Situated on the state borders of Maryland and Virginia at the confluence of Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, is the small town of Harpers Ferry.
The town was named after a ferry that ran across the river carrying passengers and cargo, owned by Robert Harper during the 18th century.
This charming town boasts of rich history and natural beauty and is a great destination for a day trip or weekend getaway. If you’re planning to visit Harpers Ferry, here are some of the best things to do in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
11 Things To Do in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
1. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
While you’re in Harpers Ferry, you might want to experience a hike through the Appalachian Trail.
This West Virginia town is pretty much at the center of the longest hiking trail in the entire US, and the largest hiking/only trail in the world according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
At more than two thousand miles that stretches from the states of Maine to Georgia, and passing through 14 states, completing the trail will take months.
A definite must and one of the best things to do in Harpers Ferry, you can just hike up a small part of the Appalachian for sprawling views of the town and surrounding areas.
2. Appalachian Trail Conservancy
When hiking up the Harpers Ferry part of the Appalachians, be sure to stop by at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Founded in 1925, the conservancy works hard to manage, preserve and protect the land occupied by and around the massive trail.
This is to ensure that more generations can still enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the Appalachians. It is run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, to take care of the 2,190 miles of this trail that stretches from Maine to Georgia.
The headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is located in Harpers Ferry, also roughly the midpoint of the United States’ longest trail. Hikers stop by here for a photo to celebrate their hiking milestone, as well as acknowledge the presence of the wonderful people that help take good care of the Appalachians.
3. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Regarded as one of the most beautiful parts of the United States, the Harpers Ferry National Park was founded as a national park in 1944.
Aside from Harpers Ferry which is technically inside the park, the entire confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers are also part of the park as well as parts of the states of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
There are about 20 miles of hiking trails within the park as well as the Appalachians that run through it. Exploring this massive park is among the best things to do in Harpers Ferry during weekends, and be sure to check out the park trails as it leads to an overlook with stunning views over the area.
4. St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church
Constructed in the early 1800s, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church is the only church in Harpers Ferry to survive the Civil War, and also known as one of the most beautiful churches in the region.
Situated on the highest part of Harpers Ferry, St. Peter’s boasts of breathtaking views of the town and surrounding area, which includes parts of the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers. St. Peter holds regular masses every Sunday at 11 a.m. but you can also visit anytime to admire the architecture and the sweeping views.
5. St. John’s Episcopal Church, Harpers Ferry
Another historic church in Harpers Ferry is the St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was used as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War. Unlike St. Peter’s that survived the war, St. John’s was destroyed, but was rebuilt after the war ended.
The church was eventually abandoned though when townspeople erected a new St. John’s church which is the one that’s still holding services up to this day. The older church has fallen into ruins but you may still visit it through the trails.
6. The Point
Easily accessible and within walking distance from downtown Harpers Ferry is The Point. It is basically the very tip of the land on the shores of the Potomac and Shenandoah confluence, and the place where you can have your feet on West Virginia land while looking out at both the states of Maryland and Virginia.
Definitely one of the best things to do in Harpers Ferry, but it is also an amazing spot for taking photos as you’ll have the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. The Point is breathtaking any time of the year, and must when in Harpers Ferry.
7. John Brown’s Fort
The fort was constructed back when Harpers Ferry was still part of Virginia in 1848. It housed a fire engine back then and was also the guardhouse of the town’s armory. An abolitionist group led by Kohn Brown raided the armory in 1859, took it by force and hostage 60 people.
They were supposed to take the weapons but were stormed by a group of marines. Their efforts failed but the fort became both a tourist spot and a shrine for African Americans back in the late 1800s, and the fort was eventually named after John Brown.
8. Jefferson Rock
A must and among the best things to see in Harpers Ferry is the Jefferson Rock, which is located along the Appalachian Trail. A curious-looking rock formation composed of a long shale rock that rests on top of four rock pillars.
These four pillars were placed in lieu of the original rocks that corroded over time. This rock was named after Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s founding fathers. He stood right on this same rock back in 1783 and wrote about its beauty in his notes about Virginia.
While in Harpers Ferry, you can hike up the Jefferson Rock for unparalleled views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Shenandoah River.
9. Howard Shepherd Monument
A rather controversial spot in Harpers Ferry is the Howard Shepherd monument. For most, it may seem to be just another statue erected to honor a local person who may have a significant part in their history but there’s more to his story in this case.
Howard Shepherd happens to be the first casualty when John Bower raided the fort in 1859. He was a free black man bit there were conflicting versions to his story. Basically, his monument was put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to refute the shrine-like image of John Brown’s Fort for African Americans.
Today, this monument represents the conflicting narratives of the Civil War, as interpreted by Southern whites and African Americans respectively.
10. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal used to be the main transporter of cargo to Harpers Ferry until railroads were eventually built and the canal ceased to operate.
It is still a significant part of the town’s transportation history, as you can still see the canal even if the water has already dried out, as well as the locks and towpath.
It’s one of the best things to see in Harpers Ferry, a chill but historic spot to just hanging around in, take a leisurely walk or snap some photos. The lock master’s house is also seen here although it is not accessible to visitors.
11. Hilltop House Hotel
If you’re up for some strange things to do at night in Harpers Ferry, check out the Hilltop House Hotel. Constructed in 1888 and survived fires at two instances but rebuilt soon after, the hotel officially stopped welcoming guests in 2008.
You may have seen the haunting drone videos of this hotel online and if what you saw piqued your interest, then a visit here is a must. There are reports of ghost sightings and paranormal activities, but another reason to go up here are the scenic views over the town and it’s surrounding areas.
There are no guided tours within the area and definitely not inside the hotel as the foundation has pretty much crumbled and there’s severe water damage, but you can take photos from the outside and enjoy the views from there.
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