Program inspires preservation and healthy lifestyles through promotion of unique cultural and natural destinations

Interested in tasting locally made cheese and wine? Biking the rail trail from Topsfield to Danvers? Exploring the night sky in Amesbury or learning about organic farming in Newbury? How about a behind-the-scenes tour of Saugus Iron Works or Salem Maritime National Historic Sites? Blacksmithing in the forge at the Lawrence History Center, seeing some of the oldest Tiffany glass windows in the world, or kayaking through the Great Marsh?  No matter what your interest or passion, you can find something to learn, explore, and enjoy during Trails & Sails: Two Weekends of Walks and Water on September 18-20 and 25-27, 2015!

Presented by Essex Heritage and sponsored by Eastern Bank, Trails & Sails features more than 150 free events over two weekends and celebrates the rich variety of historic, cultural and natural resources in the Essex National Heritage Area. Encompassing the 34 cities and towns of Essex County, a 500 square mile region just north of Boston, MA, the Essex National Heritage Area was created by an Act of the U.S. Congress in 1996 in recognition of the important role that the county played in American history and the significant heritage resources that still exist in the region. 

Trails & Sails was created by Essex Heritage fourteen years ago to highlight the unique character of the Area by directly connecting people to place through 150+ creative experiences — with the goal of provoking a commitment to preserving them. “It is our mission to knit together the exceptional places of Essex County – the places that make this area like nowhere else – in a fun way that inspires residents and visitors to make connections between their lives and these sites,” explained Annie Harris, Essex Heritage CEO.  “Through programs like Trails and Sails that encourage exploration, we are not only enhancing tourism, but we are also building partnerships and engaging the public in sustaining the places that make this region so unique.” 

This year’s event is expected to attract more than 5,000 participants who can take advantage of a variety of walks, guided hikes, paddles, historical tours, lectures and other activities – happening morning, afternoon and evening – based on personal interests.  Possible itineraries include:

  • Art Lovers:  Join a photo tour of Downtown Lynn or of the historic mills in Lawrence; experience public art in Gloucester, Haverhill or Salem; listen to the Essex Harmony’s Trails & Sails concert in Danvers; see the highlight anticipated “Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen” in Salem; visit with artists and their works in the galleries of the King Hooper Mansion in Marblehead; 
  • History Buffs:  Discover Essex County’s Civil War history at various locations – from the Powder House in Newburyport to Hilldale Cemetery in Haverhill; go behind-the-scenes at Salem Maritime or Saugus Iron Works National Historic Sites; dig into history (literally!) at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers; take an evening stroll all about Marblehead’s Architecture 1715 and beyond.
  • Foodies:  Enjoy a cheese making tour at Valley View Farm in Topsfield;  learn about the cornucopia of plants that can be eaten or used medicinally in Manchester; explore winemaking in Rowley; learn about organic farming systems in Newbury.
  • Outdoor Enthusiasts:  Explore the beautiful bridges of Maudslay State Park in Newburyport; take a walking tour of Lynn Woods; go bird watching and explore the nesting box program in Groveland; stop in North Andover to explore Harold Parker State Forest; head out to Rockport for the Millbrook Meadow & Rockport Cultural District Tour; enjoy a guided kayak tour of the Great Marsh. 

All Trails & Sails events are free and most are available on a first-come, first serve basis, with the exception of a few reservations required events. Visit to see the complete listing of events and design a personalized itinerary. A limited number of free hard-copy guides will be available at the 13 Essex National Heritage Area Visitor Centers and at our sponsor, Eastern Bank, locations after Labor Day (September 7, 2015).

Take the Trails & Sails Challenge: MOVE IT!

With events to take place throughout the cities and towns of Essex County, Trails & Sails participants are encouraged to challenge themselves during Trails & Sails by participating in Move It!, Essex Heritage and the YMCA of the North Shore’s campaign to be more active in the Essex National Heritage Area’s great outdoors. Ready to accept? Register for Move It! online at to start tracking any miles you run, swim, hike, and bike.

About Trails & Sails

Trails & Sails: Two Weekends of Walks and Water is Essex Heritage’s premier partnership event celebrating the historic, cultural and natural treasures of the Essex National Heritage Area. Coordinated by Essex Heritage as an integral part of our mission, TRAILS & SAILS raises regional awareness of the Area’s unique history and promotes the preservation of its heritage sites.

Trails & Sails 2015 is sponsored by Eastern Bank.