As you hike through towns and trails on the Washington Heritage Trail watching chipmunks and squirrels skip along the high spreading branches of chestnut oak, red maple, and tulip poplar, you may find it hard to imagine such harmony disrupted by the roar of cannon, the sharp crack of gunfire, and the cries of battle. Over 150 years ago, John Brown’s Raid and the American Civil War shattered the riverside serenity of Harpers Ferry. Remember the region's violent past and enjoy exercise in the great outdoors while you explore over 30 miles of beautiful hiking trails through this byway's historic countryside and Lower Town near Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
Lace up your walking shoes and begin with the moderate 2.2-mile Murphy Farm Loop Trail. Starting at the visitor center, the trail winds through hardwood forests and across former farmland and Confederate battle lines to reach scenic river vistas and historic sites. For an up-close look at more than 20 of the park's historic sites, walk along the streets of Lower Town in Harpers Ferry. At the far end of the historic district lies the Armory, also known as "John Brown's Fort," which Brown seized in his ill-fated anti-slavery raid – an important precursor to the American Civil War. Outside of town, travel the easy Bolivar Heights Trail (.75 miles one-way) along the Union battle line to see wartime encampment sites and the drilling field. Enjoy expansive views of rolling hills and vibrant riverside vegetation while hiking part of an old Civil War military road on the strenuous Maryland Heights and Loudoun Heights Trails (6.5 and 8 miles long, respectively). Near here, Jackson captured 12,500 Union troops – the largest capture of Federal forces during the American Civil War.
- Public domain. Photo by Steve Shaluta
- Copyright © 2000 A. E. Crane.