Fall Travel Destination: Harpers Ferry

I’ve recently had a chance to visit Harpers Ferry not once but twice in a month. If you’re a nature lover and/or history buff, you’ll love this picturesque little town in West Virginia where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet.

Harpers Ferry is already a popular destination in spring and summer for those who love hiking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and river tubing. But it’s even more beautiful and pleasant in the fall when the air is crisp and the leaves are turning gold.

If you go in the afternoon, you’ll notice the sunlight that seems to shine on the town in the most perfect angle, creating the most stunning reflection on the rocky waters.

Harpers Ferry is an easy day trip if you’re from Washington D.C. and northern Virginia as it’s only about an hour or so drive.

Here’s what I love about the place:

The spectacular view at sunset

You can hike on the Appalachian Trail, which you could do for weeks or months, or you can just hike up the Maryland Heights Trail to the overlook and be rewarded with a stunning view of the town and rivers below. It’s about 4.5 miles round trip and takes about 3-4 hours. 

I’m not a hiker and was completely exhausted after we came down, but I’m glad I did it. Obviously, it was harder on the way up, but the view was absolutely stunning I forgot I was tired!

I really recommend staying for the sunset to catch that picture perfect moment when the glowing horizon wraps around the little town and the two rivers. Make sure you bring a GPS as the trail is not well marked. Also bring a flashlight – you will need it on your way down if you’re there for the sunset. 

John Brown Museum

This beautiful little town has a painful past. I happened to be there on the 163th anniversary of abolitionist John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859. Brown and a group of 21 men invaded Harpers Ferry and took over the federal armory in an attempt to free slaves. They failed and the men were either killed in the fight or subsequently executed. It was considered one of the main incidents that led to the Civil War after Abraham Lincoln was elected president. 

The museum is by no means high tech but tells a good story of the town and the fateful days and months after the raid.

The historic town

I enjoyed walking around the streets that have been restored to when it was in the past with all kinds of businesses like a clothing store and a dry goods store. This living museum reminds me of Colonial Williamsburg but on a much smaller scale. You’ll get to see what the buildings and shops looked like way back when. 

A few tips

You can park along Potomac Street and at the train station, but a parking spot could be hard to find if you go there on the weekend. So go early or late. You can park at the main parking lot, but it’s further away and you need to take a shuttle. Or you can park along Washington Street on the way to the next town called Bolivar and walk down to the rivers. 

Have fun in Harpers Ferry!

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