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Top 10 Tips for Visiting Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Fall is just around the corner, and we are expecting an especially busy season. A little advance trip planning can ensure that your only surprises are happy ones. Check out our top 10 insider tips to #PlanLikeAParkRanger.

Are you visiting multiple national parks this fall? View more Top 10 lists from fellow rangers to get the most out of your experiences.

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Worn trail going through a forest of trees.
Trail from Visitor Center to Lower Town.

NPS/E. Hartlaub

1. Know where to go

Parking in Harpers Ferry’s Lower Town historic area is extremely limited and often fills up early, especially on weekends. If you plan to explore museums and exhibits or hike a trail that begins in Lower Town, we strongly recommend using the main parking lot at the park entrance station (171 Shoreline Drive, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425). From here, you can ride the park shuttle bus into Lower Town (included in park entrance fee). See our Parking page for more information.
Alternate option: you can hike the trail from the Visitor Center to Lower Town, enjoying the beautiful scenery and getting in a nice walk.

Brick buildings surrounded by trees in autumn, steep, rocky hill, river, train emerging from hill tunnel.
Harpers Ferry's historic Lower Town in the fall.

NPS/Mills

2. Pack your patience

Fall is one of the busiest seasons at Harpers Ferry. Everyone wants to see the beautiful leaves and enjoy the cooler fall temperatures. Expect crowding and have a back-up plan if the parking lot that you wanted to use is full or your preferred trail is packed. Maryland Heights is our most popular and frequently crowded trail--check out alternate trail options. Please keep in mind that, like lots of places you go this year, we may not be able to offer the past level of service as we continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

3. Have a trash plan

Harpers Ferry is a Trash Free Park. If you bring it with you into the park, be sure to take it with you when you leave. This includes food waste and pet waste. For more information about the town of Harpers Ferry’s trash policies, please visit their website.
Pro tip: Be sure to keep your dog on a leash!
Curious about other park rules? Check out the Laws & Policies page.

Black puppy wearing green bandana
Learn the do's and don'ts of bringing a pet to Harpers Ferry.

NPS Photo

4. Ruffing it?

Bringing your four-legged friend to the park? Check out our Pets page to learn more about what you can do with your pet during your visit to the park.
Pro tip: learn how your pet can become a BARK ranger and how you can get involved as a park volunteer!

5. Get your Passport stamps

Hey, we completely understand the Passport stamp addiction. Visit the park Bookshop on Shenandoah Street in Lower Town to get your stamps. Learn more about what stamps are available, what to do if the Bookshop is closed, and the Passport stamp program.

Two rivers coming together, surrounded by wooded land.
Harpers Ferry is at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.

NPS Photo

6. Come to the confluence

Explore the place where pivotal pieces of the American story mesh with the breathtaking natural beauty of the rolling Blue Ridge mountains and rushing waters of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. The park and the town of Harpers Ferry are much like these rivers: they flow into and out of one another. Some parts of Lower Town are park, while others are town. Check out a map of the park to get a more complete picture.

Rectangular brick building topped by cupola in the snow.
The John Brown Fort is perhaps the most iconic site in Harpers Ferry.

NPS/Mills

7. Check these sites off your bucket list

See the iconic John Brown Fort, where abolitionist John Brown and his raiders made their last stand. Stand at The Point, where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers join together. Visit four national parks at once: walk across the Potomac River into Maryland, to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park towpath—also a part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail--and hike on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail as it wends through Lower Town. Walk the campus of Storer College, for 25 years the only school in West Virginia where any person of color could get an education beyond the primary level. You can almost be in three states at once: the park spans sites in West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland.

Rainbow over a field dotted with trees. A trail runs through the field.
Bolivar Heights is one of the park's hidden gems outside Lower Town.

NPS/Cook

8. Travel off the beaten path

Don’t stop with the bucket list sites! The park includes more than just Lower Town. Be sure to take the time to visit other parts of the park that loom large in American history, including Murphy Farm, Bolivar Heights, Schoolhouse Ridge, and Camp Hill.

View of Shenandoah River from Murphy Chambers Farm in the fall. Leaves are changing and are green, yellow, and orange in color.
The Murphy-Chambers Farm Trail offers beautiful overlooks of the Shenandoah River.

NPS/Cook

9. Take a hike!

Harpers Ferry has 22 miles of hiking trails of all types for all levels of experience. Visit our Hikes page to plan your trek.

10. Take only pictures, leave only footprints

We protect some amazing historical buildings and ruins--help us keep these resources intact. Many rare and unique ecosystems call the park home. Please stay on the trail to help us keep them safe. Check out how you can leave no trace.
Pro Tip: tag us on social media when you post those breathtaking photos: @HarpersFerryNPS or #HarpersFerryNPS.

Last updated: September 21, 2021