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Harpers Ferry Family Trails

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 4.8 miles
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly

Overview :  This guide consists of family/dog friendly trails. For a shorter hike, you may start at the parking lot under the Route 340 bridge.... more »

Tips:  Make sure to bring a trail map with you. Trail maps are free and located at the Visitor Center. Bring plenty of fluids and snacks.... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Visitor Center

The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Park passes may be purchased at the fee collection entrance station daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The inscription at the center reads (First Panel):
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is the story of...

Industrial Development and... More

2. Lower Town Trail

The start of the lower town trail is located towards the rear of the parking lot. The trail path is one of the best looking trails within Harpers Ferry consisting of stone stairs and spring water flowing down the hill. The trail also overlooks the Shenandoah River.

3. Lower Town Road Trail

Wide life may be seen along the trail towards Harpers Ferry Lower Town. Over 170 bird species have been identified within the park. Visitors may find different species when exploring the park depending on the habitat encountered. Within the lower historical district, visitors have the opportunity to view great blue herons (Ardea herodias) and... More

4. Halls Island Mills

The nearby marker inscription reads:
Sounds of turning mill wheels and workers filling bags with freshly ground flour once filled the air here.

The foundation of Island Mills, one of the earliest (1824) industries on the island, lies before you. Each fall the railroad brought wheat here from the Potomac and Shenandoah valleys to be ground into... More

5. Shenandoah Canal Bridge

The nearby marker inscriptions reads:
Bridges spanning the canal, like the one to your left, provided access from the island to the mainland for residents and factory workers. During floods, they were paths to safety. To delay departure could spell disaster, as in 1870, when swiftly rising water swept away all avenues to higher ground.

In 1806,... More

6. Black Smith

The sounds of hammers clanking on steel rods could be heard in the blacksmith shop in historic downtown Harpers Ferry on Saturday afternoon.

Harpers Ferry Black Smith History:
In 1824, Lewis Wernwag purchased a piece of Virginius Island. Within Virginius Island, Wernwag built a large machine shop and two small blacksmith shops near the town... More

7. Shenandoah Street

Living history museums on Shenandoah Street bring the past alive. The Harpers Ferry Historical Association's Bookshop has a great supply of books, artwork, postcards and items for kids of all ages. The Appalachian Trail runs through Harpers Ferry from the lower town in west Virginia to the C&O Canal in Maryland. The Harpers Ferry National... More

The nearby marker reads:
You are in the line of fire. The stone marker in front of you identifies the original site of the armory fire engine house - now known as John Brown's Fort. Barricaded inside the fort, abolitionist John Brown and his men held off local militia and U.S. Marines for three days in October 1859. Brown's men fired from inside... More

9. Maryland Heights Vista

You can view the Potomac River and Maryland Heights from this location. Rock climbers and people standing on the Maryland Heights overlook may be seen from here.

10. Armory Grounds

The ground around you hides the remains of the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry. Beneath the surface archeologists discovered walls, floors, pipes, and the base of a massive 90-foot chimney. As the team slowly and painstakingly excavated small pits throughout the site, they uncovered over 28,000 artifacts - some in almost pristine condition -... More

11. White Hall Tavern

The nearby marker inscription reads:
Located directly across from the U.S. Armory, the White Hall Tavern was an 1850's community gathering place, where white males debated politics; discussed local events; and protested armory management, wages and layoffs. The tavern's close proximity easily tempted armory workers to raise a glass, or two... or... More

12. Confectionery

The nearby marker inscription reads:
The enticing smell of bread, cakes, candies, and pies undoubtedly attracted many customers to Frederick Roeder's Confectionery, making it a prosperous business from 1845 to 1861. In addition to his store, it is reported that he carried small pies to the train station to sell to hungry passengers before the days... More

13. St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church

The church marker inscription reads:
Construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad produced an influx of Irish laborers into the Harpers Ferry area during the early 1830's. St. Peter's Catholic Church, completed in 1833, symbolizes America's melting pot tradition and the customs, habits, and religion of the... More

14. St. John's Episcopal Church

The church marker inscription reads:
These weathered ruins are all that remain of St. John's Episcopal Church - one of Harpers Ferry's five earliest churches.

Built in 1852 with money provided by church fairs, St. John's served as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War and suffered considerable damage. It was rebuilt afterward, but was... More

15. Jefferson Rock

The marker inscription near Jefferson Rock reads:
"On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac [Potomac], in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to ... More

16. Harper Cemetery

The nearby marker inscription reads:
Passing through this region in 1747, Robert Harper — a Pennsylvania architect contracted to build a Quaker church in the Shenandoah Valley — was so impressed by the beauty of this place and the water-power potential of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers that he settled here and founded Harpers Ferry.

When... More

17. Harper House

The nearby inscription marker reads:
From this vantage point, a succession of early residents watched Harpers Ferry grow from a tiny village into a thriving industrial community.

In 1775, town founder Robert Harper chose this hillside for his family home because it lay safely above the flood line, commanded a spectacular view, and offered... More

18. John Brown Fort

This is not the original location of the John Brown building, but it is in a busy location where guests may see it.

The nearby marker inscription reads:
Here is a building with a curious past. Since its construction in 1848, it has been vandalized, dismantled, and moved four times - all because of its fame as John Brown's stronghold.

The... More

19. Early Travel

The Shenandoah and Potomac River collide at this location. This spot is great for pictures.

The nearby marker reads:
Situated in a gap of the Blue Ridge Mountains and at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Harpers Ferry, from its beginning, functioned as a natural avenue of transportation.

The first mode of travel consisted of... More

20. Harpers Ferry Market

This was once a busy path. The nearby marker reads:
Armory workers purchased fresh vegetables, meat, and fish every Wednesday and Saturday here at the Market House. Constructed by the government near mid-century, the building that once stood here architecturally resembled the refurbished armory buildings along the Potomac.

The Sons of Temperance... More

21. Virginius Island Trail

The marker inscription at the bridge reads:
In the shadow of the United States Armory at Harpers Ferry, private industry thrived. Across this canal is Virginius Island, site of a town that once bustled with pre-Civil War businesses and the activities of 200 people. Built along the banks of the Shenandoah, the town's thriving factories were... More

22. Halls Island Trail

The marker inscription near the railroad tracks reads:
Trains clanking along iron rails have echoed through Virginius Island since the Winchester & Potomac Railroad arrived here in 1836. It extended from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad junction at Harpers Ferry 32 miles southward to Winchester. The W&P line enabled local industrialists... More