Use our list of the best things to do in Harpers Ferry West Virginia from our most recent visit to make the most.
In the northern corner of the Shenandoah Valley, you’ll find Harpers Ferry West Virginia, one of the most picturesque little towns we visited during our travels in the United States.
This tiny town has so much history and natural beauty packed into one small area, and we were blown away during our West Virginia road trip.
The entire town center is part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park; an incredible display of preserved historic sites, mainly from the industrial era of the mid-1800s.
The town also played a significant role in the American Civil War, and there are numerous landmarks to reflect the events that impacted US History.
Outside the charming town center, you’ll find national parks, rivers, forests, and more.
The famous Appalachian Trail runs right through Harpers Ferry, as does other scenic trails.
After visiting museums and soaking in all the history, you can kayak, zip-line, hike, camp, and more in the lush wilderness of the surrounding Shenandoah Valley.
Table of Contents
- The Best Things to Do in Harpers Ferry West Virginia
- 1) Explore Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
- 2) Visit John Brown’s Fort
- 3) Walk to Jefferson Rock
- 4) See St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church
- 5) Go Whitewater Rafting with River Riders
- 6) Visit the Ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church
- 7) See the Antietam National Battlefield
- 8) Shop for Sweets at the True Treats Historic Candy Shop
- 9) Stop in the John Brown Wax Museum
- 10) Walk Along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- 11) Visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters
- 12) Go on a Ghost Tour
- 13) Hike the Maryland Heights Trail
- 14) Walk the Shenandoah Canal
- 15) Visit the Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum and Joy Line Railroad
- 16) Peek Inside White Hall Tavern
- 17) Go Ziplining
- Where to Stay in Harpers Ferry, WV
The Best Things to Do in Harpers Ferry West Virginia
We spent a day visiting Harpers Ferry, and a few days in the surrounding area, and absolutely loved our time here.
Whether you’re interested in nature, history, or both, there are so many amazing things to do in Harpers Ferry.
Start by exploring the Historic Lower Town and admiring all the adorable buildings, coffee shops, and museums. Stop in the True Treats Historic Candy Store or marvel at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.
Be sure to make some time for exploring nature as well. Admire the view of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers from “The Point”, or take to the rivers on a raft. Visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters to plan some hiking.
Harpers Ferry may be small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in fascinating history and beautiful wilderness.
Ready to make the most of your time here? Our list of the best things to do in Harpers Ferry is just what you need.
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1) Explore Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Look, let’s get the obvious out of the way first – the best thing to do in Harpers Ferry is visiting Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
Located at the crossing of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, on the state borders of West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, this spot celebrates history and community.
The highlight of the Historical Park is the Historic Lower Town of Harpers Ferry. Wander through here to see all the historic buildings and landmarks that helped shape the town of Harpers Ferry.
The park is also home to over 20 miles of hiking trails. There are peaceful strolls along the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, challenging treks up mountains, and hikes across Civil War Battlefields. Or go bicycling or rock climbing in the park.
The National Park’s Website has more info about hiking trails and attractions in the area. Some of the top things to see in the park include:
- John Brown’s Fort
- John Brown Wax Museum
- Industry Museum
- Civil War Museum
- The Point: Viewpoint where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet
- Jefferson Rock
- Harpers Ferry Park Association Bookshop
- Murphy Farm
- Virginius and Halls Islands
- Appalachian Trail
- Storer College and Camp Hill Sites
We’ll also dive into greater detail about some of these points of interest later in this article!
Most of the attractions within the Historical Park don’t have an individual fee, but the fee to enter the park is $20 per vehicle or $10 per person arriving on foot.
2) Visit John Brown’s Fort
Abolitionist John Brown was just one of the many significant historical figures who made history in Harpers Ferry.
The small building currently known as “John Brown’s Fort” was created in 1848 and originally was the fire engine house for the local Armory.
The location became famous after John Brown’s raid in 1859, when he attempted to initiate a slave revolt by raiding the Harpers Ferry Armory for weapons.
It was a pivotal moment in Civil War History, and John Brown’s Fort is one of the most important Civil War sites.
While touring the Lower Town of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the fort of the famous John Brown is definitely worth a stop.
- Address: 814 Shenandoah St
- Hours: 9am – 6pm every day
- Cost: Included in the park fee of $20/vehicle of $10/person
3) Walk to Jefferson Rock
Located between the Lower Town and Camp Hill areas of the National Historical Park you’ll find Jefferson Rock.
This rugged rock formation offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains and rivers.
When visiting Harpers Ferry in 1783, Thomas Jefferson was quoted describing the view of the river passing through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
His quotes were later published and made the spot famous, so it was named after Thomas Jefferson.
To access Jefferson Rock from the Lower Town, you can simply follow the stone steps on High Street.
It is a relatively easy walk, though it is not accessible for those with wheelchairs or disabilities as the stone stairs are the only pathway.
Jefferson Rock is part of the Appalachian Trail, and it is a truly beautiful spot in Harpers Ferry, WV.
4) See St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church
Another one of the best things to do in Harpers Ferry is visiting this magnificent church.
Not far from Jefferson Rock, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church is a hilltop church that overlooks the gorge of the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River. It is a stunning building in an even more stunning location.
This gothic-style church was the only church to avoid destruction during the Civil War. Tourists can attend the Sunday Mass at 9:30am, or you can walk along the Appalachian Trail which leads just behind the church.
The inside of the church is only open on weekends, but you can still admire the architecture and the view at any time.
- Address: 110 Church St
- Hours: 11am – 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays
- Cost: Free
5) Go Whitewater Rafting with River Riders
Because Harpers Ferry is located right on the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, it is the perfect spot to try whitewater rafting!
River Riders is one of the most popular tour companies in the area, but there are a few other reputable ones as well.
All local tour companies have a variety of river rafting options. You can book a guided or self-guided tour depending on your experience level.
You can raft with a group or on your own. Both the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River have numerous rapids of different difficulty levels, so you are sure to find a fun spot to ride the waves no matter how experienced you are.
Here are the top companies for rafting in Harpers Ferry, WV:
6) Visit the Ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church
Another incredible site of Civil War history in Harpers Ferry is St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Built in 1851, this was one of the first churches constructed in Harpers Ferry. It doubled as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War, but was badly damaged during the battles.
The National Park Service has at least preserved the stone walls so the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church can still exist and be remembered.
You will pass the ruins while following the stone steps from Lower Town up to Jefferson Rock.
They are free to visit, though you still have to pay the entry fees for the National Historical Park when you enter Harpers Ferry.
7) See the Antietam National Battlefield
This National Park’s protected area is another great stop for a history buff in Harpers Ferry.
The Battle of Antietam in 1862 ended the Confederate Army’s advances into the north.
It was a bloody battle, but it was the catalyst that led to Abraham Lincoln issuing his Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in America.
Antietam National Battlefield is another one of the most important Civil War sites, and you can easily visit this spot from Harpers Ferry. It is located in Maryland, about a 30-minute drive from Harpers Ferry WV.
- Address: 5831 Dunker Church Road, Sharpsburg, MD 21782
- Hours: Visitor Center is open daily 9am – 5pm
- Cost: $20 per vehicle or $10 per person
8) Shop for Sweets at the True Treats Historic Candy Shop
For the perfect combination of sweet treats and history, visit the True Treats Historic Candy Shop.
This charming, unique candy store sells treats that were common throughout history. Its earliest candy specialties include Native American fruits and barks, sweets of the Bible, and some of the first candies ever made.
They have treats from the 1500s, the Industrial Era of the 1800s, and the 1900s. And of course, they have modern-day candy as well.
If you have a sweet tooth, definitely visit the True Treats Historic Candy Shop and allow your taste buds to step back in time.
- Address: 144 High St
- Hours: 10:30am – 5pm daily
- Website: https://truetreatscandy.com
9) Stop in the John Brown Wax Museum
If you were intrigued by John Brown’s Fort, also include a visit to the John Brown Wax Museum.
Located on High Street right in the center of downtown Harpers Ferry, the John Brown Wax Museum recreates the epic raid of John Brown during the Civil War through wax figures.
It also tells the story of John Brown’s life and the significant moments leading up to the raid.
There are 87 life-size figures as well as music and animations that tell his incredible story. It is truly an impressive display of craftsmanship and history.
- Address: 168 High St
- Hours: 10:30am – 4:30pm
- Cost: $7
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10) Walk Along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail
One of the top things to do in Harpers Ferry is hiking along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
The entire Appalachian Trail is one of the USA’s most famous hikes. It covers over 2,000 miles and stretches from Maine all the way to Georgia.
Because the Appalachian Trail passes right through Harpers Ferry WV, you can hike sections of the iconic trail during your stay.
There is much more detail about the different routes and locations of the hikes on the National Park Service website.
But the best way to access the Appalachian National Scenic Trail is to follow the steps to Jefferson Rock and continue to the Appalachian Trail from there.
There are plenty of signs directing you where to go. Whether you want to hike for 15 minutes or for 3 hours, it is super cool to get out into nature and follow part of this world-famous hiking trail through the mountains.
11) Visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters
Another significant spot in Harpers Ferry is the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters.
This adorable little building is located in downtown Harpers Ferry and is a popular gathering spot for hikers along the trail.
The staff and volunteers at the headquarters are the backbones behind the success of the Appalachian Trail. They work hard to keep everything running smoothly, so it’s fascinating to stop in, chat to some locals, and pay your respects.
This is also a great place to visit if you plan on doing some hiking. The staff will set you up with maps and guides, and the best recommendations for the area.
- Address: 799 Washington Street
- Hours: 9am – 5pm Thursday – Monday, 10am – 4pm Tuesdays and Wednesdays
12) Go on a Ghost Tour
Another one of the best things to do in Harpers Ferry is go on a ghost tour.
This is one of the top-rated ghost tours in the country. It is also the oldest ghost tour in the country at 52 years old.
Hosted by the local company, “O’ Be Joyfull” Historical Tours, this family-friendly walking tour takes you to about 14 blocks of the Historic Lower Town of Harpers Ferry. The guide will tell you all about the mysterious, ghostly happenings from the town’s history.
With lots of conflicts and violence in Harpers Ferry’s past from the Civil War, there are plenty of ghost stories to hear about!
The tour lasts between 1.5 and 2 hours. The website describes the tour as “spooky and sometimes scary”, and suitable for most children.
- Location: Meet at the piazza in front of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church for the tour
- Hours: Tours run Monday – Saturday at 8pm
- Cost: $18 for ages 12+, $14 ages 8-12
13) Hike the Maryland Heights Trail
The Maryland Heights Trail is one of the best hiking trails in Harpers Ferry West Virginia, and we couldn’t wait to tackle it.
Literally everyone we asked about which is the best hike in Harpers Ferry said it was this one.
At 6.5 miles round-trip, it is a moderate trail that should take roughly 3-4 hours return, including some time at the viewpoint.
This loop walk covers many highlights of Harpers Ferry, including Civil War sites, gorgeous views of the Potomac River, and scenic overlooks of the quaint town.
You can even split the trail into two sections if you aren’t up for hiking an entire 6.5 miles. It’s just 4.5 miles from Lower Town to the Maryland Heights Overlook.
From Maryland Heights Overlook, the Stone Loop Trail is an extra 2 miles. This loop is where you’ll see the Civil War stone fort.
It’s recommended that you park at the Harpers Ferry Visitor Center for your hike and start walking from the bus stop. Just follow the signs.
14) Walk the Shenandoah Canal
A unique landmark in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is the Shenandoah Canal.
The Shenandoah Canal was originally built in 1806 and was part of the Potowmack Canal System founded by George Washington.
The canal was eventually replaced by railroads and bigger, better canals, so it became obsolete. Now it is a West Virginia National Historic Site, located right next to Virginius Island in Harpers Ferry.
While exploring this historic town, take a walk along the Shenandoah Canal, which was once an impressive and cherished means of transport in the Shenandoah Valley.
15) Visit the Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum and Joy Line Railroad
For anyone visiting Harpers Ferry who is interested in trains, this museum is a must.
The Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum is sure to entertain any visitor, regardless of age or knowledge of trains.
When you arrive, buy your ticket and board the Joy Line Railroad. This miniature train will take you on a short ride around the grounds and through a tunnel.
After the ride, you can visit the museum and admire all the old trains and memorabilia.
This is one of the best things to do in Harpers Ferry with kids!
- Address: 937 Bakerton Rd
- Hours: 10am – 4pm Saturday and Sunday
- Cost: $4 (cash only)
Looking for more adventures near the Appalachian Trail? Consider heading over to Asheville, North Carolina!
16) Peek Inside White Hall Tavern
Another one of the most popular historic sites in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is the White Hall Tavern.
Back in the 1850s when Harpers Ferry was an important industrial town, this tavern was an important community gathering space. Workers often came here to drink and discuss wages, politics, and other issues of the day.
It was an iconic place, but it eventually shut down as the town began to expand and modernize.
Though the White Hall Tavern is no longer a functioning venue, you can still visit and look around to see what local pub life was like in the 1850s.
17) Go Ziplining
If you need a break from sightseeing and learning about American history, why not go ziplining?
Adventure lovers will have a blast soaring through the Shenandoah Valley on zip lines.
Two of the local companies that offer river rafting also have incredible zip line tours.
River Riders has eight zip lines in the forest near the Potomac River. They have recently added a 1,000ft zip line that soars right over the river as well.
This is the company we went with, and they were fantastic. Find more info here.
Harpers Ferry Adventure Center also has amazing zip line tours. You can even combine this with rafting for an epic day of adventures near Harpers Ferry West Virginia.
Where to Stay in Harpers Ferry, WV
Now that you know what to do in Harpers Ferry WV, here are some of the best accommodation options for your visit.
There is an awesome budget hostel, plenty of good hotels for mid-range budgets on booking.com, and a superb option for luxury accommodation.
Best Budget Accommodation: Harpers Ferry Hostel
This amazing hostel in Knoxville, Maryland is the best budget accommodation for Harpers Ferry.
At Harpers Ferry Hostel, you can set up a tent at a campsite with showers, picnic tables, and a campfire ring for $15 per night. Or you can rent a dorm bed for $30 per night, or a private room for $80 per night.
The prices are cheap, yet the quality of the customer service, the facilities, and the activities offered are all great.
Best Mid-Range Accommodation: Clarion Inn Conference Center
The Clarion Inn is just one kilometer from the center of Harpers Ferry, WV. It has an airport shuttle for your convenience and is a beautiful hotel to stay in for a reasonable price.
There is a free hot breakfast, a swimming pool, a business center, and more to accommodate your needs. The price is only around $130 per night.
Best Luxury Accommodation: Hillbrook Inn
Want to know where we stayed? Right here!
This stunning bed and breakfast in Charles Town West Virginia is the absolute best place to stay near Harpers Ferry, WV.
Hillbrook Inn is pet-friendly, and equipped with spa services, luxurious rooms, an award-winning chef, and more.
This rustic and cozy inn, spa, and restaurant is the perfect place to relax and unwind after sightseeing. Charlestown is only about a 12 minute drive from Harpers Ferry, WV, making it a perfect base for exploring the area.
The grounds are immaculate, and the breakfasts are to die for.
If you want to stay in historic luxury in one of the most stunning accommodations we’ve ever seen, book a room here.
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