 1907. His wife, Augusta, continued to live here until her death in 1923. Shortly after Augusta’s death, the property transitioned to being run as a museum before it turned into a National Historic Landmark in 1962. It became a National Historic Site in 1977 and was recently re-designated into a National Historical Park in late 2019.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN SAINT-GAUDENS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
The entire area contained by the site is just 370 acres. While small for a National Park Site, there is still plenty to do to keep you busy for a few hours when visiting the park. After parking in the main parking lot, it is a short walk to the visitor center, which is where the journey begins.
While visiting Saint-Gaudens National Historical Site, we recommend seeing:
- Saint-Gaudens Visitor Center. The visitor center is small, but a great place to start for your visit. Here you can talk to the on-staff ranger for the latest information and learn about any guided tours that are planned for the day.
- Guided Tours. There are several different guided tours that occur throughout the day, including discussion on Civil War Monuments, how sculptures are created and information about Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
- Aspet Tour. “Aspet” was the name given to the house. Self-guided tours are allowed throughout most of the day. The house is open between 10 and 11:45 am and 1 to 4 pm. Only 12 visitors are allowed in the house at any one time. The tour is limited to the first floor only, but the walk through the house gives you a look back in time, as some of the original furniture and decorations are still in the house.
- Tour the Grounds and Gardens. The grounds are beautifully maintained, with lush gardens, impressive sculptures and monuments, farm stables and the artist’s studios. Plan on spending at least 30 minutes walking around the grounds and exploring the inside of the park’s buildings. Our favorite was the Little Studio, which had a nice atrium and an amazing view.
Hiking. Though it will be hard to find someone who considers Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park a hiker’s paradise, there is still a surprising amount of trails to experience in this small park. Here is a quick overview of your options:
- The Ravine Trail is the easiest and shortest of the two main trails in the park. The hike descends steeply for the first few hundred feet before flattening out along the Blow-Me-Up Brook. You’ll have the opportunity to head down a spur at the end of the hike (before ascending), and this extra bit is well worth it to see some small cascades on the brook. This hike is only about 0.5 miles long, but you’ll have to walk about 1.0 mile on this hike since that is only a one-way distance. There are generally two routes that you can take. The first option is to head out and back on the same trail. The second option is to head out in one direction and then head back on the large lawn. The Ravine Trail begins behind the Ravine Studio against the woods.
- If you are in the mood for a longer hike, the Blow-Me-Down Trail is another option that you may want to consider. This 2.4-mile (round-trip) trail heads down near a pond and ends near Route 12 at an old mill. The hike is not difficult, but it will take a bit of time. If you don’t have the time or energy, you can check out the mill property right from Route 12. The Blow-Me-Down trail begins on the eastern end of the lawn.
Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park hiking map, courtesy of the National Park Service
WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING SAINT-GAUDENS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Lodging: There is no lodging inside the park. If you want to stay in the area, we recommend spending the evening in Hanover, NH or Woodstock, VT (which is near the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park as well. Another option is Norwich, VT.
DIRECTIONS TO SAINT-GAUDENS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND OTHER TRAVEL INFORMATION
While the “Upper Valley” of New Hampshire is considered to be a metropolis by the locals, it is quite a distance from any major cities. It’s likely if you are coming up here that you are coming from New York or Boston. Whatever your path, you’re in for a bit of a drive through rolling mountains and beautiful scenery.
- Boston to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park: 137 miles; 2 hours and 11 min
- New York City to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park: 250 miles; 4 hours and 5Gaudens min
- Burlington, VT to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park: 103 miles; 1 hour and 42 min
BEST TIME TO VISIT SAINT-GAUDENS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
The park is open year-round to visitors, though if you come here in the colder months of the year you’ll only be able to access the hiking trails. The visitor center and building are open from late May (usually Memorial Day) through late October.
If you go early in the summer, the flowers will not quite be in bloom, so we recommend visiting after the 3rd week in June to be sure to see the gardens in all their splendor.
RELATED INFORMATION ON SAINT-GAUDENS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Be sure to check out our wide selection of WPA Style National Park Posters, including our Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park poster.
- If you want a poster made from a photo you send to us, then check out our unique custom, vintage travel poster. We’ve made thousands and would love to work with you!