Plan Like a Park Ranger 1-Day Itinerary Harpers Ferry

View of Harpers Ferry from atop Maryland Heights as the sun sets.
The sun sets over Harpers Ferry.

NPS/ Jason Martz

Civil War to Civil Rights

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has occupied a prominent place in American history from the very start. Home to an armory and arsenal starting in 1799, it is most famous for its role in John Brown’s raid. While John Brown’s raid was a significant moment, there is so much more to the history of Harpers Ferry!

Harpers Ferry was a key battleground during the Civil War, changing hands eight times. Following the end of the Civil War, Harpers Ferry became the home of Storer College, a college open to all, regardless of race or gender. The Niagara Movement, the precursor to the NAACP, held their first conference in the United States at Storer College.

We have crafted this itinerary to tell these important stories of Harpers Ferry from the Civil War to civil rights. Just like any excursion into one of our parks, the NPS wants you to plan like a park ranger. Whether you’re driving, hiking, or biking, bringing what you need and knowing where you’re going are essential to your trip’s success.

What to bring

  • Water: Bring enough for your entire trip.
  • Snacks: It never hurts to have a snack, and if you find yourself out longer than you expect, you’ll be prepared.
  • Good walking shoes: Wear appropriate footwear for what you plan to do. Most of the sites in Harpers Ferry will require some walking.
  • Appropriate clothes/ a hat: Always check weather and current conditions before you go on a visit a national park and dress accordingly.
  • A leash (if you’re bringing your pet): Pets must be leashed at all times for the safety of your pet and the habitats we preserve. Please visit the Pets page to learn more about what you can do with your pet during your visit to the park.
    • Also please know that it is strictly prohibited to leave your pet unattended, whether tethered or not. Your furry friend wants to be by your side!
  • Your smartphone or a map: A smartphone or a map (available at our visitor center) will help you navigate our park. If you download the NPS App, you can use your phone for self-guided walking and driving tours!
    • Cell service in the park varies depending on location and provider, but the NPS App allows you to download the information on any park you’d like to visit, so you can have access without service!

Where to go

Visitor Center

  • If you want to avoid traffic and find easy parking, then the visitor center is the place to start!
  • Here you can find parking to easily access the Murphy-Chambers Farm and a shuttle service to historic Lower Town Harpers Ferry.
  • You can pay the entrance fee for the park at the entrance station just outside the visitor center, or you can purchase a pass online!

John Brown’s Fort

  • Originally an engine house for the Harpers Ferry Armory, this building became the site of John Brown’s last stand in his attempt to inspire a slave revolt across the south.
  • Today you can visit John Brown’s Fort and learn more about its history from interpretive signs and ranger-led programs.
  • You can also visit the former arsenal site and the John Brown Museum sits across from the fort on the corner of Shenandoah and Potomac streets.

Civil War Battlefields Driving Tour

You can access the next portion of your visit on the NPS app! This tour will take you to four major locations in the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry.
  1. Bolivar Heights
    • This site offers hiking trails and great views of Harpers Ferry along with interpretive signs.
  2. School House Ridge North and Schoolhouse Ridge South
    • School House Ridge North is where Stonewall Jackson positioned his troops during the Confederate attack against Union forces in Harpers Ferry. Both sites have trails and interpretive waysides for visitors to enjoy.
  3. Murphy-Chambers Farm
    • This farm was a part of the Confederate attack in 1862. The site offers hiking trails with spectacular vistas, Civil War era artillery, earthworks, and interpretive waysides.
    • This farm also was home to John Brown’s Fort from 1895 to 1909 after it was brought back to Harpers Ferry from Chicago. In 1906, members of the Niagara Movement took a pilgrimage to this site.

Storer College

  • For 88 years, Storer College was a beacon of opportunity for African Americans pursuing higher education. Following the Civil War, Storer College was founded to offer newly freed people the opportunity for higher education.
  • At this site, you can use the NPS app to follow a walking tour exploring sites on the old campus. You can also learn more from the interpretive signs throughout the tour.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Last updated: June 29, 2022