Harpers Ferry - Where History, Nature, and Adventure Meet

Posted: Sunday, January 10, 2021

From Historic Staple to Pop Culture Icon - Harpers Ferry Has Much to Offer

Harpers Ferry has gained pop culture notoriety in the last year because of the historical drama miniseries The Good Lord Bird (based on the 2013 novel of the same name by James McBride). The series is told from the point of view of Henry Shackleford, a fictional enslaved boy, part of John Brown's (played by Ethan Hawke) motley crew of abolitionist soldiers who participated in the famous 1859 raid on the U.S. Army depot at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Brown's raid failed to initiate the slave revolt he intended but was the instigating event that started the American Civil War. While 2020 may have been a year filled with more miniseries binge-watching than terrific trips to intriguing destinations, there is a lot to be said for at least being inspired to visit such unique locales of American History as Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry historic and nature

For such a small town there were many dynamic events and a lot to learn about. George Washington established an armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1794. The day after Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, Federal soldiers immediately burnt it down. Between 1861 and 1865, Harpers Ferry changed hands fourteen times. During the Civil War, Harpers Ferry became a significant Union army camp, headquarters site, and logistical supply base, and subsequently the largest surrender of United States forces during the Civil War took place there. As recent as 2002, the Civil War Trust successfully saved 325 acres of endangered land at Harpers Ferry, and in 2013 saved an essential tract of battlefield land on Bolivar Heights nearby. The Harpers Ferry water gap has been utilized by humans for centuries for transportation, power, and resources. Throughout years of human transformation and then the natural reclamation as areas are abandoned, the picturesque landscape has remained a constant - inspiring writers, artists, and millions of visitors.


A Dream For History Buffs and Outdoor Enthusiasts Alike

The good news for the AGC community is that history, nature, and adventure meet at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Nestled at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Harpers Ferry has much to offer any outdoor enthusiast in addition to the amazing Civil War history. From biking, hiking, kayaking, and rafting, to museums, historic parks, and battlefields waiting to be explored.

In addition to the plethora of Civil War history, there are many fascinating things to learn about this destination. You can bike all the way there by trail from Washington D.C. The population is presently only 300 people - but that does not include the many ghosts who are said to also still inhabit the town. It is the location of the first meeting of W.E.B. Du Bois and the Niagara Movement which was the beginning of the NAACP and the fight for equal rights for Black Americans. And, also most famously in current-day history, the Appalachian Trail literally takes hikers right through town.


West Virginia Section of the Appalachian Trail Has History that can't be missed

The West Virginia section of the Appalachian Trail passes through the heart of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the site of John Brown’s Raid and notable Civil War battles. Harpers Ferry is home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and Visitor Center, known as the “psychological halfway point” of the Appalachian Trail. The path connecting the A.T. to the ATC passes through the campus of the former Storer College, created to provide education for freed enslaved people after the Civil War. Visit the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, run by the National Park Service, which encompasses a series of museums where you can learn about the Civil War history of the area.


Hike, Cycle, or Kayak - Harpers Ferry Has it All

For cycling enthusiasts, a stretch of the mostly level ride along the Potomac River is a must. The trail from Harpers Ferry includes where the C&O Canal Towpath traverses the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park for a total distance of 184.5 miles between Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and Cumberland, Maryland. If the Shenandoah River is calling your name, there is no shortage of water activities from kayaking to canoeing or, even river rafting.

For a  spectacular view of Harpers Ferry, beautifully framed by the two converging rivers, the best hike is up to Maryland Heights, a 5+ mile loop that is a favorite among visitors. Both hikers and history buffs will tell you the 1,200-foot climb to the overlook at Maryland Heights is well worth the trip. This is the vantage point of the Confederates as they shelled and captured the town in 1862. You can also continue on the ridge past many marked Civil War artillery batteries to the ruins of a stone fort.

A historical walking tour of Harpers Ferry explores the town's history from its first settlement to its participation in building the world's first successful steamboat. Nearby and across the Shenandoah from Harpers Ferry is one of the most unique views in all of Loudoun County Virginia. Nestled on the cliffs of the Potomac River, Harpers Ferry Brewing offers views of Maryland and West Virginia, including the town of Harpers Ferry off in the distance. Catch an amazing sunset and watch the trains roll in, all while enjoying one of their local beers. Loudoun County is also considered the Wine Country of DC and is a must-visit destination for lovers of artisanal, epicurean, and culturally rich experiences.  


Harpers Ferry Holiday - The Adventure You've Been Waiting For

AGC has added Harpers Ferry Holiday to our 2021 schedule. This is a 4-day multisport-filled, long weekend getaway with an emphasis on the area’s natural beauty and charming historical significance. How does an active, rejuvenating, and fascinating holiday sound?

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