Just 65 miles northwest of DC is a national park that shares the boundaries of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The historic Harpers Ferry National Park along with the town of Harpers Ferry is an ideal combination of wonderful views, exhilarating hikes, thrilling activities, antique shops, delicious food, and rich history.
Ziplining Canopy Tour of River Riders
Zipline with an experienced guide of River Riders from one treetop to another separated 200 to 800 feet in length. The canopy tour consists of eight zip lines, two bridges and five ladder climbs built along the bank of the Shenandoah River, overlooking the Harper’s Ferry NP and the C&O Canal. It ends with a fun 25 feet free fall rappel.
You’ll be consumed in this adrenaline rushing activity for about 3 hours from registration to pack up. So I suggest you start your day early to leave plenty of time to explore the national park and the town. If you think the river is calling and you must go, then you can river raft, kayak, canoe, paddle board or tube too. Check out their website for most up-to-date costs and details about each of these.
Hike the Maryland Heights
This refreshing hike has hikers on it almost all the time. Start from the Lower Town and continue on a footbridge over the Potomac River followed by a short walk on the C&O Canal Towpath. That’s where the fun begins.
The first part of this hike marked with green blazes is a gradual ascent with a smooth terrain. The Naval Battery Park may seem like an overlook but it’s not really one, so feel free to skip it.
Join the rocky red trail to go down to the cliff. The scenery from this overlook is rewarding. The historic town of Harpers Ferry, connecting rail bridges, surrounding trees-laden mountains, and blue skies; they make a picture perfect spectacle to watch and have lunch.
If you want to get your heart racing and/or if you’re a history buff, take the suddenly steep blue trail on your way back to reach the Civil War Stone Fort. Once descended completely, look for any trains passing through the bridge.
Make sure you carry enough water for this 4.5 miles (or 6.5 miles if you choose the blue trail) round trip hike.
Eat at Mena’s Pizzeria
This locally owned Italian restaurant offers value for money choices. Appetize yourself with the garlic knots and place your order for the mouth-watering alfredo pasta. You can munch on the side of wholesome salad while waiting for the pasta. If there’s more room in that belly, get a pizza too. It’s all worth it on this awesome day.
Immerse in the history
The best part about the national parks in the United States is how in addition to getting us closer to nature, they also acquaint us with the American history. Most famous for John Brown’s raid against slavery in 1859, Harpers Ferry has a lot to offer to take you back in time. You can enter any or both of the visitor centers (Harpers Ferry and Lower Town) to see exhibits and learn about events that span different centuries. To take a deep dive, enquire with one of the rangers about the available history tours or workshops.
Mix and match at Creamy Creations
Creamy Creations serves a wide gamut of ice creams with flavors that rotate seasonally. You can mix and match scoops of ice cream or go for a large sundae. There are a few other equally tasty ice cream shops in Harpers Ferry. But the highlight of this local shop is the turquoise color themed outdoor seating. Hang out at this pebble-floored patio and gaze at the beautiful mountain ridges while you hear the train passing the station on the other side of the road.
Tread the Appalachian Trail
If you want to soak in a short Appalachian Trail experience, here’s your chance.
From the High Street, climb the stone steps that join the Appalachian Trail. Right at the beginning of the trail, you’ll notice a stone-made church with medieval architecture. If you keep going, you’ll find ruins of an old church. Keep going and you’ll meet the Jefferson Rock. Enjoy the lovely sight of the Harpers Ferry gap from this spot.
At this point, if your eyes are tempted to see grander views of the gap and your legs agree, follow the white trail marks that will make you cross a bridge over the Shenandoah River. Then follow the orange-blazed trail followed by the blue-blazed trail to reach the top of Loudon Heights. The perspective from the Split Overlook is worth the 7.5 miles round trip hike you signed up for.
- Park at the main lot of the park and hop on the free shuttle that takes you to the Lower Town. The town can be best explored on foot. There are a few 2-hour parking spots on the streets but you’ll be really lucky to find them empty.
- The zip line canopy tour with River Riders costs $85 inclusive of taxes but if you book a day pass with multiple activities, it’ll be cheaper overall. So, plan in advance if you can. Also, there are other outfitter groups in the vicinity that may offer cheaper and slightly varying options.
Comment below if the itinerary helps you make the most out of your day in this charming hillside town and park. Happy Exploring!