Harpers Ferry is a small historic town and national park on the border of West Virginia.
It’s actually located right beside the borders of three different states. My friend, Cat, and I drove from Maryland, into Virginia for about two minutes, and then into West Virginia. Two rivers, the Potomac and Shenandoah, also converge here.
Location: West Virginia, USA
History: Originally found in 1733 by Peter Stephens. Bought in 1747 by Robert Harper. Officially settled and named in 1763.
The town is best known for John Brown’s raid in 1859 and its role in the American Civil War. The photo above is of the building at which the event took place. Another notable fact is that the Appalachian trail passes directly through the town, and is considered the psychological midpoint of the trail. However, the geographical midpoint is located further north in Pennsylvania.
Now onto our day of adventure…
Pro tip: There are two parking lots you can park in, but if you don’t have a National Park pass, you have to pay. Park your car first, and then when you come back there will be an envelope on the car for you to put cash in, and you place the envelope in one of the drop-boxes in the lot.
The first parking lot is located right next to the town. The other is down the road a bit, and great if you want to walk along some of the ruins and trails like we did.
It was a very muggy, overcast day, but still fairly good weather. I had been there once before, many years ago, during autumn. I would definitely recommend going in October or November if you can. The trees are glorious and the crisp air is really nice. A sunny day in summer would be ideal too, but stay hydrated because it’ll get hot (we were sweating and it wasn’t even sunny).
We walked along the road towards the town and came across some old ruins and a sickly green river. The photo doesn’t even truly do it justice. The color was so bright and saturated that it didn’t even look like water. At first glance it looked like an odd expanse of grass. I felt like we were in the Louisiana bayou for a few moments.
Ruins are one of my favorite historical features to explore, so naturally I was super excited. Cat and I couldn’t resist having a quick photoshoot here. It was the perfect location for it.
Pro tip: Wear shoes that are good for hiking! Both times I’ve visited Harpers Ferry it’s been a bit muddy, and there’s plenty of areas where good shoes are a plus. I completely forgot about this and wore heeled booties. Cat laughed at me quite a bit… It was doable, but if you can, wear sneakers or rainboots.
Eventually we reached the town, entering through a re-enactment themed area. Almost all the buildings are fake and have props in the windows. It was fairly empty when we were there, so it felt eerily like an old ghost town. As you keep walking you’ll get to the more lively part of the town, full of shops and restaurants.
There’s tons of great places to buy unique jewelry and little, artsy knick knacks. Cat and I spent about half an hour looking through a basket of friendship bracelets in a whimsical shop. We spent a lot of time looking at boxes of rings too. If you love jewelry, there’s definitely a piece for you somewhere in this town.
We got some ice cream first… and then ate lunch a bit later at The White Horse Tavern, located on the river side of town across from the other parking lot. It had an authentic atmosphere, nice staff, good music, and curly fries, so I definitely recommend it.
The town is great, but my favorite part of Harpers Ferry is the bridge. The views are spectacular, and every angle is photographic. On the other side of the bridge is another walking trail.
Our last stop was a shaded dock area by the water. We relaxed there for awhile and had ourselves another mini-photoshoot.
It’s a very quaint town, with exquisite views, frozen in time and hidden in the lush mountains. If you live nearby or find yourself in the area, definitely give it a visit. And if you’re a photographer, bring your DSLR (and come in autumn) because there’s hundreds of spots to snap some brilliant landscapes.