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scenic overlook, civil war fortifications, moderate to strenuous climb

History combined with beauty! This is a hike over well-marked trails with many interpretive signs along the way. There are some steep climbs and some rocky terrain.
The first park of the hike features a spectacular overlook of Harpers Ferry and the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. However, it doesn't come easily. The trail climbs steadily up a picturesque stream valley to a side trail leading to the overlook. The Overlook Trail descends for .5 mi, but is worth it! For a shorter hike (2.8), return the same way you came.
The second part of the hike includes much history. The trail climbs to the ridge passing remains of fortifications built by the Union forces in 1862 after their defeat at Harpers Ferry. There are ammunition pits, breastworks, powder magizines, and gun batteries along the trail. The remains of the main fort are at the summit of Maryland Heights. A military camp was located in the level area just below the summit.

I-495 to VA 7; west on VA 7 around Leesburg, then right onto VA 9. In about 10 mi turn right ont VA 671, then right (north) ontu US 340. Follow signs to Harpers Ferry National Park visitors center.

National Park Service 304-535-6298

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2 Completed 2 Reviews

I have done the shorter hike directly to the Harpers Ferry overlook as well as the longer hike to the top of Maryland Heights and down to the overlook. It is a challenging uphill hike, but the remnants of the Civil War fortifications and the view from the overlook make it worthwhile. There is also a nice view eastward from the top of Maryland Heights of the Potomac as it meanders through the country side. A "must do" hike for any serious hikers in the Mid-Atlantic region.

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5 Completed 2 Reviews

Done the shorter route several times and absolutely love it! Done longer route once and wasn't impressed - not marked/maintained well in several places, and no where near as scenic. Decent for history lovers, but do your research before hiking because many of the informational signs are damaged to the point of being difficult to read.

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9 Completed 9 Reviews

Dont miss this one trail lovers! No excuses accepted .......my wife had knee surgery and made it all the way!!!

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16 Completed 6 Reviews

Great trail! Convenient parking right at trail head on Harpers Ferry Rd. and a great view of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers with Hapers Ferry perched between from the top. Lots of great birds too!

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12 Completed 3 Reviews

Wonderful trail! In my opinion, the view from the overlook is the best that you will find within two hours of DC.

The hike to the overlook from the trailhead is about 1.5 miles one way and involves 1000' elevation gain (700' on the way up & 300' on the return). Almost all (more than a mile) of the trail is basically a fire road, so it is very easy to follow and footing is not generally a problem. The final section is more like a typical trail and involves two switchbacks (not counting the one that you take off of the fire road). There is an optional naval battery side trail on the way up, but you will only find earthworks there. This trail to the overlook is short, but it is not very exciting; the reason to hike it is for the payoff at the end.

Those with a bit more time and energy may want to hike up to the stone fort. That trail splits off to the left of the main trail, 0.75 miles from the trailhead. There is a big map on a sign at the split to help you figure out where you'll eventually end up. If you thought that the trail was steep up to this point, it only gets steeper before eventually leveling out. There's even a sign that informs weary hikers that Abraham Lincoln once hiked this mountain but turned around before reaching the top, most likely due to fatigue. Shortly after the trail levels out, it passes by the first ruins of an old fort. Do not expect to find a fort resembling Fort McHenry up here; these forts were basically stone walls erected on the ridge. Ascend some stairs and close by you will reach the other stone fort . From here, you will basically walk down the ridge until you rejoin the same fire road that you were on earlier, albeit further up the mountain. This section of the trail is actually my favorite, assuming it's not overgrown (see next paragraph). Once you reach the fire road, turn left if you want to go to the overlook, which of course, you should!

If you want to hike the upper trail to the stone fort, I recommend doing it in when there is minimal foliage on the trees -- spring is still okay. The views from the ridge are excellent, but they are mostly obstructed by foliage during the summer. The upper trail also appears to not be maintained as often, nor does it get as much foot traffic. The result is that it can become rather overgrown during the summer, though not to the point where you'd have to worry about getting lost.

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22 Completed 13 Reviews

I really like this trail. Although a bit strenuous, the hike is a decent workout and affords some nice views at the top. It wasn't super crowded (not nearly as crowded as the town and historic sites), though the train tracks nearby were pretty busy when we were there. Apart from an annoying trip to the historic town from the national park center parking lot, this is a great day hike convenient to the DC metro area.

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1 Completed 1 Reviews

I completed this hike today. It was rather enjoyable highly recommend it and of course Harpers Ferry is historical town it's neat to take a look at the past. It was kind of crowded today but it's nice to see so many people really active.

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3 Completed 1 Reviews

It's not that hard. My two 30 pound dogs made it the entire way, blue route and red route, and we parked on the other side of the river. Not nearly as hard as some people are saying. Nice views, cool civil war fortifications at the top

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15 Completed 15 Reviews

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4 Completed 1 Reviews

A nice trail, well marked and not very crowded, although parking was nearly full when I arrived around 11. I went up the blue trail at the fork, although I think it would've been easier to follow the red trail to the blue as it seemed less steep that way to go up, although I would've had to have come down the more steep angle. Lots of Civil War history, President Lincoln even went up a part of the trail, although it states he turned around when it became too steep. Don't do what Lincoln did, there are great views along the way, especially at the top. I brought water, protein bars, hiking shoes, and dressed appropriately. Happy hiking.

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