Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is most well known for abolitionist John Brown’s failed raid on the federal armory there in 1859 in an attempt to start a slave uprising. Its name evokes thoughts of slavery, strife, and Civil War. However, today Harpers Ferry is a picturesque national historic park that seems to have something for just about everyone! It also happens to make a great day trip from Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, and northern Virginia.
For history buffs, Harpers Ferry is a living history museum. It is filled with historic nineteenth century buildings; some interesting workshop and store exhibits; and several museums. Additionally, the town puts on Living History Weekends 2-3 times a month with period-dressed volunteers and various themes ranging from 1859 raid reenactment to field artillery and weapon making demonstrations to baking and cider making. (Check out the latest schedule here.) For those interested in getting into some hands-on activities, the Harper’s Ferry Park Association even puts on historic trade workshops.*
For those who enjoy hiking, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park has about 20 miles of hiking trails ranging from relatively easy to extremely difficult. (Maps of the various trails cam be found here.) It is also smack dab in the middle of the Appalachian Trail and is the site of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and Visitor’s Center. There, visitors can obtain all sorts of information on the trail and the various legs they may be interested in traversing.
Finally, for those who aren’t into hiking or history, there is always the general picturesque scenery along the river; the rail station and rail car display; and the town’s shopping and dining. Harpers Ferry is located at the junction of the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers; along the riverfront abutting the town, there are the remains of long-gone bridges, scenic footpaths, and well-tended gardens. For railway enthusiasts, the town’s Victorian rail station is a site in itself and has photogenic mountain views from the station. For those who love to shop, the variety of shopping establishments disbursed throughout the town range from wine and gourmet to pottery and artisan work to jewelry and clothing. (A directory can be found here.) Finally, after you have worked up an appetite during your day’s chosen activities, there are several well-loved inns and pubs to choose from for a great all American meal!
*Many of these workshops have a cost associated with them and require pre-registration. For information on schedules and registration, visit the Harper’s Ferry Workshop Page.