The small town of Harpers Ferry is a beautiful destination located within the lower Shenandoah Valley of West Virginia.
If you’re a US history buff, you’ll love the historic buildings and historical significance as a location of both a Civil War battle and a raid of abolitionist John Brown.
There are also plenty of outdoor activities, great restaurants and shops to appeal to a variety of travelers.
This article is written in partnership with Visit Jefferson County.
171 Shoreline Dr, Harpers Ferry, WV
The National Historic Park is filled with American history, scenic views, historic sites, and even has ghost tours that weave it all together.
There is a lot of consequential history in this area when it comes to the Civil War. Harpers Ferry changed hands 14 times between the years 1861-1865.
One of the best things about visiting this historical park is that there is a LOT for you to see and do within a relatively short walk.
How Much is Park Admission to Harpers Ferry?
The $20 park entrance fee includes parking, ranger programs, and access to numerous museums, exhibits, and trails and is valid for 3 consecutive days.
You don’t have to pay the fee if you have a current “America the Beautiful” National Park Pass.
Where to Park at Harpers Ferry
When it comes to parking you have a few options. The main parking lot is at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park located at 171 Shoreline Drive, Harpers Ferry.
The lot at Harpers Ferry NHP Main Visitor Center can accommodate hundreds of cars and includes shuttle bus service to the lower town.
If you luck out, you might find one of 81 parking spots in the lower town lot at Harpers Ferry Station (pictured above).
*There are also some limited metered parking spots in the lower town but guests are still responsible for the park entrance fee.
Visit Harpers Ferry by Train
There is an Amtrak/MARC Station in Harpers Ferry that is conveniently located within Harpers Ferry National Park.
View the Confluence of the Potomac
Scenic views of the river at the National Park also have a significance.
The Confluence is where 2 rivers (the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers), 3 states (West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia) and 4 National Park sites meet.
Walk Across the Harpers Ferry Railroad Bridge
You can appreciate the views of the Confluence while walking on the rail-with-trail bridge that crosses the Potomac River.
The pedestrian walkway of the bridge connects Harpers Ferry and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park known as the C&O Canal Towpath.
It also connects the Appalachian National Scenic Trail from West Virginia to Maryland.
The C&O Canal Towpath is 185.4 miles of trail from Georgetown in Washington DC to Cumberland, Maryland is popular with bike riders and walkers.
814 Shenandoah St, Harpers Ferry, WV
“John Brown’s Fort” was originally built as the Harpers Ferry Armory fire engine and guard house in 1848.
The building became a “fort” when abolitionist John Brown and several of his followers barricaded themselves inside during their unsuccessful raid on October 16-18, 1859.
St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Harpers Ferry
100 Church Street, Harpers Ferry, WV.
Visit the site of a beautiful church completed in 1833 that was the only church in the area not damaged during the Civil War, thanks to flying a British Union flag. Years later a Neo-Gothic structure was constructed on the same foundation in 1896, which remains today.
The Chapel of St. Peter is typically open on Saturdays from 10am-4pm and Sundays from noon- 3pm for visitors from Memorial weekend through October.
If you happen to visit on a Sunday, there is a mass at 9:30 am available for tourists to attend.
The piazza (front patio) is the meeting location for the oldest ghost tour in America.
Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry is self described as a “Family & Dog Friendly’ walking tour” appropriate for most people of all ages.
The walking tour lasts approximately 2 hours and covers approximately 14 blocks in historic “Lower Town” of Harpers Ferry.
You can enjoy nice views of the river valley along the walking path that passes by the church to Jefferson Rock.
Hike to Jefferson Rock
You can stand where Thomas Jefferson once stood on October 25, 1783.
Jefferson Rock is a unique rock formation located along the Appalachian Trail. From the vantage point, you can enjoy great views of the area from both directions.
Jefferson Rock is unstable which is why walking or climbing on the rock or its supporting base rock is prohibited for visitors.
Shop and Eat at Downtown Harpers Ferry
You can see a lot of Harpers Ferry within a relatively short walk.
Get Your National Park Passport Stamped at the Bookshop
723 Shenandoah St, Harpers Ferry
If you love collecting stamps from National Parks, make sure that you stop by the Bookshop for a Harpers Ferry stamp.
There is a good chance you might find a book or souvenir in the gift shop during your visit too.
Sweet Stop at True Treats Historic Candy
144 High St, Harpers Ferry, WV
This is the only researched-based historic candy company in the country!
You’ll definitely want to stop in this one-of-a-kind candy shop with over 500 products that sells to museums all over the country.
Candies inside the shop feature recipes from the 1700s -early 1900s with an emphasis on the history on each label.
Owner Susan Benjamin has over 40 years of experience as a candy historian. She does a fantastic job of sharing the history of sugary treats in way that makes learning fun.
True Treats was also featured in a question on Jeopardy.
“True Treats in W.V. sells candy from many eras including peanut brittle from this 19th century horticulturist’s recipe.”
Who is George Washington Carver?
Did you already know the answer? I didn’t know it until I visited the candy store.
During your visit you’ll learn how candy has evolved over the years along with fascinating origin stories.
Fun fact: Did you know that cotton candy was invented by a dentist?
I personally think it was a form of job security.
All ages young and old will enjoy exploring the store. The biggest challenge will be narrowing down your choices.
Support Artisans From Around the World at Tenfold Fair Trade Collection
180 High St #1A, Harpers Ferry, WV
Tenfold Fair Trade Collection sources products from artisans who are paid fairly and ethical brands dedicated to protecting the environment.
I purchased an hourglass necklace that I LOVE as a visual reminder that time is precious and to not waste days.
You’ll find an assortment of items to choose from including jewelry, apparel, accessories, home decor, unique gifts and more.
Handcrafted Functional Art at Magpie Pottery
163 Public Way, Harpers Ferry, WV
Artist Joe Straka has over 40 years of experience working with pottery.
When you step inside his working pottery studio and gallery you’ll find beautiful pieces that also have function.
You can also see more of his pieces available for purchase online.
Delicious Sandwiches at Battle Grounds Coffee & Bakery
180 High St, Harpers Ferry, WV
Enjoy a fantastic sandwich with a view from the outdoor patio for Battle Grounds Coffee & Bakery.
I recommend visiting with a “food sharer” so that you can try more than one sandwich.
We tried the “Screaming Jenny” made with turkey breast, cheddar cheese, jalapeño, roasted red peppers and chipotle aioli served warm on sourdough bread.
We also split the “Shenandoah” made with ham, provolone, spinach, red onion and black raspberry preserves on pumpernickel bread.
The sandwiches are hearty with delicious and intentional flavor combinations.
Additional Restaurants in Harpers Ferry Historic District
Harpers Ferry Historic District has plenty of options when it comes to dining within steps of each other. What’s nice is that you have both sit down and fast/casual options to choose from.
There are also several places where you can get ice cream if you want in-between meals.
The Rabbit Hole is a popular restaurant with a large outdoor patio facing the river. We didn’t have enough time to wait for a table before catching our flight.
I’m still adding it to the list because it was highly recommended by several locals that I talked to.
We ended up dining at Coach House Bar N’ Grill. Thankfully their service was quick so we still made our flight and we still got to sit on an outdoor patio.
For an appetizer, we split the oven baked brie soaked in honey.
We also really enjoyed their grown-up grilled cheese.
Choose Your Own Adventure at River Riders Family Adventure Resort
408 Alstadts Hill Rd, Harpers Ferry, WV
Your hardest decision at River Riders Family Adventure Resort is deciding which adventure to try first!
There are plenty of options to choose from ranging from mild to more extreme.
*It’s important to note that some adventures do require a reservation in advance so plan accordingly.
- White water Rafting and/or White water kayaking
- Tubing (Flat water tubing & white water tubing)
- Aerial Adventure Park
Challenge Yourself at the Aerial Adventure Park
If you like a challenge, this is the adventure for you. The Aerial Adventure Park at River Riders Family Adventure Park has 9 aerial forest challenge ropes course trails within 4 wooded acres.
There are 5 levels of difficulty to choose from accommodating all comfort levels.
During our visit we tried both the beginner course and a more challenging course, called Woody’s Wander. Each course has 12 elements including zip lines. You can face each element challenge without the fear of falling because you are harassed to a rope the whole time.
If you are traveling with younger kids (ages 4-6) then Chicken Little’s Kids Zipline Course is the perfect option.
Flat Water Tubing on the Shenandoah River
If you are looking for a relaxing adventure, I HIGHLY recommend flat water tubing on the Shenandoah River.
We opted for the red tubes with a backrest that are shaped longer to provide leg room and also come with a paddle over the circular tubes.
The experience was SO RELAXING! We both liked having a paddle in case we started drifting too close to the riverbank.
Our only complaint was that we wished that the 1.5 hour float would have been longer because it was such a great experience.
Stop by Schoolhouse Ridge South
2083 Millville Rd, Harpers Ferry, WV
There are two historic sites that are within close proximity to River Riders Family Adventure Resort.
Schoolhouse Ridge South has an audio tour and a battlefield trail if you want to explore the area.
There are two trail options to choose from. Allstadt Farm Trail is a 2.5 mile moderate hike that takes around 1.5 hours round trip. This hike provides views of the surrounding area along the ridge.
Courtney’s Battery trail is a 1.2 mile hike and takes around 30-40 minutes round trip. This trail takes hikers to a battery of cannons.
Trails are open from sunrise to sunset.
Visit the Allstadt House and Ordinary
Junction of United States Route 340 and County Road 27 near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
The Allstadt House and Ordinary was built around 1790 and was later sold to the family of Jacob Allstadt. The house remained in the family until John Thomas Allstadt’s death in 1923 who was the last survivor of John Brown’s Raid.
The site played an important role in the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry.
Accommodations Near Harpers Ferry
If you need a place to stay during your visit, The Bavarian Inn Resort is located less than 25 minutes from Harpers Ferry in the quaint town of Shepherdstown.
Scenic Views from the Bavarian Inn Resort and Brewing Company
164 Shepherd Grade Rd, Shepherdstown, WV
The Bavarian Inn Resort and Brewing Company has room options that overlook the Potomac River or the Greystone Manor and grounds.
There is also a brewery and restaurant onsite with fantastic food at the 11 acre European inspired boutique resort.
The scenic views of the Potomac River from the heated infinity pool at the resort are also hard to beat!
Shops and restaurants in Historic Sheperdstown are a short drive from the resort which makes the location even more convenient.