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Travel USA West Virginia

A Road Trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

May 21, 2020

If you are looking for a fun, beautiful, and historical trip to take this summer, a road trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia may be in the cards! Harper’s Ferry is situated right on the border where Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia meet. This makes it a convenient spot for a day trip or overnight from the Baltimore/DC area.

What you’ll find are gorgeous views, a quaint and historic town, beautiful nature, and the gateway to the Loudoun County wine region. My husband Mike and I took our road trip to Harper’s Ferry last September to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and had a wonderful time! It was so nice to drive less than 2 hours from Baltimore and find ourselves in a completely different setting.

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Getting to Harpers Ferry

Taking a road trip to Harpers Ferry is very easy if you live in the Baltimore or Washington DC area! The driving distance is an hour and fifteen minutes from each place, making the perfect destination for a day trip or quick weekend getaway.

It is also easily accessible from other Mid-Atlantic Destinations:

  • Harrisburg, PA: 1hr, 30 min
  • Richmond, VA: 2hrs, 30 min
  • Philadelphia: 2hrs, 40min
  • Pittsburgh, PA: 3hrs, 30 min
  • New York City Area: 4 hrs

Note that there is limited parking in the town itself, with street parking only. You can try your luck with street parking, but you will find it extremely difficult, especially during busy times. The best bet is to drive to the National Park Service lot (171 Shoreline Drive) where there is ample parking. There’s a visitor’s center as well as a free shuttle bus that will take you to the little downtown area.

If you live in DC and don’t have a car/want to relax on your trip without getting behind the wheel, both the MARC Train and Amtrak have service from Washington DC.

What to Do in Harpers Ferry

The tiny town of Harpers Ferry is absolutely adorable – you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time! If you enjoy history, particularly early US History and Civil War history, you’ll definitely be in your element.

Walking through the town you will get a bit of a workout, as it’s perched on a hill (hence the amazing views of the surrounding landscape!) The town itself is very small with one main thoroughfare (High Street) filled with shops, restaurants, and historic sights. For a great spot to enjoy delicious food & drinks AND enjoy an amazing view of the valley and river, get a table on the deck of The Rabbit Hole (186 High St).

I would advise having lunch in the village versus dinner, as most restaurants close early. If you’re staying overnight in the area, there are a few neighboring towns that I recommend below.

After lunch, if you’re craving something sweet, head to True Treats Historic Candy Shop (144 High Street)! Even if you’re not a candy fiend, this shop is pretty much a museum, with typical candies dating back to biblical times, through the mid-1900s. There are also several other shops to browse along High Street selling locally made artisan items, historic knick-knacks, art, and other gifts.

If you continue down High Street you will approach the walk up to St. Peter’s Catholic Church, built pre-civil war, which has an amazing view over the entire valley. This church is also where the Ghost Tour meets if you’re interested in the spooky history of Harper’s Ferry!

You can continue walking up to Jefferson’s Rock, the lookout point where US President Thomas Jefferson once declared that the scene was “worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”

Harpers Ferry National Park

The town of Harpers Ferry is actually part of the Harpers Ferry Historical National Park! The whole park encompasses 4,000 acres and includes parts of West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia.

In addition to the historic village, church, Jefferson’s Rock, and historic demonstrations & museums, the park also offers guided tours and several hiking trails.

Make sure to check with the National Park Service before planning your trip to get up to date information on access to the park and health and safety regulations.

Where to Stay

Harper’s Ferry has a number of quaint and affordable Bed and Breakfasts within the village itself. The Cantula Inn comes highly rated by guests and offers modern comfort in a historic setting. The Lily Garden Bed & Breakfast is another great option, with 2 adorable suites situated in an old carriage house. The Light Horse Inn is also a great choice, offering modern amenities with historic charm (no children).

If you wanted to venture out of the village itself, there are lots of options in the surrounding area. Nearby Charles Town has more of the run of the mill chain hotels and will put you closer to late-night dining options and the Casino and Inn at Charles Town Races.

If you want a completely unique and wonderful Airbnb experience, I would definitely recommend the Historic Maison du Soleil Retreat, where we stayed during our visit (see photos below). We stayed in a private room within the hosts’ house and felt complete privacy and freedom throughout our visit.

The outdoor barn area they have set up is a dream – so tranquil and beautiful, it was hard to leave it to go and sightsee. The hot tub was especially nice to relax in. It’s close to the attractions at Harpers Ferry, as well as quaint Shepherdstown and plenty of wineries and hiking. Your stay also includes a wonderful breakfast cooked by the host, Henk.

Surrounding Activities in Harpers Ferry

Charles Town

Charles Town is another historic town less than a 15-minute drive from Harpers Ferry. While the town is more commercialized and not quite as quaint, you will find more here in terms of larger hotels, food options, grocery stores, the casino, etc. We mainly spent time here because of our Airbnb location, but we found the downtown quite charming as well in its own way.

A few highlights of Charles Town included dinner and live music on the patio at Abolitionist Ale Works, and the beautiful mural by Philadelphia artist Isaiah Zager (below).

Shepherdstown

I LOVED Shepherdstown and would definitely recommend checking it out! Another unbelievably quaint town, located 20 minutes from either Harpers Ferry or Charleston. Definitely worth spending a few hours walking the main street and all the local shops. There are also lots of yummy and unique dining options should you choose to stay here.

For Civil War Buffs and history enthusiasts, Shepherdstown is also close to the Antietam National Battlefield (Sharpsburg, MD), the sight of the bloodiest day in US History during the Battle of Antietam in 1862.

Loudoun County Wineries

Just south of the Harpers Ferry area, Loudoun County, Virginia is a beautiful, sprawling, hill covered destination with 40 wineries! You could really spend your whole weekend just touring vineyards and tasting rooms, but it’s also fun to pop down here and have a relaxing afternoon at one or two of them.

Hillsborough Winery, Brewery & Vineyard is a great option if you are coming from Harpers Ferry or Charlestown, only around 20 minutes away from either place. The views were absolutely gorgeous and you can enjoy their wine and/or beer along with food selections they offer on-site if you sit on the patio or in the tasting room. If you choose to bring your own food, there is a picnic area where you can sit.

As you can see, this area area has a TON to offer, making a road trip to Harpers Ferry a great idea for this summer or fall! I hope you enjoy the local charm, history, eats and shopping of this beautiful place.

Looking for more local travel ideas on the US East Coast? Check out my Guide to Camping with Wild Horses on Assateague Island and my guide to Charming Photo Spots in Baltimore!

Don’t forget to PIN this article to help you plan your trip.