Hike Civil War Skirmish Lines at Harpers Ferry

Shenandoah River, view looking upriver.
Shenandoah River, view looking upriver.

NPS / M. Hammer

Surrounding the Shenandoah Valley

Did you know the park has over 20 miles of hiking trails? The trails vary from easy, riverside strolls to four-mile hikes across Civil War battlefields to eight-mile adventures on the tops of mountains.

During the Confederacy's first invasion of the North, on September 15, 1862, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson surrounded and captured the 12,700-man Union garrison stationed here. When the Federals returned to Harpers Ferry after the Battle of Antietam, they began transforming the surrounding heights into fortified encampments to protect both the town and the railroad. In 1864, Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan used Harpers Ferry as his base of operations against Confederate troops in the Shenandoah Valley. Learn more about the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry or the park's various trails.
The Large Arsenal dominates this 1803 print of Harpers Ferry.
The Large Arsenal dominates this 1803 print of Harpers Ferry. Here, firearms manufactured in the adjacent Armory were stored. Also pictured, from lower left to lower right, are an Armory structure, the Harper House, the Potomac ferry, and a flat-bottomed "gundalow" descending the Shenandoah River.

© Harpers Ferry NHP Historic Photo Collection (HF-21)

The Battle for Harpers Ferry

The Civil War had a profound and disastrous effect on Harpers Ferry, leaving a path of destruction that wrecked the town's economy and forced many residents to depart forever. Because of the town's strategic location on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, Union and Confederate troops moved through Harpers Ferry frequently. The town changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865.

Step back into the past and join us on living history event weekends on Civil War topics including medicine and artillery demonstrations.
Details

Visitor Center to Lower Town
Moderate due to one steep section, 1.6 miles one-way, 45 minutes.
This scenic trail offers an alternative to the shuttle bus to or from the Lower Town area, which is especially useful for dog-walkers. The trail starts at the tree line south of the Visitor Center, at the back of the main parking lot. Hikers travel down a steep ravine with 97 stone steps, passing by intermittent waterfalls. At the base of the ravine, the trail crosses Shoreline Drive: Be careful! Cars and buses use this road. Keep dogs and children off the pavement. The trail parallels the road, passing by healthy wetlands, where hikers may see herons, Wood Ducks, Canada geese, turtles and occasionally a beaver or muskrat. Passing the River Access parking lot, the trail merges with Shenandoah Street, bordering the Hall and Virginius islands trail systems. Hikers will see the ruins of the Shenandoah Pulp Mill and a remnant of the Shenandoah Canal.

Maryland Heights
Difficult (steep and rocky in places), 4.5 or 6.5 miles round trip, 3 to 4 hours. Wayside exhibits.
The Maryland Heights Trail offers hikers the opportunity to see many aspects of Harpers Ferry NHP on one walk: spectacular scenery, geology, Civil War and transportation history. From the Information Center in Lower Town turn right to merge with the Appalachian Trail at the dead end of Shenandoah Street. Cross the footbridge over the Potomac River. Turn left (upstream) on the C&O Canal Towpath. The trail stays on the towpath for 0.3 miles, and then crosses a footbridge over the canal bed to Harpers Ferry Road. Be careful! Watch for traffic. Directly across the road is the Maryland Heights trailhead. The first bend on this green-blazed trail offers a nice view of the Potomac. Go straight at the first intersection to a see the 1862 Naval Battery, then return to the green-blazed trail and turn right. At the next two intersections stay straight on the red-blazed Overlook Cliff Trail. About 0.3 miles turn right for a narrow, rocky descent 0.5 miles to the cliffs overlooking Harpers Ferry. Backtrack to the first intersection with the blue-blazed Stone Fort Trail. Hike one mile uphill past Civil War artillery batteries and through boulders to the Civil War Stone Fort. The trail curves out of the Stone Fort past breastworks and descends steeply over one mile back to the green-blazed trail. Turn right and backtrack to the C&O Canal Towpath.

Murphy-Chambers Farm
Easy to moderate, 1-3 miles roundtrip (with side trails), 30 minutes to 2 hours. Wayside exhibits.
Visitors to the Murphy-Chambers Farm hike through fields and wooded ravines to see spectacular views of the Shenandoah River and the surrounding mountains, as well as Civil War cannons, earthworks and the footprint of the John Brown Fort. The trail starts at the Visitor Center, but can also be accessed from a parking area on the farm, which allows for an easy 0.75 mile stroll to the Shenandoah River overlook. From the Visitor Center, the trail crosses Shoreline Drive, goes down to a small creek and up to the unpaved farm entrance road. Here, hikers can stay on the road or go left and follow the tree line. Both trails lead to the overlook of the Shenandoah River. Near the overlook is the 1895-1909 site of the John Brown Fort and the Niagara Movement's 1906 pilgrimage. This was also the scene of Confederate General A.P. Hill's flanking maneuver in 1862. From the overlook, hikers can follow a mulched trail that leads into the woods. This section of the trail goes to another view of the river and Civil War earthworks. The trail loops back to the farm road or turns left across a footbridge for 0.5 miles one way to a small creek.

Bolivar Heights/Schoolhouse Ridge North
Easy to moderate, 0.3 to 2.4 miles (with side trails), 15 minutes to 1 hour. Wayside exhibits.
A short walk from the Bolivar Heights parking area provides some of the best views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, the Potomac River water gap and the Shenandoah Valley. This is the best place to survey the terrain and ponder Civil War strategy. Cannon and earthworks reflect the violent history of this site. Walking the whole Bolivar Heights trail system yields bonus views of School House Ridge to the west. The easiest walk is the 0.3 mile loop on top of Bolivar Heights. The 1.3 mile Upper Loop continues on the crest and then turns right, down a wooded trail to a lovely view of Schoolhouse Ridge. Here, hikers can continue through the field 1.1 miles on the Lower Loop or turn right and follow the tree line to another wooded trail back up to the Bolivar Heights parking area. From the Lower Loop a walk across Bakerton Road- be careful! watch for traffic-connects the Bolivar Heights trails to the Schoolhouse Ridge North Trail.

Schoolhouse Ridge South
Allstadt Farm Trail: Moderate, 2.5 miles roundtrip, 1½ hours. Courtney's Battery Trail: Moderate, 1.2 miles, 30-40 minutes. Wayside exhibits.
Hikers see expansive views of Bolivar Heights, Maryland and Loudoun heights all along this ridgeline. The two trails start at the parking lot on Millville Road. The Allstadt Farm Trail to the left passes through fields, forest and along a stream. Hikers can start across the field, or take the farm lane straight up to the ruins of the 19th-century farmhouse and turn left to intersect the main trail. The trail eventually loops down to Flowing Springs Run, and then climbs back up to the top of the ridge. From the overlook on the far end of the ridge South Mountain fills in the gap between Maryland and Loudoun heights. The shorter, Courtney's Battery Trail to the right from the parking lot, leads to a battery of cannon and another view of the surrounding heights illustrating Confederate tactics in 1862.

Loudoun Heights
Difficult (steep and rocky in places), 7.5 miles round trip, 4-5 hours round trip.
This challenging trail rewards hikers with a southern perspective on Harpers Ferry and the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. From the Information Center in Lower Town, hikers find the Appalachian Trail (AT) on High Street and head up the stone steps to Jefferson Rock. Continue on the white-blazed AT about one mile to the highway. Cross the hiker-friendly section of the highway bridge over the Shenandoah River to reach the base of Loudoun Heights. Continue up the AT 0.9 miles to the intersection with the orange-blazed trail. Turn left for a break from the climb and hike about 0.5 miles on the orange trail to the first overlook. At the top of the mountain turn left on the blue-blazed trail. Two more overlooks along the power line cut preview the beautiful vista waiting at the Split Rock overlook. Backtrack 1.5 miles on the blue-blazed trail to return to the AT and the descent back to Lower Town.

Camp Hill - Virginius Island - Hall's Island
Moderate, 2-3 miles (with side trails), 1-2 hours. Wayside exhibits.
This trail follows the Appalachian Trail (AT) to Jefferson Rock, Harper Cemetery, and the former Storer College campus, with many great views of the mountains and river valleys. The hike starts at the Information Center, crosses Shenandoah Street to High Street and turns left on 62 historic stone steps on the way to Jefferson Rock. Southbound AT hikers can follow the white blazes along this cliff side all the way to Georgia. The right fork just above Jefferson Rock goes to the Harper Cemetery and Lockwood House, the birthplace of Storer College. Just past Lockwood House, along the tree line, a side trail returns to the AT. Approximately 0.25 miles to the right on the AT, a highly recommended option angles off to the left.** This trail, historically known as the Cliff Trail, allows a nice circuit back to Lower Town across the Virginius Island area. The Cliff Trail descends steeply to Shenandoah Street opposite the ruins of the pulp mill. Cross the street and follow the Virginius Island trail system back to Lower Town, about 0.5 miles to the left. **At this intersection, a blue-blazed trail to the right winds up stone steps to the former Storer College campus. Continue up another series of steps between two buildings. Turn right and follow the long brick walk to Fillmore Street and the next set of blue blazes to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor Center. From the AT Visitor Center, hikers have two options for returning to Lower Town. Turn right and use the sidewalk on Washington Street or backtrack one block and turn left on Fillmore Street. The quiet neighborhood here includes historic Morrell House and Brackett House on the way back to Lockwood House and the Harper Cemetery.

Many visitors to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park wish to enjoy the company of their pets as they experience the beautiful scenery and historic landscape. In order to preserve this cherished resource and keep the park clean and safe for all visitors, please observe the following guidelines when bringing pets into the park.

Leash your pet. Pets must be kept on a six-foot leash at all times while visiting any area of the park. This prevents encounters between pets and wildlife, protects pets from hazards, and prevents unwanted interaction between pets and other visitors. Retractable leashes should be kept at a maximum length of six feet.

Plan your day. Pets are not permitted on the park shuttle buses or in park buildings. Pets also may not be left unattended while their owners explore the park. When planning your visit, please determine what activities you plan to enjoy before deciding to bring your pet. Adequate water, shade, and supervision are all important considerations for your pet, especially in the hot summer months. Information on areas closed to pets is available at the park Visitor Center on the day of your visit. (Exception: Service animals are permitted on park shuttles and in buildings while functioning in their work capacity.)

Dispose of pet waste. All pet waste must be removed from the park. If you are visiting with your pet, please remember to bring plastic bags or a scoop and determine how you will transport waste from the park. Pet waste may not be left on the ground or disposed of in park trash receptacles.

Practice good behavior. Harpers Ferry is a popular destination. Visiting pets should be accustomed to crowds and capable of good behavior in the presence of other pets and wildlife. Unreasonable amounts of noise and harassment of wildlife are not permitted in the park. Digging, clawing, and other destruction of natural and historical resources are also strictly prohibited.

Report loose pets. If your pet escapes its leash and becomes lost in the park, please notify park staff immediately. Never abandon a pet, wanted or unwanted, in the park.

For additional information, please contact the park Information Center at 304-535-6029.

Entrance Fees for Harpers Ferry NHP

Park passes may be purchased at the fee collection entrance station daily.

Vehicle Pass - $10.00 per single, private vehicle (excludes group tours and 7+ passenger vans - visit the Group Fees and Reservations page for more information).

Individual Pass - $5.00 per person arriving on foot or bicycle

Harpers Ferry Annual Pass $30.00 Valid for one year from month of purchase for Harpers Ferry NHP only. Admits pass-holder and passengers in a single, private vehicle (excluding groups) or immediate family if entering by other means. Nontransferable.

Entrance passes are valid for three consecutive days, beginning on date of purchase and are required in all park areas. Fees are payable at Cavalier Heights Entrance Station, Bolivar Heights, Maryland Heights, Harpers Ferry Train Station, and River Access Parking Lot. Credit cards are accepted only at Cavalier Heights.

To learn about the fee system and the projects fees support, please visit the Your Dollars at Work portion of the website.

171 Shoreline Drive, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

Please visit the park's website for more detailed directions.

Reservations

For teachers bringing student groups to Harpers Ferry, please visit the Education Reservations page to find reservation forms and the fee waiver checklist.

For others groups visiting the park, please visit the Group Fees and Reservations page to find the reservation form and more information about group fees.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is open year round with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Park museums and contact stations are open from 9am to 5pm year-round. Park passes may be purchased at the fee collection entrance station daily. Park shuttle bus hours begin at 9am daily, though the end time for buses varies by season.
Park museums and contact stations are open from 9am to 5pm year-round. Park passes may be purchased at the fee collection entrance station daily. Park shuttle bus hours begin at 9am daily, though the end time for buses varies by season.
 

Standard Hours

  • Sunday:  - 
  • Monday:  - 
  • Tuesday:  - 
  • Wednesday:  - 
  • Thursday:  - 
  • Friday:  - 
  • Saturday:  - 

Park Trails

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is open year round with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Standard Hours

  • Sunday: Sunrise - Sunset
  • Monday: Sunrise - Sunset
  • Tuesday: Sunrise - Sunset
  • Wednesday: Sunrise - Sunset
  • Thursday: Sunrise - Sunset
  • Friday: Sunrise - Sunset
  • Saturday: Sunrise - Sunset
Accessibility Information

General Information

Harpers Ferry is a park consisting of historic buildings, Civil War battlefields, hiking trails, and much more. Within this complex park there is something for everyone to connect with and enjoy. Please be aware that due to the uniqueness of the park - its historic setting - some locations may be more difficult to access than others. This page offers you a glance at the park's amenities and features so that you may better prepare for your visit to Harpers Ferry.

Physical Mobility Accessibility

Visitor Center (located at 171 Shoreline Drive)

  • Parking: There are accessible parking spaces at the Visitor Center complex.
  • Entrance: The Visitor Center doors only open manually.
  • Restrooms: The restroom building's exterior doors open manually.
  • Wheelchairs: The park has two wheelchairs available that may be borrowed by visitors upon request.
  • Shuttle Bus: The park's shuttle buses are equipped for those with physical limitations. The buses kneel and have lifts to accommodate those who are unable to utilize the stairs.

Lower Town

  • Restrooms: An accessible restroom is located in the Bookshop building on Shenandoah Street. Restrooms are also located on the second flood of the John Brown Museum.
  • Exhibits and Museums: Most exhibits and museums in Lower Town have accessible entrances. These entrances are not always visible from the sidewalk. An accessible entrance map of Lower Town is available at the park's Visitor Center or Information Center.
  • Sidewalks and Trails: The sidewalks in Lower Town are made of various materials including brick, slate, and cobblestone. Trails in Lower Town are mostly compacted dirt. The walkway between the John Brown Fort and The Point is gravel.
  • Shuttle Bus: The park's shuttle buses are equipped for those with physical limitations. The buses kneel and have lifts to accommodate those who are unable to utilize the stairs.

Programs and Tours

Ranger-guided programs vary in topic and tour stops. Please feel free to contact the park ahead of time to ask about program routes and accessibility.

Deaf / Hearing Loss Accessibility

  • Exhibits and Museums: Video presentations within the park's museums are open captioned. Printed copies of video transcripts are available upon request.
  • Programs and Tours: The park has assisted listening devices available, which may be borrowed by visitors upon request.
  • Online audio / video presentations: All videos on the park's website are closed captioned. All audio presentations on the park website are accompanied by downloadable text transcript files.

Blind / Low Vision Accessibility

  • Braille: The park's brochure is available in braille. It is available at the park's Visitor Center.
  • Exhibits and Museums: Some exhibits, museums, and outdoor waysides have tactile components and audio descriptions.

Service Animals

Service animals are allowed in National Parks. For a definition of a service animal, please go to www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm.
For more information regarding visiting Harpers Ferry with an animal, please see our Pets page.

Last updated: January 18, 2018