woman hiking on trail in west virginia
woman hiking on trail in west virginia
woman poses for photo on bridge in harpers ferry west virginia
view of trees in harpers ferry west virginia
woman smiling crouched down by map on hiking trail
women crossing over stream on rocks with hiking poles
women walking west virginia hiking trail on group travel tour
railroad track bridge in harpers ferry west virginia
four women smiling at lookout point in harpers ferry
women on west virginia hiking trail studying map
manassas gap shelter hiking west virginia
hiking next to appalachian trail sign through west virginia

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry

Destination: Harpers Ferry, WV

The Appalachian Trail, while often rugged and remote, is designed to accommodate both people who want to hike the entire trail and those who choose to section hike it, either by backpacking or by slackpacking. This trip covers the northernmost section of Virginia, covering 60 miles between Harpers Ferry, where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) headquarters is located, and Chester Gap just outside of Front Royal. In between are 60 miles of classic AT trail with varied terrain including beautiful vistas over the Shenandoah Valley, the 'roller coaster' section (with those AT 'muds' and 'puds'), a night in a classic hostel right on the trail , and great shelter areas (including one with both a front porch and a solar shower) - all the time following the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains that forms the boundary between Virginia and West Virginia. Join us as we continue our travel along the trail.


  • Enjoying the beautiful vistas over the Shenandoah Valley
  • Hiking the infamous "roller coaster": 13.5 miles of ups and downs
  • Learning the role that this area played in the Civil War
  • We will take advantage of three lodging locations - a traditional hostel, the historic Bears Den, and Mountain Home, a historic B&B in Front Royal - to experience great locations and minimize our shuttle distances

Departures and Prices

October 18 to October 24, 2020
$1550.00 - Available
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  • Two to three experienced AGC guides, based on group size
  • Six nights lodging
  • All meals from dinner on Sunday through breakfast the following Saturday
  • Daily shuttles back and forth to the trailheads

What's not included: Travel to and from Dulles International Airport (IAD), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, and travel insurance


This trip is rated both a 4 and 5 because it involves hiking from 6.5 to 14 miles a day (see the itinerary for daily mileage) and requires being in excellent physical condition. On two days there are shorter options and the rating of 4 is appropriate if you choose these or if you prefer to just take one or two days off from hiking. A rating of 4 requires aerobic conditioning for at least 40-50 minutes 4-5 times a week with additional endurance exercise (e.g. going for a 2 hour hike with elevation gain once a week) and strength training recommended. Going for longer hikes before the trip is recommended if you want to hike the entire 60+ miles. Rating: 1 2 3 [4] [5].

This is a hiking trip on the northern Virginia section of the legendary Appalachian Trail. You will be hiking in the mountains with constant elevation gain and loss on a trail that is very rocky at times. We will begin out trip just outside the historic town of Harpers Ferry, although there will be limited time to visit it.

We will be staying in three unique locations on this trip. For the first two nights we'll be taking over the entire Hi Harpers Ferry Hostel. Just outside of Harpers Ferry, this hostel has three bedrooms, with 3 to 6 bunkbeds in each room. And while all of the beds are bunks, no one will have to sleep on a top bunk. There are 2 separate bathrooms, each with 3 toilets and showers. There is also great dining and living space. On the third night, we'll stay at the historic Bears Den Lodge, located right on the Appalachian Trail. This stone lodge was built in 1930, where we'll have two bunk rooms, with 3 to 6 bunk beds, each of these rooms has one bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet. At this location we will need 8 volunteers to sleep on upper bunks. The last three nights will be spent at Mountain Home, a historic bed and breakfast, originally built 1847, with an additional "Cabbin" that has been renovated for AT hikers. Here we will stay in a mix of queen, double, and twin beds (no bunks), with shared bathrooms. We have one single supplement available for this trip, including a single room at the Harpers Ferry Hostel where there are only shared bathrooms, and a single room at Mountain View with a bathroom en-suite. The single-supplement does not include a single room on the night spent at the Bears Den.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

Meet at 1:00 PM at the Dulles Airport (IAD) or 3:00 PM at the HI Harpers Ferry Hostel just outside Harpers Ferry, WV. If you are flying, group transportation from the airport to Harpers Ferry will be arranged for 1:00 PM. The shuttle ride is about an hour and will deposit you right at the door of the hostel. If you prefer to drive to Harpers Ferry, please plan to arrive at the HI Harpers Ferry Hostel by 3:00 PM. We will start with a quick exploration of the Historic District in Harpers Ferry before gathering for the first of many delicious dinners. We'll discuss all things hiking and review the week to come. Overnight: HI Harpers Ferry Hostel in Maryland Heights.
Today and every day we'll have an early and hearty breakfast so we have adequate time to prepare for the day and get on the trail early. After breakfast, we'll shuttle to the very tip of Harpers Ferry, near the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, where we'll start along the Appalachian Trail. Passing St. Peters church and Jefferson Rock, we'll cross over the Shenandoah River and continue under canopy to Keys Gap. For those who are game, we'll continue through Buzzard Rocks, along Laurel Springs, and on to our destination for the night, the Blackburn Center situated .3 miles off trail. The Blackburn Center is a PTC maintained shelter area. While they offer bunk space and tenting platforms for those who are backpacking, we'll meet our shuttle there and head back to the hostel. Distance: 13.0 miles Elevation gain/loss: 2720'/1900'. Think you might want to ease into the week a little more gently? We've got you covered. You can always take out at Keys Gap for a 6.3 mile day with an elevation gain/loss of 1440'/800'. You don't even have to decide till you get there. Tonight, and every night we'll return to the hostel where the guides will prepare a filling, home cooked meal, designed to replenish your spirits and your body. Overnight: HI Harpers Ferry Hostel.
Another day on trail! This morning we'll have our bags packed, and after enjoying a great breakfast we'll say goodbye to the HI Harpers Ferry Hostel. We'll shuttle back to the Blackburn Center, where we ended yesterday, and hike the .3 miles (all up) to rejoin the AT. We'll pass through Snickers Gap (maybe a trail angel will have left some real Snickers?) and begin the first 4 miles of the infamous 13.9 mile 'Roller Coaster', so called because of tightly packed ups and downs. There will be plenty of rocks, great challenging ups and lovely wooded downs. We'll pass Raven rocks and Crescent Rocks - yes, there is a theme here - and at the end of the day we'll end up at the historic Bears Den Hostel where we'll spend the night. There we'll be treated to a lovely al fresco pizza dinner (catered by a local restaurant) complete with a gorgeous salad and dessert - pizza never tasted so good! Plus, you get a chance to see what the thru hikers like about this place - a soft bed and a hot shower along with lots of friendly faces and camaraderie. Although we have that every night, for thru hikers it's a complete delight to have it right on the trail. Distance: 9 miles Elevation gain/loss: 2100'/2000'. Overnight: Bears Den Hostel.
Leaving the hostel this morning, we'll first pass by the Bears Den rocks - beautiful granite and sandstone boulders that do look like they would make the perfect den for bears! If you want a big challenge, you have the option to hike 13.9 miles, including the remaining 9.9 miles of the 'Roller Coaster', and on to Ashby Gap. If that isn't appealing, you can opt for an early out after 7.5 miles. You will still have lots of up and down, but the shorter mileage allows you to do it at a slower pace. Regardless of which you choose, at the end of the day we'll end up shuttling to an entirely different location for the night, Mountain Home B&B in Front Royal. Mountain Home has an interesting history going back to the Civil War. We'll have the entire B&B house as well as the historic "Cabbin" that has been renovated for AT hikers. Distance: 13.9 miles Elevation gain/loss: 4000'/2000', or 7.5 miles and less gain and loss. Overnight: Mountain View in Front Royal.
After another hearty breakfast, we'll be back on trail this morning starting at Ashby Gap. We'll start off the hiking by passing a rock wall that was originally surveyed by 19-year-old George Washington. The trail today passes several AT shelters including Whiskey Hollow and Manassas Shelter. Whiskey Hollow is a newer shelter built by the local AT club. After a long and absolutely satisfying day, ending at Manassas Gap, we'll shuttle back to Mountain Home for another delicious home cooked meal and a well deserved rest. Distance: 13.6 miles Elevation gain/loss: 2400'/2780'. Overnight: Mountain Home.
Can it really be over so soon? Sadly, yes. And our last day on trail is going to be a great one! We'll put in at Manassas Gap for our final 8.7 miles of the trip. About half way through we'll be sure to take a break at the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter area. This shelter has a great front porch as well as a solar shower and yes, running water! We'll finish the day with slow down, losing about 1000 ft in elevation, where we'll find ourselves on Route 522 and only 120 steps east of our lodging! We should be back in plenty of time to prepare for dinner out tonight where we'll remember our week together and say good bye, until the next AT opportunity! Distance: 8.7 miles Elevation gain/loss: 1955'/1590'. Overnight: Mountain Home.
As always, we start the day with a great breakfast. Except today we won't be burning it off! After close to 60 miles and about 12,000 feet elevation gain and loss in 5 days, our bodies will be confused - no hiking today! If you're driving, we'll have you back to your car at the HI Harpers Ferry Hostel by 8:30 AM. If you're flying, there is a 9:30 AM group shuttle to IAD for flights out after 12:30 PM.

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "Did this trip meet your expectations?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

The beautiful scenery and challenging hiking on the AT, meeting and interacting with other women interested in hiking, enjoying the experience without having to worry about logistics and meal prep.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

I had a good time. The trip pushed me physically particularly on the long days.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

Great group of ladies. Good food. Beautiful hike.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

Meeting group members. Roller coaster (believe it or not). Silence in the forests and mountains. Achieving my personal goals.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

Trip was awesome... guides, other participants, hikes, food, scenery, you name it. Exceeded my expectations in many ways. Everyone was made to feel comfortable and could hike their hike at their own pace. This was amazing. I wasn't sure if I could hike the whole mileage, having not been on a hike like this before. I was glad I did. Guides were so supportive, of everyone.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

Challenging nature of hikes, organization and guides. The hostel was less comfortable and appealing than expected.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

The highlights would be the physical challenge and camaraderie among the women

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/15/2017-10/21/2017

trip was everything I wanted! great people, challenging and beautiful hikes, incredibly organized with excellent leadership.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/15/2017-10/21/2017

The gorgeous hiking (weather was perfect!!), amazing company of new friends, the food, the awesome guides. Everything was just fabulous. It could not have been a better week.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/15/2017-10/21/2017

Being able to slackpacking the AT for five days to see if I would be able to hike for five days in a row and eventually try to section hike and camp out on the AT.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/15/2017-10/21/2017

Well organized itinerary throughout day for optimal hiking experience. Meals were thought out, well prepared and appetizing. Would have liked to start hikes earlier in the day however weather permitted later starts so it worked.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/15/2017-10/21/2017

Highlights were the great group of women on this trip, the challenge of trails we hiked, and being able to have Marian as one of the guides.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/15/2017-10/21/2017

Flexibility for length of hikes.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/15/2017-10/21/2017

Finishing each day. Having lunch overlooking a valley

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/15/2017-10/21/2017

The guides were awesome. I felt honored and privileged to hike Harper's Ferry with Marian. She made a point to talk and get to know with each of us on an individual basis. I enjoyed the challenge and left feeling more confident by my abilities.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/15/2017-10/21/2017

  1. Where do we eat?

    The guides will be cooking breakfasts and most dinners at the lodging. Before you leave in the morning the guides will put out lunch 'fixings' and you'll take a packed lunch. One night we'll order pizza, and one dinner will be at a restaurant where you can order off the menu; other nights you'll relax in the lodge and have dinner there.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    If we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    On all of our trips, you only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. On this trip, where most of the lodging is based out of hostels, singles are not offered.