We’ve been in the midst of a heat wave here in the DC Metro area. Temperatures nearing 100 degrees and the “feels like” temp easily climbing above that. I’m happy to say that while I am writing this we’re getting ready for a few cooler days. Don’t get me wrong – I love summer! However, oppressive humid heat like we’ve been having can make it difficult to find something you enjoy doing outside.
That’s why I wanted to write about one of our recent weekend day trips. Devin and I have been discovering how great hiking can be for outdoor summer fun, especially when it’s hot and sticky. At least in the places we’ve been exploring, the shade from the trees and the slight increase in altitude provide a bit cooler temperatures so we can get out and explore without wilting.
From our home, Harpers Ferry is a short drive (less than an hour). One of Devin’s co-workers gave us a nice write up of fun things to do, and visiting this National Park has been on our summer bucket list. Yes! We create one when we head into new seasons so we don’t forget all of the fun things we’re looking forward to. We drove up in the mid morning and found parking before noon. It’s a $10 entrance fee for the day or a $30 pass for the year. We’re considering getting the yearly pass just due to the proximity and the beauty (you will see!).
The park provides a shuttle that will take you from the parking lot to the downtown historical area. Where it drops you off is also where you can access most of the trails. It was a quick 5 minute bus ride.
When we got off the bus we decided to walk around the downtown area first. There is quite a bit of Civil War history in this National Park and there’s someone around every corner dressed in era appropriate clothing waiting to tell you about the town and answer your questions. It’s fantastic!
We first hiked to Jefferson’s rock, which is pretty much in the middle of town. It was a quick hike up past the historical buildings and a beautiful church. Once at the top, you get an amazing view of where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet.
Since it was early afternoon, we arrived hungry and decided to grab a bite to eat before heading out on the longer trail. We had been given the recommendation to complete the Maryland Heights Trail.
Downtown we found quite a few cute restaurants, many with outdoor seating that provided beautiful views. We were lucky to have a gorgeous day to explore and be outside. We ended up outside at the Potomac Grill where we ordered two delicious wraps and tried a local beer. Yes, I know, a beer before hiking probably not the best idea, but we just love trying all things local! The Potomac Grill also offered a view of the trail we were about to hike. There was an overlook in the top of the mountain where we’d be able to see quite a bit of the region once we got there.
With our stomachs full, we took off. The hike was about 3 hours in length, but note we weren’t going super fast and we were taking our time with the views and taking pictures.
You cross a bridge to get the Maryland Heights trail. Because of the beautiful weather, there were quite a few kayakers and tubers out on the river. It looked so refreshing! Little did we know we’d want to hop right in with them when we finished the hike.
The trail is actually fairly steep at times and our heart rates were elevated while climbing.
There’s a point about 2/3 of the way up where you can choose to go on the strenuous part or the moderate part. We chose the moderate part. We were already about 2 miles in and figured we’d do better exploring a trail that didn’t completely destroy us! I’m thankful we made that choice because part of the moderate trail involved sections of relatively (big) rocky terrain. I only wore my running shoes, so my ankles were really feeling the rocks and unevenness.
But, once we made it to the top, it was completely worth it. The views of downtown and the rivers were spectacular!
There were a few boulders you could sit on and just enjoy the views and the beautiful day. We sat there for a bit, drinking our water, and deciding when we’d have the energy to make it back down! Since we weren’t wearing hiking boots and hadn’t been out on a hike in a while, our legs were feeling it already.
The hike back down wasn’t that bad actually! And we ran parts of it since we felt so good. I’m glad we took the break we did at the top. However, we definitely didn’t bring enough water with us and all we could think about was getting to one of the cute coffee shops downtown for a bottle of water! There are quite a few coffee shops downtown and when we stopped I got an affogato (coffee and ice cream) as a treat.
I couldn’t recommend Harper’s Ferry more! It’s such an amazing day trip that offers history, hiking, water sports, and a cute downtown. I can’t wait for our next trip!
Where have you been exploring this summer?