August 2019 marks the 103rd anniversary of the National Park Service so we looked to see if there were any other notable anniversaries this year. We found one – at one of our favorite national park units – Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia. This year marks their 75th anniversary.
We have been to this national park unit a few times. It’s like we said in last week’s blog, it’s fun to combine visits to national park units with other things you really enjoy. In our case, that meant running and hiking; we did both at Harpers Ferry!
But if your preferences lean towards enjoying quaint restaurants and browsing in small shops, Harpers Ferry is a perfect place to visit. The downtown is charming and we found a couple very memorable restaurants with great chefs!
Getting to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is only an hour drive from Baltimore, or from the Washington DC area; making it easily accessible to millions of people. But you would never know it when you visit. Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, you may feel like you have stepped back in time. The historical area of Harpers Ferry is quite small and quaint, with lovely walking paths along the rivers.
Warning: parking is very limited. Your best bet is to park at the Visitor Center and then either take the free shuttle to town, or walk. It is only a couple miles. You start by walking down a scenic forest path and then take the trail along the Shenandoah River, past the ruins of old canals and mills – relics of the industrial revolution. It can be a nice leisurely walk and then you can take the shuttle back to your car after you finish seeing the town.
About Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Harpers Ferry played a significant role in history; in the revolutionary and civil wars, and in the battle for civil rights..
- Because of it’s location on the river, George Washington chose Harpers Ferry as the location of a US Armory. You can visit the site of the old musket factory and learn more about how they revolutionized manufacturing by developing interchangeable parts. Before that, each musket was handmade!
- Abolitionist John Brown came to Harpers Ferry in October 1859, seizing the armory there with the goal of arming the slaves and speaking rebellion. He failed and was tried and executed. You can visit John Brown’s Fort and museum to learn more.
- Harpers Ferry was also the site of a civil war battle; a victory for the south and the war’s biggest surrender of US troops.
Things to do at Harpers Ferry National Park
In addition to visiting the town and all of the exhibits there, Harpers Ferry is a great place to walk and hike. In fact, if you are interested, you can even stop by the Appalachian Trail Visitor Center. Learn more about the trail and talk to the volunteers there. They have tons of stories about hiking the AT.
You can even walk a section of this storied trail; in fact, you may do this without even knowing it. The Appalachian Trail goes right through Harpers Ferry. It comes from the south along the Shenandoah River and then crosses the old railroad bridge, follows through town, crosses the Potomac River and then heads out of town along the Potomac.
It is just a short walk from town across the river. Walk along the former C&O canal towpath and visit some of the old locks. We took our bicycles and had a great ride along the Potomac River on the towpath.
If you are a bit more adventurous, try the Overlook Cliff Trail. It is only 1.5 miles and the views are amazing!!! You can see the confluence of the two rivers, the railway bridges and the lower town. This is definitely a place where you can enjoy the outdoors!
Revisiting Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
This year, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park expanded by 13 acres with a donation of Allstadt’s corner; of historical significance in the John Brown story. This is just one example of how your national park units continue to change and grow – offering more to experience and making them worth revisiting!
Need Help Planning Your Visits?
If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.