6 Hours in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful … West Virginia! To many people’s surprise, I find West Virginia to be one of the most prettiest states that I have ever been to! While maybe not where I would want to live in the future, I have LOVED getting to visit West Virginia from time to time again over the years. During the height of Summer 2020, my Mom and I decided to take a day hike to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia where we went all the way up to the iconic Jefferson Rock (where Thomas Jefferson saw some of the most spectacular views in his life!!) and then into the town. And, since that day trip back in Summer 2020 (here), I have been going back to Harpers Ferry *almost* every summer since (here)!

The town of Harpers Ferry has a population of ~270 people and no stoplight in sight (unlike its neighboring towns). However, the residents and national park rangers at Harpers Ferry National Park reign proud that the town’s name is in the national park that brings in visitors from across the country and beyond. The location of Harpers Ferry is approximately at the halfway mark of the East Coast’s well-known Appalachian Trail (that starts in Maine and ends in Georgia) at the intersection of the Potomac River and Shenandoah River. From Washington, DC, Harpers Ferry is about a 90 minute drive with an Amtrak station in the heart of the historical district and Harpers Ferry National Park. To be able to drive and park and sightsee within Harpers Ferry’s historical district and the adjacent Harpers Ferry National Park, it is easiest to purchase a National Park Service (NPS) day pass or use an already-purchased/borrowed NPS pass.

This time around, I visited Harpers Ferry with my Papa and dog Rosie. Papa had not been to Harpers Ferry with the exception of a brief visit there decades ago, so it was super fun for him to relive his past memories of this magnificent town. We ended up starting out at the visitor center which is about a 10 minute drive from the historic district (and has a complimentary shuttle that is NOT pet-friendly), which contains the bulk of the non-intense hiking activities. In order to enter the visitor center, all guests must pay for an NPS day pass or show that they have one, which Papa happens to have. We went into the visitor center, talked a bit with a National Park Ranger, and then went on our way to the historic downtown and parked at the Amtrak station there (which our parking was covered for by flashing our NPS pass on the dashboard of Papa’s truck), since Rosie couldn’t go on the shuttle directly from the visitor center. At the Amtrak station, we got a front row seat to … an Amtrak train coming into the station. We LOVED seeing a train come into the station in the midst of the gorgeous mountain terrain surrounding the train tracks as we enjoyed our picnic lunch.

The day that we ended up going to Harpers Ferry happened to be rather rainy and foggy, which limited what we could do. Initially, I had wanted to walk along the creeks, rock-covered bridge, and streams just outside of the historic district, however, the weather prohibited us from doing so this time around. The same goes for checking out the dog-friendly Harpers Ferry Brewing brewery (located in Purcellville, Virginia) that offers stunning views of the town and connecting rivers from afar, however, dogs are only allowed outside which meant that we needed to save this spot for a visit when it wasn’t a rainy day. SO, to the historic district and C&O Canal Footbridge we went (guide on it all here). While Papa and Rosie took in some more of the scenic views, I learned a bit about the part of the Lewis & Clark expedition which took place in none other than Harpers Ferry via a complimentary NPS exhibit. Long story short, Merriweather Lewis was stranded in Harpers Ferry for a few weeks, but if it wasn’t for the supplies and resources that they found locally within the town, they would not have made it across the now-United States on their well-known expedition where he would then-soon meet William Clark to do. Lewis holds gratitude for the town of Harpers Ferry. Afterwards, Rosie, Papa, and I walked alongside the town’s hilly streets to browse shops, grab some coffee, and then hit the road with some ice cream.

Papa, Rosie, and I LOVED getting to check out Harpers Ferry! We LOVED getting to walk across the C&O Canal Footbridge which leads to train tracks through a mountain (HOW COOL!!!!) and taking in ALL the views of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. What’s neat about Harpers Ferry’s C&O Canal Footbridge is the sheer fact that you can see 3 states in one stroll – Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia along with two iconic rivers to the area (as previously mentioned!). And, there’s SO MUCH history here (including a Civil War battle) in Harpers Ferry (!!!) which my history buff self LOVES knowing. Unfortunately, many of the exhibits (which are all run and complimentary to all guests via the NPS) were under renovation … all of which means that I got to come back at some point – haha!

For a future Harpers Ferry day trip, I’d LOVE to go back in the Fall for the foliage and do a drive by of some historical sites within the area via an NPS app driving tour. There are 3 driving tours at least that the NPS app offers to visitors that are free, accessible, self-guided, and all based on the user’s preferences. All of which I LOVE!

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is one of my favorite places to visit for a nice and blissful day trip that feels *just as if* like you’re not in reality and so so so close to Washington, DC. I LOVE LOVE LOVE going to Harpers Ferry and feel so lucky that I got to recently and hope to again very soon!

XOXO – Katie <3

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