The town of Harpers Ferry occupies less than 1 square mile, but has plenty of trails that are perfect for hikers of all abilities. Nestled at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, Harpers Ferry is rich with history. It changed hands 8 times during the Civil War, because its position at the meeting point of the 2 rivers put it in a strategic location. Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, which is managed by the National Park Service and is considerably larger than the town itself, has roughly 20 miles of hiking trails.
What Makes It Great
The trails within the park vary from short and easy to long and challenging. There are 7 routes; a few stay near the town, while others cross either the Potomac or the Shenandoah and have some climbing. The Loudoun Heights and Maryland Heights trails have stunning views at the top.
You can start any of the hikes in either Harpers Ferry itself or just outside the town. If you are looking for something easy to moderate, the Visitor Center to Lower Town route takes you 1.6 miles along the Shenandoah River into Harpers Ferry. You can also try the Murphy-Chambers Farm trail, which follows a loop west of the Visitors Center. If you hit all the side trails along the way, the it measures about 3 miles.
For a more challenging hike, start in Harpers Ferry and cross the bridge over the Potomac into Maryland. At 6.5 miles round trip, the Maryland Heights trail gains more than 1,500 feet in elevation as it climbs high above the river. The Loudoun Heights trail is similar— 7.5 miles round trip and tops out at more than 1,000 feet in elevation. The stunning view from the third overlook, though, is what makes the leg-burning ascent well worth it.
There is another short option on the West Virginia side of the rivers that’s great for dog walkers or families with small children. A hike on the Bolivar Heights and School House Ridge North trails can be anywhere from 0.3 miles to 2.4 miles on easy to moderate terrain. This trail has amazing views and a historic past.
Who is Going to Love It
The trails within Harpers Ferry National Historic Park are short, long, easy, difficult, and everything in between. New hikers or folks who don't want to go out for a 3-hour hike can take a leisurely stroll on some of the shorter options closer to town. Experienced hikers who want a challenge can head across either of the 2 rivers for a fun day of hiking.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Harpers Ferry is off Route 340, which passes through Virginia and West Virginia. There are several parking lots in the area.