You know those views that are so breathtaking you just need a minute to take them in? The ones that feel like a painting has come to life in front of you? Harpers Ferry is like that.
It’s less than an hour’s drive from Winchester, and sits where the magnificent Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet. It’s a town overflowing with raw beauty and history. The town’s population is only several hundred people; but it is also home to various monuments, landmarks, historic buildings, a lovely downtown area and loads of incredible scenery. It was named after a ferry established in 1761 by Robert Harper, to carry cargo and passengers across the Potomac River. Its location and sheer beauty have drawn visitors for centuries.
While visiting in 1783, Thomas Jefferson noted the gorgeous scene of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers along the Blue Ridge Mountains from a spot that is now named after him. Jefferson Rock, now a popular Harpers Ferry destination, offers those same scenic views to visitors today.
George Washington, who also traveled to Harpers Ferry and was familiar with the town, proposed it as a site for a new United States armory and arsenal in 1794. Two years later, the land for it was purchased by the government from heirs of Robert Harper, and construction began several years after that. In 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a raid on that same arsenal. The raid ended up as a catalyst for the Civil War.
Most of the town falls into Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The few areas that don’t are contained within the Harpers Ferry Historic District. The famous Appalachian Trail – the longest hiking-only footpath in the world – runs right through the park. The trail runs through 14 states, with Maine as its northern tip, and Georgia as its southern one. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry offers information and photo opportunities. The visitor center acts as the headquarters for the entire trail, and is known as the trail’s “psychological midpoint.” More than 20 miles of other hiking trails are also situated throughout the park, many of which lead to scenic overlooks or historic Civil War sites.
St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church is another must-see. The only church in Harper’s Ferry to survive the Civil War, it is situated high above the town, and offers incredible views of the area below.
Visitors can also stop at The Point – a spot at the very tip of the junction of the two rivers, with gorgeous views of each, along with the Blue Ridge Mountains. While standing on West Virginia soil at The Point, viewers are able to see both Virginia and Maryland directly across the waters. A scenic photo opportunity, The Point is a reminder of the fact that, along with being a spot where the rivers merge, three states converge there as well.
With all of this and so much more to offer, Harper’s Ferry is a perfect day trip or weekend getaway the next time you’re needing a break from everyday life. If you’re wanting an overnight, there are various hotel, inn and bed and breakfast options that won’t disappoint. It’ll feel a bit like an escape, while reminding you that true beauty is all around us – and usually not very far away.