The point - Harpers Ferry

11 Best Scenic + Historical Harpers Ferry Hiking Trails (2023)

The Lifestyle Travelers contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. Read our disclaimer for more information.


LOOKING FOR THE BEST HARPERS FERRY HIKING TRAILS?

The historical small town of Harpers Ferry has plenty to offer – civil war attractions, 19th-century museums, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and the most amazing hiking trails!

Bordering Virginia and Maryland, Harpers Ferry is located in West Virginia where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet. The hiking trails surrounding Harpers Ferry have got it all. From rocky heights, rich forests, and deep ravines, you’ll have plenty of views to choose from on your visit.

The Point

11 Harpers Ferry Hiking Trails of 2023: Overview

After you spend your morning learning about the town’s fascinating history, head to one of these hiking trails to take in the scenery at Harpers Ferry!

  • Bolivar Heights
  • Virginius Island and Hall Island
  • C&O Canal Towpath
  • Murphys Chamber
  • Schoolhouse Ridge North
  • Visitor Center from Lower Town
  • Camp Hill
  • Schoolhouse Ridge South
  • Overlook Cliff Trail
  • Loudoun Heights
  • Stone Fort Trail

11 Best Harpers Ferry Hiking Trails (2023)

Harpers Ferry is a prime location for hiking the Blue Ridge mountains. Depending on where you hike, you could visit three states in one day! All hiking trails in Harpers Ferry are open from sunrise to sunset.

Here are the 11 best hiking trails in Harpers Ferry, listed from easiest to hardest.

1. Bolivar Heights

Bolivar Heights is one of the best Harpers Ferry hiking trails if you’re interested in Civil War history. In this area, you’ll walk among civil war terrain and see Cannon and earthworks. You’ll also learn about civil war strategies as you pass through the wayside exhibits along the trail.

Aside from the history, this trail offers fantastic views of the Blue Ridge mountains, the Potomac River, and the Shenandoah Valley. This is by far the shortest and easiest hiking trail in Harpers Ferry, but you can always choose to extend your hike if you’d like.

There are a few different routes you can take to explore Bolivar Heights…

Trailhead: Crest Loop
Distance: .3 miles
Route Type: Loop
Elevation Gain: 6.6 feet
Average Time to Complete: 6 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Bolivar Heights Overlook

Bolivar Heights Overlook Trail in the winter - one of Harpers Ferry's easiest hiking trails

Upper Loop

Field in Harpers Ferry

Trailhead: Crest Loop → Earthworks Trail → Upper Loop
Distance: 1.3 miles
Route Type: Loop
Elevation Gain: 204 feet
Average Time to Complete: 55 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead: Crest Loop → Earthworks Trail → Upper Loop → Skirmish Line Loop
Distance: 2.4 miles
Route Type: Loop
Elevation Gain: 296 feet
Average Time to Complete: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Upper and Lower Loop

Artillery at Bolivar Heights

Notes about this trail: 

  • Multiple access points and parking lots.
  • No potable water is available on the trail.
  • Restrooms are available at the Bolivar Heights parking area.

2. Virginius Island and Hall Island Trails

If you’re looking for an easy Harpers Ferry hiking trail that includes both history and great nature views, Virignius and Hall’s Island Trail is the one for you!

On this trail, you’ll travel through the riparian forest along the Shenandoah River and experience the blooming wildflowers, and natural wildlife. You’ll weave through various exhibits and see mill, turbine, and waterwork ruins, experiencing the history of the area. You’ll also have the opportunity to check out John Hall Rifle’s Work along the way.

Virginius Island Waterpowered Mill and factory ruins

Trailhead: Virginius Island and Hall Island Trail
Distance: 1 mile
Route Type: Loop
Elevation Gain: 23 feet
Average Time to Complete: 18 minutes
Difficulty: Easy


Notes about this trail:

  • Drinking water and restrooms are available in Lower Town near the bookstore. 
  • Avoid walking on the railroad tracks – they are still in use. 
  • Multiple access points.
  • Can be walked in any direction.

3. C&O Canal Towpath

If you’re looking for a casual walk in Harpers Ferry, consider taking the C&O Canal Towpath along the Potomac River. This hiking trail is perfect for an afternoon stroll, a laid-back bike ride, or a place to cast your fishing pole.

On your way to the trail, you’ll cross the bridge from Harpers Ferry and stand over the infamous “point” where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet.

Once you cross over to the other side of the footbridge, you’ll have the option to take the towpath to the east – towards Brunswick, or west – towards Shepherdstown. This is a great trail if you have no destination in mind, and just want to enjoy the simple joys of the outdoors.

Take the trail in whichever direction for however long you’d like! This Harpers Ferry hiking trail is easy because there is little elevation gain and no end point to reach!

C&O Towpath in Harpers Ferry

Trailhead: Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath
Distance: 17.9 miles long (through Harpers Ferry)
Route Type: Out and Back
Elevation Gain: 54 feet
Average Time to Complete: 10 minutes – 4.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy


Notes about this trail:

  • Passes through DC, MD, and WV.
  • Open 365 days a year. 
  • No restrooms or potable water is available other than when passing through towns.

4. Murphys Chamber

Murphys Chamber is the perfect Harpers Ferry hiking trail to complete after stopping at the Visitor Center. You’ll experience great river views and historical landmarks along the way!

This hiking trail really highlights the beauty of the Shenandoah River and the surrounding mountain range. Check out the Civil War cannon and earthwork sites, as well as one of the previous locations of John Brown Fort by doing the full loop.

From the visitors center, you’ll cross Shoreline Drive, past a small creek, and up towards an unpaved road. From here, you can decide whether to stay on the road or follow the tree line. No matter which route you take, you’ll find yourself at a magnificent overlook of the river.

If you’d like to keep the route short, take a turn at the Murphy’s Chamber house to complete the loop:

Overlook of the Shenandoah River from Murphys Chamber

Trailhead: Murphys Chamber Farm Trail
Distance: 1-mile
Route Type: Loop
Elevation Gain: 187 feet
Average Time to Complete: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

If you’d like to see the historical sites on this hiking trail, continue straight towards the River Vista.

Additional sites on this hiking trail are the Niagra Movement’s 1906 pilgrimage and the scene of 1862 Confederate General A.P Hill’s flanking maneuver. Learn more about the history through the wayside exhibits near the overlook.

Trailhead: Murphys Chamber Farm Trail
Distance: 2.9 miles
Route Type: Loop
Elevation Gain: 259 feet
Average Time to Complete: 1 hour 6 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Overlook of Murphys Chamber

Notes about this trail: 

  • The trail can also be accessed by the Murphy Chambers Farm parking area.
  • Stay off of fragile earthworks to help keep them preserved. 
  • Water is available at the Visitors Center but will be shut off during winter to prevent freezing.
  • Restrooms are available at the Visitor’s Center. 

The Hiking Apparel Guide

Enter your name and email to download the FREE hiking apparel guide!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    5. Schoolhouse Ridge North Trail

    Schoolhouse Ridge is a hiking trail in Harpers Ferry with a wide-open view. Walk through rolling farm hills as you see the terrain from Bolivar Heights, Maryland Heights, the Confederate perspective of 1862, and cannons from the Civil War.

    Overall, this is one of the best trails to observe the Civil War terrain because of the cannons that fan across the area.

    Unlike other hiking trails in Harpers Ferry, this route offers little to no shade, so consider bringing a hat, adequate water, and sunscreen if you’re visiting during the summer months.

    Schoolhouse Ridge North - a breathtaking hiking trail in Harpers Ferry with historical attractions

    Trailhead: Moler Farm Trail
    Distance: 1.75 miles
    Route Type: Loop
    Elevation Gain: 110 feet
    Average Time to Complete: 36 minutes
    Difficulty: Moderate


    Notes on this trail:

    • Accessible by the Schoolhouse Ridge parking lot or by crossing the road from the Bolivar Heights parking area. 
    • Pit toilets available at the trailhead – do NOT dispose of any items in the toilet including toilet paper to prevent damaging the equipment. Pack everything you bring out with you. 
    • No potable water is available.

    6. Visitor Center from Lower Town

    This hiking trail is a great route to take from the Visitor Center parking lot to the town of Harpers Ferry. There are free shuttle buses available, however, this trail is a great alternative for those who have pets or just want extra exercise.

    This trail begins near the center of the tree line just south of the visitor center building, behind the main parking lot. This is a great trail to see Harpers Ferry wildlife including, geese, turtles, herons, wood ducks, and if you’re lucky, muskrats or beavers.

    The only reason this hike is considered moderate is that the trail begins by descending 97 stone steps. As you pass through the wetlands, you’ll also encounter waterfalls, a pulp mill, and remnants of the Shenandoah Canal along the way into town.

    Bridge from Visitors Center to Lower Town Harpers Ferry

    Trailhead: Shenandoah Trail
    Distance: 1.7 miles
    Route Type: Out and Back (One Way)
    Elevation Gain: 50 feet
    Average Time to Complete: 45 minutes
    Difficulty: Moderate


    Notes about this trail: 

    • Restrooms are available at the visitor’s center. 
    • Water is available at the visitors center but is shut off during the winter months. 
    • This return trip up the steps can be strenuous. 
    • This route crosses Shoreline Drive, so be careful of cars and the shuttle while crossing. 
    • Keep dogs and children off the pavement.

    7. Camp Hill

    This hiking trail, also known as Harper’s Ferry Appalachian Trail Loop provides a fantastic saunter through various landmarks. The route has mountain and river views, but you also have an opportunity to see Jefferson Rock, Harper Cemetery, Storer College Campus, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Center.

    Begin your hike at the Information Center in Lower Town and begin your ascent up 62 historic stone steps to Jefferson Rock. From there, you have a few options on how to complete the loop.

    If you’re interested in making your hike longer, continue onto the Appalachian Trail up the stone steps to reach the former Storer College Campus. To see the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Center, continue up the steps, and take a left onto Filmore Road until you arrive at your destination. This will add another 1.2 miles to your trip.

    From the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Center, you have two options to get back into town. You can backtrack to Filmore Road and walk that back, or you can take a right from the building and take Washington Street towards town.

    To bypass the campus and conservancy center, you’ll continue along the Appalachian Trail until you take a slight left onto Cliff Trail where you’ll descend toward Shenandoah Street. Be careful as you decline and cross the road.

    From there, you’ll pass the mill ruins, and complete the circuit back to Lower Town using the Virginius Island Trail system.

    Flowers blooming on Virginius Trail

    Trailhead: Appalachian Trail → Cliff Trail → Viriginius Island Trail
    Distance: 1.8 miles
    Route Type: Loop
    Elevation Gain: 213 feet
    Average Time to Complete: 44 minutes
    Difficulty: Moderate


    Notes about this trail: 

    • The Appalachian Trail is open 24/7, however, the Harpers Ferry trails are only open from sunrise to sunset. 
    • Drinking water is available in Lower Town and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Center.
    • Restrooms are available in Lower Town near the Bookstore or at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

    8. Schoolhouse Ridge South

    Harpers Ferry School House Ridge South hiking trail offers all-inclusive views of the area of the region as you make your way along the ridge line.

    See sweeping views of Maryland Heights, Loudoun Heights, and Bolivar Heights during your trip. This route offers countless different views of Flowing Springs Run, farmland, forest and glade sights, various ruins, and Civil War cannons. 

    There are two options for exploring the School House Ridge South area of Harpers Ferry: Courtney’s Battery Trail and Allstadt Farm Trail. Choose which route to take based on which sites you’d like to see!

    Courtney’s Battery Trail is the shorter option that really emphasizes the area’s Civil War history. Along the way, you’ll find a battery of cannons and additional sights that exhibit the confederacy tactics used in 1862. 

    Open field in West Virginia

    Trailhead: Courtney’s Battery Trail
    Distance: 1.2 miles
    Route Type: Loop
    Elevation Gain: 75 feet
    Average Time to Complete: 30-40 minutes
    Difficulty: Moderate

    Allstadt Farm Trail is a longer trail where you’ll travel through open fields, the plush forest, and along the flowing river. From this trail, you’ll see ruins of a 19th-century farmhouse, Flowing Springs Run, and Maryland and Loudon Heights.

    Trailhead: Allstadt Farm Trail
    Distance: 2.5 miles
    Route Type: Loop
    Elevation Gain: 230 feet
    Average Time to Complete: 1.5 hours
    Difficulty: Moderate

    Allstadt Ruins - on the Harpers Ferry hiking trail Southhouse Ridge South

    Combine the two loops to create a 3.7-mile-long loop.


    Notes about this hike:

    • Both trails can be accessed from the parking lot at 2083 Millville Road.
    • Check trail closings due to sinkholes before your trip.
    • Pit toilets are available at the trailhead – do NOT dispose of any items in the toilet. including toilet paper to prevent damaging the equipment. Pack everything you bring out with you. 
    • No potable water is available.

    9. Overlook Cliff Trail

    Explore Maryland Heights by taking one of the most famous hiking trails in Harpers Ferry: the Overlook Cliff Trail. This is a great trail to see the all-encompassing Harpers Ferry through the area’s natural landscape and important aspects of its history.

    On this trail, you’ll see breathtaking views overlooking the river, natural geology, and sites that illustrate the town’s civil war, industrial, and transportation history.

    Beginning from the Information Center in Lower Town, you’ll make your way to the footbridge that crosses the river. As you cross, you’ll walk through “the point,” where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet.

    Once you’re across the bridge, you’ll take a left onto the C&O towpath for .3 miles. You’ll then need to cross over a wooden bridge and across the road to reach the Maryland Heights trailhead with the green blaze.

    Continue on this trail and take a slight right to see the historic naval battery. Continue walking uphill and take the red blaze trail to Overlook Cliff. It’s all uphill, so make sure you’ve got enough water and good shoes for this one!

    Overlook Cliff hiking trail at Harpers Ferry - one of the best views of the historical town

    Trailhead: Overlook Cliff Trail
    Distance: 4.5 miles
    Route Type: Out and Back
    Elevation Gain: 1,154 feet
    Average Time to Complete: 3 hours 24 minutes
    Difficulty: Moderate


    Notes about this trail:

    • No potable water. The closest water is at the Visitors Center or Lower Town. 
    • Restrooms are not available. The closest restroom is located at the Visitors Center or in Lower Town near the bookstore. 
    • Extremely uphill. Make sure you bring enough water, sunscreen, and a hat – especially in the summer months. 
    • Pack out all trash.

    10. Loudoun Heights

    One of Harpers Ferry’s more challenging hiking trails, Loudoun Heights provides the only view into the city of Pleasant Valley. This rewarding hike brings you to the Split Rock overlook where you can see the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers from above.

    Experience part of the Appalachian trail on this route as you wind through formations of quartzite and phyllite rock. This route is great for more experienced hikers who want to see multiple views of the rivers, Harpers Ferry, neighboring cities, and beyond.

    There are multiple ways to access the trailhead, depending on your location and preference for route length.

    To complete the full hike, begin at the Information Center at Lower Town and take the Camp Hill trail up to Jefferson Rock. Continue on the Appalachian trail until you reach the highway bridge, where you’ll take a left through the parking lot to continue on the trail.

    If you’re near the Virignius and Hall Island trails, explore the river’s shoreline as you make your way up the highway until you see the bridge. Similarly, from the main parking area at the visitors center, take the Visitor Center to Lower Town trail until you reach the bridge.

    There is the River Access Parking Lot just below the highway bridge, however, it is intended for visitors using the river access and fills quickly.

    Overlook of Harpers Ferry from Loundon Heights Trail

    Trailhead: Appalachian Trail → Blue Trail 
    Distance: 7.5 miles
    Route Type: Out and Back
    Elevation Gain: 1,377 feet
    Average Time to Complete: 4-5.5 hours
    Difficulty: Moderately strenuous


    Notes about this trail: 

    • Appalachian Trail is open 24/7, however, Harpers Ferry Trails are only open from sunrise to sunset. 
    • No potable water on this trail.
    • No restrooms are available on this trail. The closest bathrooms are in Lower Town near the Bookstore or at the Visitors Center. 
    • Pack out everything you bring.

    11. Stone Fort Trail

    This hiking trail is another great way to experience Harpers Ferry and serves as an add-on to the Overlook Cliff Trail. This route offers additional sites such as 30 and 100-pound batteries, Stone Fort, and breastworks, and is a great way to experience Harpers Ferry while getting in a workout.

    This route is a nice 2.2-mile extension from the overlook cliff. You’ll receive all of the same breathtaking views and experience more Civil War history. Take in the shade as you walk uphill through the bountiful forest and through the rocky cliffs.

    Access to the trail begins from the Information Center. You’ll cross the footbridge, take a left onto the C&O towpath, and cross the wooden bridge and road until you reach the Maryland Heights trailhead.

    From there, follow the green blaze until the fork. There, you’ll take the blue blaze onto Stone Fort Trail. You’ll make a loop and can stop at Overlook Cliff. The loop can be done in either direction.

    If you want to make your trip even longer, take the Visitor Center to Lower Town trail to add an additional 3.2 miles.

    Fall Leaves are one of the reasons why Harpers Ferry has the best hiking

    Trailhead: Maryland Heights → Overlook Cliff Trail → Stone Fort Trail
    Distance: 6.2 miles
    Route Type: Loop
    Elevation Gain: 1,522 feet
    Average Time to Complete: 4 hours 36 minutes
    Difficulty: Moderately strenuous


    Notes about this trail:

    • No potable water. The closest water is at the Visitors Center or Lower Town. 
    • Restrooms are not available. The closest restroom is located at the Visitors Center or in Lower Town near the bookstore. 
    • Extremely uphill. Make sure you bring enough water, especially in the summer months. 
    • Pack out all trash.

    Best Harpers Ferry Sunrise Hikes

    Now that I’ve covered the best 11 hiking trails in Harpers Ferry, let’s go over some of the best spots to watch the sunrise. Keep in mind that the parking lots in Harpers Ferry don’t open until sunrise, so you’ll need to find parking in town or in a paid lot to complete these hikes.

    Seeing Harpers Ferry at Sunrise makes the hiking so worth it
    • The Point – Walk across the footbridge to experience the sunrise where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet
    • Jefferson Rock – Take the 62 historic steps up to Jefferson Rock from High Street to watch the sunrise over the Potomac River
    • Overlook Cliff – Take an early morning hike in Maryland Heights to view the sunrise
    • Split Rock – If you’re up for a long hike, take the Appalachian Trail to Split Rock to watch the sunrise peak over the town and conjoining rivers

    Parking At Harpers Ferry

    Parking Lot at Harpers Ferry near station

    Besides choosing which hiking trail to complete, it’s critical to know where to park once you arrive. There are plenty of parking options in Harpers Ferry, however, it’s important to know about them beforehand because they can fill up quickly. All lots are open from sunrise to sunset.

    Let’s go over parking options as well as the cost of entering Harpers Ferry. 

    Parking Lots

    The most accessible parking lot is at the Visitors Center. Once you park, you can take the free shuttle down to Lower Town to explore Harpers Ferry. There are 1,000 total spaces with 35 oversized spaces and it is wheelchair accessible.

    Additionally, there is the River Access parking lot located at the junction of Shenandoah Street and Highway 340. It’s designated for those using the river access, but with only 36 spaces, parking is extremely limited.

    If you’d rather park in town, you can use the Train Station parking lot off Potomac Street. This parking lot typically fills up quickly and is limited to only 81 spaces. It is wheelchair accessible.  

    Trailhead Parking

    In addition to parking lots, there is also trailhead parking offered in some locations. Here is a comprehensive list:

    • Bolivar Heights Parking Area: For access to the Bolivar Heights trail off of Whitman Avenue. 8 spaces are available with 0 oversized parking spots.
    • Lower Bolivar Heights Parking Area: For access to the Lower Loop on Bolivar Heights, off of Bakerton Road. 10 total spaces with 0 oversized parking spots.
    • Murphy-Chambers Farm Parking Area: For access to the Murphy-Chambers trail off of Murphy Road. 7 spaces are available with 0 oversized parking spots.
    • Schoolhouse Ridge North Parking Area: For access to Schoolhouse Ridge North trail, off of Bakerton Road. 7 spaces are available with 0 oversized parking spots. A pit toilet is available at the beginning of the trailhead.
    • Schoolhouse Ridge South Parking Area: For access to the Schoolhouse Ridge South trail, off of Millville Road. 7 spaces are available with 0 oversized parking spots. A pit toilet is available at the beginning of the trailhead.

    Cost

    Visitors are required to purchase a pass to enter Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. This pass includes access to hiking trails, exhibits, facilities, programs, and parking lots. The pass is valid for three consecutive days.

    The entrance fees are as follows:

    • $20 per vehicle
    • $15 per motorcycle 
    • $10 per person if traveling by foot or bike

    If you’d like to buy an annual pass to Harpers Ferry, you can purchase one for $35 online or at the entrance station.

    You must place your receipt on the dash where parking enforcement can see it. If you have the America The Beautiful or Interagency pass, leave the signature side up on the dash. You can purchase your pass online or at the entrance station at the Visitor Center.

    The few days of the year that it’s free to enter Harpers Ferry are MLK day (January 16th), the first day of National Park Week, the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act (August 4th), National Public Lands Day (September 23rd), and Veterans Day (November 11th). 


    Frequently Asked Questions

    Now that we’ve established the best hiking trails in Harpers Ferry, let’s cover some frequently asked questions. Here are some general questions about hiking in the area!

    Are there any technical hikes at Harpers Ferry?

    No, however some hikes such as the Overlook Cliff, Stone Fort, and Loudoun Heights trails have some uneven terrain, mud, and loose rock. There are no scrambles or rock climbing on any of the trails mentioned above.

    How Long Will The Most Difficult Hike Take?

    Completing Stone Fort Trail in Maryland Heights takes an average of 4 hours and 36 minutes, starting from Harpers Ferry Information Center.

    Are There Bears In Harpers Ferry?

    There are black bears in Harpers Verry, although it is unlikely to see one. 

    When is the best time of year for Harpers Ferry hiking?

    Harpers Ferry can get extremely muggy in the summer months, so it’s best to visit in the spring from April to May or in the fall from September to October. 


    Cool structure at Harpers Ferry

    Conclusion: Harpers Ferry Hiking Guide

    There you have it! 11 of the best hiking trails in Harpers Ferry. Whether you want to take a historic stroll or conquer part of the Appalachian Trail, you won’t be disappointed during your visit!

    Plan your visit during the spring, fall, or on one of the free days to get the most out of your trip to this infamous historic town! You won’t regret it!

    Happy trails!