by Robert A. Greaves
The Pilgrim Trail is a 10 mile circular trail through Plymouth, Massachusetts. It passes by or through a number of historic locations. The trail is almost entirely on pavement. Drinking water can be hard to find on the trail.
The trail starts and finishes at the information center at Exit 5 on Route 3, where there is ample parking, rest rooms and additional information available about the attractions in the area. Address:
5 Long Pond Road
The Indian totem at the visitors center was erected in 1983, and was hand-carved by Peter "Wolf" Toth, who has placed a totem in each state in the union.
To hike the trail, walk to the south end of the parking lot and continue on the paved footpath to pass under the exit ramp, turn left onto Long Pond Road. [As of Sept 2016, that underpass is closed, so you have to follow the ramps out to the street.] Follow this (becomes South Street after a few hundred yards) for about a mile and a half, then go left on Pleasant Street. You will come to the Training Green.
Training Green - The Training Green was "town property for public and common benefit". Pilgrims trained their militia here, with Miles Standish as their instructor. Later in revolutionary times, minutemen prepared for duty with the Continental Army. In the late 19th century, Nathanial Morton of Plymouth and the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Ohmstead Sr., the designer of Central Park in New York, the Capital grounds in Washington D.C., and Boston Commons combined their talents to make the area into a park. The school you see as you look to the northeast is named after Nathanial Morton. The monument to the Plymouth dead was built in 1869. On the four corners are the emblems of the infantry, the artillery, the cavalry, and the navy. there is also a dedication and a listing of the 68 sons of Plymouth that fell in that war.
Continue north on Pleasant Street, just before the bridge, turn left through a gap in the guardrail to enter Brewster Gardens.
Town Brook The fresh water from Town Brook was a major reason for the Mayflower travellers to settle here.
Walk along the path (SW) following Town Brook until you reach the Plimouth Grist Mill.
Plimouth Grist Mill - The original Grist Mill was built was built by John Jenny, a brewery worker, and was Plymouth's first mill. The Grist Mill's parking lot provides an optional starting place for a shorter (5 mile) hike that will allow more sightseeing time.)
Turn right (northwest) on Spring Lane, cross at the intersection of Summer street, and continue up Spring Lane (now a paved footpath) to the top of Burial Hill.
Burial Hill - The peak of Burial Hill was the site of the Fort Meeting House. The earliest graves here were left unmarked. Governor Bradford is thought to be buried near his son Major William Bradford. Pilgrim John Howland's grave lies on the westerly slope of the hill. Other graves of interest are: Edward Gray, who arrived in Plymouth in 1643, and Robert Cushman, who was the Pilgrims chief agent in London. Many other stones here are notable for their carvings and inscriptions.
Continue through Burial Hill and take a path to the left at the top of the hill. You will come to the Old Powder House.
Old Powder House - The Old Powder House is the site where powder and shot for the fort were stored. THe current powder house is a replica.
Walk on South Russell Street, cross Russell Street onto Allerton Street, cross Samoset Street (Route 44) and continue on Allerton Street to the top of the hill. Turn left into the grounds of the Forefathers Monument.
Forefathers Monument - Before you is the National Monument to the Forefathers. It is 81 feet tall and was designed by Hammatt Billings. The cornerstone was laid in 1859 and was completed and dedicated in August of 1889 at a cost of $150,000. The central figure is Faith, who stands with her foot on Plymouth Rock, the four figures seated below her are Morality, Education, Law, and Liberty. There are portable toilets at this site, at least during summertime.
When leaving the monument grounds, turn left onto Allerton Street which turns right after a few hundred yards, turn left onto Alden Street, turn right onto Standish Avenue, and right onto Hall Street. At the bottom of Hall Street cross Court Street onto the field.
Holmes Reservation - You are now standing at Holmes Reservation, "property donated and maintained as open land by the Trustees of Reservations". If you look out across the harbor, you can see Clarks island where the exploring party that found Plymouth Harbor spent their first night ashore.
Turn right (south) on Court Street, turn left onto Nelson Street, at the end of Nelson Street is Nelson Memorial.
Nelson Memorial Park - Nelson Memorial Park is a public park and beach, with a sprinkler park. There are rest rooms open here during the summertime.
Turn right onto Water Street, after you pass the Town Wharf on your left, you will see a yellow house on the right side of the street. This is the Hedge House.
Hedge House - The Hedge House was built by a sea captain on Court Street in 1809. In 1921, when it was threatened with demolition, the Plymouth Antiquarian Society moved it to its present site. In May 1992 the name was changed from Antiquarian House to Hedge House, named after a family that once lived there.
Continue south on Water Street, turn right onto Chilton Street. At the top of Chilton Street, you come to Pilgrim Hall.
Pilgrim Hall Museum - The Pilgrim Hall Museum was designed by Alexander Parris in 1824 and is the oldest museum in continuous service in America.
As of September 2016, the Pilgrim Trail Patch, formerly available at Plymouth Trophy and Awards, is no longer available. The store itself, formerly located on Court Street, is no longer in business at that location.
Turn left on Court Street, left onto Howland Street and right onto Water street to continue south. Turn left onto the State Pier to view the Mayflower II.
Mayflower II - Mayflower II, a replica of the Mayflower (more specificaly, a copy of a typical English merchant ship of the seventeenth century. It was built in England and sailed across the Atlantic in 1957 to her berth at the State pier. She is 106 feet long and weighs 181 tons.
As you leave the State Pier, continue south on Water street, you will come to the statue of the Pilgrim Mother on the right. This statue was sculptured by Paul O'Jennewein and lists the names of the women of the Mayflower.
Plymouth Rock - Plymouth Rock is a short distance south and is traditionally described as the landing spot of the Pilgrims. Though the rock was moved several times over the years, it was finally returned to the shore and placed under this portico about 1920.
Continuing south a short distance will bring you to the statue of Governor William Bradford which was designed by Cyrus Dallin.
Return to Plymouth Rock, cross Water Street and climb the steps up Coles Hill.
Coles Hill - Coles Hill was named after James Cole who held the land in 1633. It was the first burial place in Plymouth . Fifty Pilgrims ( almost half their number ) were buried there in the first winter, in 1621 it was leveled and planted to conceal from the indians the reduced number of settlers. There are coin operated telescopes at the top to view the area. The bronze statue of Massasoit, the Indian chief, who befriended and helped the Pilgrims was also designed by Cyrus Dillan and was erected in 1921. The Sarcophagus holds the bones that have been discovered at various times in this first burying ground. As you continue south along the top of Coles Hill, there are several other monuments such as the rock memorializing the Gurnet Fortifications.
Follow Carver Street south along the top of Coles Hill and merge with Leyden Street - the first street in Plymouth. In 1621 the Pilgrims laid out their street parallel to Town Brook. For many years it was just called 'The Street' and it ran from the sea to the base of Burial Hill (then called Fort Hill). As you walk this street, you will find many plaques dedicated to the pilgrim families that lived there first. At the traffic light Leyden street crosses Main Street and enters Town Square.
Town Square Surrounding Town Square are : the Church of the Pilgrimage which was erected in 1840 and is the chartering partner of Troop and Pack 47 in Plymouth ; the stone church at the top of the square is the fifth meeting house of the First Parish in Plymouth, it was erected in 1898 and maintained a continuing ministry since 1620 ; and the 1749 Court House which is the oldest wooden court house and the longest used municipal building in America. This building also housed the first public market. Behind the Court house are public rest rooms.
Follow Market street south over the bridge at Town Brook. If you started the hike at the Jenny Grist Mill turn right through the gate into Brewster Gardens and follow the path back to the parking lot.
If you started the hike at the information center, follow Market Street past Dunkin Dunuts and onto Sandwich Street. Just a few hundred yard later, the building on your right is the Howland House.
Howland House is the only building still standing in Plymouth in which one of the original Mayflower Pilgrims actually lived. It was built in 1667 by two master carpenters, John Alden and Kenelin Winslow .
Go south on Sandwich street, as you pass the Training Green, notice the 1919 Elm which was planted by the school children of Plymouth after World war 1.
Still going south, you will come to the Harlow Old Fort House.
Harlow Old Fort House - This house was built in 1667 by Sergeant William Harlow Using the original timbers from the old fort on top of Burial Hill.
Walk south until you come to Jabez Corner (a general store not marked as such) bear right on Sandwich street and right again onto Obery street. At the end of Obery Street bear left, go under Route 3 and follow the paved path back to the information center to end the hike.
Note: This is an updated version of the hike based on a posting on the Troop 47 website.
Troop 54 on the Pilgrim Trail
Page updated 12/20/19