A few hours out of Pittsburgh sits West Virginia. I have passed Harpers Ferry so many times and always wanted to stop, but never did. I changed all that and took quick one day, overnight trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Not knowing the area at all, I was surprised as I drove to our destination and crossed over 3 state lines. Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia all within a short span of one another. The gas prices fluxed too! It was crazy!
Harpers Ferry is located where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet. It’s about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Pittsburgh, PA., 1 hour from Baltimore, Maryland and 1 hour and 15 minutes from DC.
Rich in history, perfect for those who love outdoors from hiking to white water rafting, there’s a lot to do in the area. Here’s my ‘Best of Harpers Ferry West Virginia.’
Best Of Harpers Ferry West Virginia
The Ride Should Be Easy… if you don’t hit rain! (lol) I think we drove in the worst conditions ever from Pittsburgh to Harpers Ferry.
I seriously considered turning around at one point in time because the rain would not let up and it was impossible to see. It just was relentless and traffic was awful because of it.
Persevering the weather, was not a mistake, however, it was a very difficult drive. Once we got through the first few hours, the rain began to let up.
Thankful for the better conditions, I made up for the lost time and we arrived about an hour later than I wanted to. When you see the dismal beginning pictures at the train station, to the end of our day, and the one below, you will see how gorgeous the area is.
The weather did follow us and kept on raining hard for a better part of that afternoon, but when it cleared, well wait till you see! It’s Ah-Mazing.
You need about a day and a 1/2 here. If you want to hike at all or do white water rafting, and see the town, I suggest that time frame.
What I Did Not Know About The Area
Admittedly it is better to know something about the area before you go so you can gain maximum exposure to the area and understand it, but having a personal crisis going on in my life at the same time of the trip did not allow for prep.
As a travel pro, I pride myself on ‘catching on’ to an area quickly and I did. I took cues from what everyone was doing, looking at and all the backpacks, and hiking sticks. Here’s the deal!
HIKING & The Appalachian Trail
Since I am not a ‘hiking’ kind of vacation gal, I had no idea how intense the hiking was around here. There were so many hikers (backpacks, hiking poles) stacked outside the one restaurant I thought it was a convention.
In fact, the Appalachian Trail cuts right on through the area. This section offers a chance to see where John Brown’s Raid took place and some other Civil War battles. There are a lot of sandwich shops, so there were a lot of people getting out of the RAIN that started again.
Harpers Ferry Train Station
Our journey began right at the train station. We drove into the heart of the town, which is where the train station is. If you are lucky enough to find parking in there, it’s free, otherwise, be prepared for App driven parking meters that you may or may not find.
We circled so many times, again, I was ready to give up. Are you getting that this was not our best trip? The rain was killing the day, the humidity was high, and there were 2 tour buses and no parking.
What I did not understand is that our Bed and Breakfast was less than a mile from the heart of the town and I could have walked. Why did we not? Well, first I did not get that it was all clustered together and perfect for a walking day.
Second, the rain was so intense, I did not want to walk around with wet clothes. Further, it was so warm and humid a raincoat was not an option!
Finally, we found a metered parking spot and I took it. We decided to just walk in the rain and make the best of it, but a lot of places were closed? It was a Tuesday and it was late afternoon, but not all the restaurants and shops were open?
The Train Station
What would you do right after you got there, drove for hours and could not find parking? Next on the agenda is finding the restrooms, which we located inside the train station.
Odd little place and we could not access outside the train station to take pictures. Very nice woodworking and brick on the interior. I liked it. We continued to venture on to the Potomac.
The Rivers, Geese & History
The train station overlooked the Potomac and we decided to continue walking to the rivers. Here it got interesting. Walk out of the train station to the left and there’s the river and a set of wood steps.
Take the steps if you want to see the old Armory Site Buildings (really just plots and signs). Additionally, there’s the replica of the Meriwether Lewis Replica Boat.
Here’s the thing, you can barely see the replica because it was so overgrown. I was disappointed in this part, but reading history and learning things is always a plus.
Now for the, “I warned you ahead of time…” There are a lot of Geese, and geese leave droppings everywhere. Mix this in with humidity and well you have the perfect storm for gnats, bugs that bite and just general misery. Unless you really need to see the replica and it’s a dry day, I say avoid!
I really am not normally this person but trust me, the best part of this was the water and bridge scenery.
Onto Potomac Street
Here you will find food (if places are open), coffee, ice cream, a gift shop and the entrance to the Appalachian Trails as well as John Brown’s Fort(Potomac and Shenandoah). Make certain to just step back and take in the ambiance.
Also, the area is VERY casual, no real dress code, so athletic shoes, tanks, etc. are very acceptable. You are outdoors, walking and hiking and seeing the sites, it all just works.
Continue down and you will be right in Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. We did that later, but we decided to go up a street to see everything. There’s so much in between the streets, stairwells up to High Street and restaurants.
There are side patios, places for libations and more. Just open your eyes and you will see.
From Potomac To High Street
Look for this restaurant and the stairwell between. It will land you at the TOP of High Street, which allows you to start at the top and work to the bottom. I like knocking things off a list, so this strategy worked well for me.
Plus, the vantage point from the top for a photo and one from the bottom really gives a great feel of the destination overall. Also, don’t forget to pay attention to architecture. Brick, wood, cement.
We cut UP and through Potomac to High Street. If you are not in good shape, walk the streets or get dropped off. This is straight up steps, but turning around for photos was incredible. We cut through right next to Hannah’s Train Depot.
Remember we had parked almost across the street from here so it was easy for us to do this. We went to the Train station first, then the river, back up, past all the shops, eateries, etc, and then up the steps.
We then walked down High Street, passing by Vintage Lady and the True Treats Historic Candy Store. Now you want to stop in the Candy Store. There are old wring washers in there, and every candy in there is tagged with history.
I am doubtful most buy anything here because the pricing on items is insane, but, it is a destination on the street to visit. The plus is that the employee in the store is really excited to answer any questions.
High Street Experience
High Street may be my favorite vantage point in the area of Harpers Ferry. You walk down the street and see this huge shale rock exposed right next to the Town’s Inn (great for photos) and the whole street is ‘Williamsburg-esque.’
Halfway down the street, you have the option of going up Public Way or to continue sauntering down. We kept on downward. The picture below is an image I took once at the bottom of High Street. It really is a hill!
Stopping in a cool ‘history- location’ and because there were nooks and crannies along the way to enjoy. Just look everywhere or you will miss something.
Where Niko Travels kept disappearing up and down stairwells, and into buildings. It is intriguing, cool and there’s a lot to take in. In fact, I found so many places to photo I could not stop, it’s all Pinterest-worthy! From log piles to alleys and uphill cut-throughs.
Restoration Museum – Appalachian Trail & Shenandoah Street
Call it a destructed building, a museum, a piece of history or just something you don’t see every day. You don’t pay to go in, but you sure do get your money’s worth of cool.
The disappointing part is it’s only a floor level and we wanted to see more. It’s pretty much showcasing the old way homes and building were created. Foundation exposed, yet you are within. Basically history of past and a layer of how we got to here.
If construction is not your thing, move on right through. I think it’s Instagrammable though, IMO! Really it is amazing to see the old architecture, the exposed walls, etc.
From Here…. It’s all Uphill – The Ruins
We sauntered away from here, and up to a path/ to ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church. We stopped for water at the public fountain and then walked by the ruins. Snapped a few photos and continued.
You really can’t get up close, though if you really wanted to there’s nothing stopping you, we did not.
Do take a minute to catch your breathe and get a drink, you will appreciate that advice. These steps are long, stretched out but the destination you arrive at will be breathtaking.
Chances are you will pass a lot of people along the way, we sure did.
Next stop and last one for us in this area of the walking tour was Jefferson’s Rock. Warning, when it rains, the stone below your feet and the broken down stone (grit) gets slippery and we watched 2 people ahead of us FALL!. Walk with caution.
Me, seeing this, “History, what happened here. Can’t imagine.” Love it. Now it’s ours to revel in, for just a minute. It’s a very busy spot, lots of cameras and warning signs about slippery.
We got to Jefferson’s Rock, a shale rock formation on the Appalachian Trail. NOW, TURN AROUND. When you are here, you must look behind YOU. It’s a Great photo opp. I promise it will take your breathe away.
St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church
Everywhere I go, I try to visit at least one church. Churches are the center of each area and a great place to start. Not to forget that they bring people together in peace and love for common beliefs.
Standing in front of this church it was a blessing I believe that a day that was to be 90% rain turned into this gorgeous skyline shortly after our arrival. I told you, ‘ so worth the drive in the rain!’
Last Stop at the top of the hill, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. It’s a beauty to see. The exterior is all that was open, we could not get into the church (sigh again!).
I wanted to see inside but that only happens on Sunday mornings. Again, look at the Potomac from here, the train tunnel, etc, it’s a beast of a backdrop to take in!
These are the steps we climbed to get to the church, there is a paved road, that is a straight shot in case you don’t do steps.
Springhouse and Root Cellars
Back in the day, they cut into the shale rock and created cool cellars. Once you descend beyond the ruins, you can walk on Public Way to get back do Potomac Street. We did. Here’s what we found.
If you dare and can stretch your legs big enough you can get up there and see even more of a view. Where Niko Travels took that upon himself to try. I seriously was in awe at the gigantic carved steps, unchanged from years long ago.
Can you imagine trudging up those steps with packages? Or even food? To a point, it seems inhumane, yet it was the only way to get things from place to place.
White Water Rafting Is Huge Here
This summer was really different here as I was told. There was a drought and the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers were way low (this was the same in Durango, Colorado). When we were here the water was low and there were not people rafting. The norm is rafting in this area!
I am explaining this because it affects the traffic and the flow of the area. You will need to plan ahead for parking and shopping and eating when it is really busy or a weekend. We were here on the weekdays, so it was a lot different.
If you head in the other direction, not the way Niko was going, you will run straight into the water!
The Inn To Stay At
Our delay really messed up by going to the Light House Inn to meet the manager of the B&B so we went to lunch. Additionally, we painted the town red uncovering it and checked in later. Since the weather was cooperating we just kept on walking all over Harpers Ferry.
What you want to know is if you stay at the Light Horse Inn and it’s a nice day, you can walk about a mile and be in town, no need to park or seek parking. You would leave the White Horse Inn and walk on the front road, for 20 minutes.
Just to give you a better idea of location: From the Light Horse Inn to the Restoration Museum on Shenandoah Street it exactly 20 minutes.
LIGHT HORSE INN
For those seeking a more intimate setting, on a girl’s getaway, a romantic place to stay, the rustic and charming Light Horse Inn is beckoning you to stay. There’s ample parking, and as mentioned it’s very close to town and multiple restaurants.
The room we stayed in was on the second floor (no one was above us that night, but someone WAS next to us and she was loud). You enter and go right up the steps, that is floor 2. You will find 2 rooms, one much larger than the other and with a very nice and large bed.
Our room is the one below here. Very clean and kept. In the bathroom, were the necessary toiletries: Shampoo, body wash, soap, makeup removers and small glasses for teeth brushing. A shower after a day in the rain and the heat felt amazing!
In the room, we found a rocking chair, a sitting bench, a Queen-sized bed, and a bathroom. It is very clean. I do have to say though that the bed was tilted due to the floor and when I moved I always rolled towards the closet, lol.
While there is a mantle, there is no fireplace.
Initially, I was to stay on the top floor, but I had just one child with me, so we opted for the room on the 2nd floor. Above us was a room with a large sitting area, couches, a separate bathroom, a small kitchen with all the appliances and a bed.
However the steps going up to that level were intense, and I did not want to haul a bag up, nor take more space than we needed. Isn’t it gorgeous, so rustic and welcoming?
Renovations and new rooms were coming, unfortunately, I could not meet up with the person I was supposed to (she fell ill and I had a back at home emergency) and we left a day early. That said, they were more than accommodating when it came to my early checkout.
The Main Floor
On the main floor, you can walk right out to Washington Street with changes into High Street as you get close to town. A large dining table, a full kitchen and a cook that makes breakfast.
Atop the table were treats like cheese and crackers in packs during the day on the table as well as bottled water. Ice is always available as you can see.
We did not have breakfast either on arrival or on day of departure, so I can not address the food, sorry. There is a Barn behind the Inn, and it is apparently a bar with limited hours, I did not see anyone in there, so I assumed it was not open, but it is a consideration if you want to enjoy a beverage! Advice: call ahead and see if it will be open during your stay.
As mentioned before many of the local places were not open on Tuesday, so I am assuming it is open on different days.
While we were there the construction was taking place so I am pretty sure they were close to finished. Now there will be more than 3 suites, I believe there were 2 more rooms going in.
If you are a couple, or a few girlfriends getting away this is a great place to stay. Conversely, in my opinion (IMO) if you have kids I would suggest the top floor and the 2nd floor together. It’s not really a place for kids, or so it seems. It’s very quiet.
Reservations are easily done online and the staff does EVERYTHING to make your stay comfortable. I can’t wait to go back and see the new rooms, giving everyone visiting more lodging options.
My thanks to the White Horse Inn for hosting us~ Dana XO