My husband and I moved to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia a couple of years. Since then, I have hiked every trail multiple times and different variations. Living near a national park has been so amazing.
Below are my favorite hikes. They aren’t really in any particular order since each trail is so different. Each trail has it’s own benefits and why you are heading out that day can really depend on which one you take.
Without further ado, let’s kick off my top three hikes in Harpers Ferry National Park.
Of course, Maryland Heights is on my list. The iconic view can’t be beat. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, it’s always beautiful. It’s also a great workout.
The trail itself is a steep climb for most of the way. While it’s a steep climb, the trail is wide and doesn’t have many obstacles, so that makes the climb easier.
If you haven’t gotten off the couch in a year and attempt this hike, it will probably make you fight with your husband in front of twenty other people (I’ve seen it more than once). If you are a light exerciser it will probably kick your ass, but you can make it.
Where to Park
The main starting point is in lower town Harpers Ferry. You can get there by parking at the MARC station. However, those spots are highly coveted on the weekends. Your best bet would be to park at the Visitor Center. From there you can either hike or take the bus down to lower town. If you take the bus (or walk), you head over the bridge, turn left, and take the C&O to the trail head.
Another option is to park at the trail head. Again, those spots are supreme real estate on a weekend afternoon. If you arrive before 10 a.m., you can probably snag a spot in lower town or at the trail head.
Different Variations for Maryland Heights
- If you walk to the back of the Visitor Center parking lot, there is a trail that takes you down to the lower town. It will add 1.6 miles to the hike. Once you get to lower town, it’s a walk over the bridge and a stint on the C&O to the trailhead.
- From the Information Center in lower town Harpers Ferry to the top of Maryland Heights without the side trails, it’s 4.5 miles.
- While on the trail, there is an option to go left and follow a blue blaze. This is the point where Abraham Lincoln said and I quote “F*ck that!” But, for real, he did turn around at this point. There’s a plaque that can tell you all about it and why. If you decide to follow this trail, you are kick ass and deserve ice cream when you make it back. You will see Civil War artillery batteries and a Civil War Stone Fort. In my opinion, they are not that impressive (my husband disagrees). The workout is worth it if you are looking for a challenge. This way is 6.5 miles back to the lower town area.
- Starting at the trailhead, off of Sandy Hook Road, is your next and shortest option. If you don’t do the side trails, it’s a 3 mile trip, roughly, that’s according to my Fitbit. For a more accurate mileage account see the plaque before you start. However, starting at the bottom is definitely your shortest option.
SchoolHouse Ridge South
This trail is one of my favorites in the park. It’s never crowded and it offers the most unique scenery. You walk past ruins, through fields, and then thrugh the woods by a stream. It’s a perfect trail if you want to get outside and do a moderate walk, while also beating the crowds.
The parking lot for SchoolHouse Ridge South is off of Millville Road. There are restrooms.
Different Variation for SchoolHouse South
- There are two different trails here that you can combine to do 3.7 miles. The first trail, and the one that takes you to the stream, is the Allstadt Farm Trail. The overlook isn’t anything to write home about, but it does show you the gap between Maryland and Loudoun Heights. The real gem of this trail are the sights along the way. If you only do this trail, it is a 2.5 mile loop.
- The next trail is 1.2 miles. It’s to the right of the parking lot and leads to a battery of cannon. There is a plaque that explains the Confederate tactics in 1862 in the middle of a pretty field.
My absolute favorite time to walk here is sunset when everything is golden. It’s incredibly peaceful. It’s also a great trail for kids and dogs.
Murphy-Chambers Farm Trail
I really think this trail is overlooked and under-rated. If you are looking for a quick walk, with a lot of reward, this is your trail. There is an overlook over the Shenandoah River that is beautiful, especially at sunrise or sunset.
To get to the parking lot for this trail, head like you are going to enter the national park. Take your first right onto Pointfield Drive. At the stop sign, the KOA will be in front of you, take a left. The entrance is at the end of the road. There is a parking lot if you follow the entrance road a little ways. There is a port-a-potty available at the parking lot, it’s hit or miss.
You can also park at the visitor center and walk over to the trail.
Different Variations for Murphy-Chambers Farm Trail
- If you start at the Visitor Center, head past the bathrooms and look across the road. You will see stairs leading up to the path that takes you to the trail. You’ll walk through a small forested area and over a little creek.
- If you start at the parking lot, you can go left or right around the field. It’s basically a large loop with trails that head back to the parking lot at different intervals. There’s a mulched trail that heads into the woods that offers another river view and a peek at some Civil War earthworks. The mulched trail loops back to the main trail. There’s a footbridge in the forested park that you can take there and back 0.5 miles to a small creek.
This trail is totally customizeable. You can make it 1 to 3 miles. You can start at the parking lot, walk to the visitor center, and follow the road back to the parking lot to make it longer. It’s a great trail for kids, with lots to explore, and little traffic.
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