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Maryland Heights – Harpers Ferry NP

Hike Summary

I am convinced that Harpers Ferry, WV has only one type of weather: overcast. Every time I’ve been here, it’s always been grey and gloomy. This day, it was particularly chilly, and I kicked myself for not bringing gloves.

One of the problems with hikes with a lot of hills is that one gets overheated going up, and then freezing at the top/on the way down. Luckily, my jacket still keeps me warm, even when soggy.

Navigating to/around this park is kind of a pain — there’s a big visitor’s center over near Bolivar, with a nice spacious parking lot and a shuttle down to the town. A shuttle that of course doesn’t allow dogs, so if you want to visit the downtown area, you need to drive in and hope there’s parking. Same for the various parking areas around the trailheads — the first parking area was actually full, but luckily there was an additional one, which put me on the C&O Canal towpath for a short distance.

It’s also a pretty busy trail, even in the middle of the week in a chilly autumn, I saw several groups of hikers coming back from the cliff vista area when I was on my way up. I would eventually head there myself, but I wanted to get up to the summit of Maryland Heights first.

There are a lot of informative placards on the trail, and the trail itself is pretty wide on the way up. It is steep though — a real “ball buster” of an incline. It was a 1400 ft incline in the space of a couple of miles. I had a good chuckle when I read a sign that mentioned that even Lincoln, when he was there to inspect the Union fortifications, decided that he didn’t want to go up to the summit.

Once up at the top, there are good views to the east, where there were gun emplacements to keep watch over the Potomac, and some towards the south towards Loudoun Heights. Even though the place was heavily settled during the war, nature has taken its course over the past 150 years and obscured much under layers of leaves and plenty of tree regrowth. The signs are definitely there, though.

On the way back down to the junction, the trail gets really steep and narrow, with a lot of sliding rock. It got better when I went on the trail to the cliff overlook though, with a lot of switchbacks, that made the way a lot easier.

The overlook is fantastic, offering a wonderful view of the old downtown, as well as up the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. I took quite a few pictures, and most of them came out pretty well, despite the crappy weather.

I tried not to dally too much around on this hike because of the weather and my hands getting cold — same with the visit to Harpers Ferry in general. I find the driving in this area to be a little stressful, and I had farted around a bit at home before I set out this day, which made me take too long. I really want to take some time to visit the downtown again and poke around the buildings, maybe visit the AT center that’s there, and the bigger gift shop. Well, there will be more opportunities, I’d like to hike some of the other trails that are around the park area.

More Pictures of Maryland Heights
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