Fellow blogger J. Hammer graciously agreed to guest blog for the Mid-Atlantic Day Trips Blog about hiking along Maryland Heights, near Harpers Ferry. This is part 1 of his two-part series.
Maryland Heights is one of the hikes I’ve been wanting to do from the first time I visited Harpers Ferry. I finally got some spare time to hike it on a chilly, windy, but sunny November afternoon. I parked at the visitor center and took the bus down to the main town with my pack and hiking stick.
Full disclosure: I only hiked the Overlook trail and didn’t get to the Stone Fort trail, since I got started a little later than I wanted.
Distances (from the Maryland Heights Trail Guide):
- railroad bridge to Overlook Cliffs (round trip): about 4.1 miles (3 hours)
- railroad bridge to Stone Fort (round trip): about 6 miles (4 hours)
- Combined Trail: Green Blaze
- Stone Fort Trail: Blue Blaze (note: the blazes were light blue; in harsh/bright sunlight, the blue blazes look almost white)
- Overlook Cliffs Trail: Red Blaze
|The footbridge over the canal to the trailhead.|
|Maryland Heights trailhead. It goes up!|
|The trail winds around the back side of the mountain, then begins a steady climb up toward the turn to the overlook.|
|As you can see on the Maryland Heights Trail Guide, the trail splits around the Naval Battery, but make sure you take the side trail to see it. The Naval Battery was the first Union fortification on Maryland Heights.|
THE TRAIL NOT TAKEN
Once past the Naval battery, not far up the combined trail, the Stone Fort trail splits off. The Stone Fort trail goes up to the summit of Maryland Heights, and is a little more than 3-mile circuit hike, which will bring you back around near the Overlook trail.
|The Stone Fort trail branches off.|
As I mentioned before, I didn’t hike the Stone Fort trail, but I understand it’s fairly strenuous but rewarding. Hopefully soon, I’ll head back and hike this one.
|Finally, the payoff for climbing the mountain.|
|Harpers Ferry from Maryland Heights overlook.|
|The Potomac River. You can see the Maryland Heights trailhead from here.|
The AT then turns up the hill and goes past the church before crossing the Potomac into Maryland.
OTHER PICTURES FROM MY HIKE
The trail to the Overlook actually descends from the Combined Trail to the Overlook cliffs, involving several switchbacks. There were plenty of rocks and tree roots on this section of trail, so again, watch your step as you descend down to the Overlook.
As it was a windy and chilly day, I bundled up with a long sleeve base layer under a t-shirt, and a warm zip up hoodie. I also wore a scarf and hat which I occasionally removed. I brought along an extra fleece pullover and windbreaker jacket as well, but I didn’t really need them. I worked up a pretty good sweat hiking up the hill, and in colder weather, I might have been concerned by this. Thankfully, a little time spent relaxing in the sun on the overlook dried me out a bit. This trail is definitely one of the more strenuous trails I’ve done so far, so if you attempt it, know your limits and take your time. Most of all, enjoy.
Tip #1: I strongly recommend a hiking stick or trekking poles to help you up the side of the mountain. There’s also plenty of loose gravel, rocks, and tree roots on the trail, so mind your steps.
Tip #3: On a warm day, the overlook would be a nice place for a picnic, so if you’re willing and able to haul some food up the mountain, go for it, but please make sure you pack out your trash, as there are no trashcans anywhere on the trails.
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