2/2/2020 Shenandoah St. – The Point overlook – Lower Town trail – Harpers Ferry National Historic park – Shenandoah River shore
Elevation gain: 292ft
This hike is brought to you by: quick decision making. My husband had to drive to Winchester, VA. and I’ve figured might as well get dropped off here and take a walk. We pulled into a small parking lot right after crossing Shenandoah River, towards Harpers Ferry, under the bridge. After getting all set we’ve waved goodbye and started our adventure.
I spotted this small plaque at the stairs leading us out of the parking area. Helpful little compass to make a last minute plan.
Since I wanted to check out Harpers Ferry we took off on Shenandoah st. towards the small historical village (East). As soon as we hit the trail a freight train was coming through very slowly. I have missed the opportunity to take a pic not knowing it won’t happen again today.
There are a lot of ruins close to the river approaching the village, this particular one was a pulp factory back in the 1800’s. They were all part of the 1800s industrialist movement in Harpers Ferry.
The trail follows the road for about a mile but we take the first opportunity to get away from it. The massive lime stone wall next to the paved road is amazing. Further up on top of it is the Jefferson Rock.
We cross above Lake Quigley on a small wooden bridge built in 1974 to Virginius Island.
We cross the railroad before getting down to the beach. It was built in 1836 and was 32 miles long originally.
Even though there are a lot of debris and driftwood the beach is surprisingly sandy and full of shells. Here, we are overlooking the Staircase Rapids.
Continuing to the East, Mag takes a break on the ruins of the River wall close to the once operational Cotton mill and later a Civil War Hospital. The wall was built about 1848 as part of the hydraulic system for the mills and other shops downstream.
While crossing a small creek through yet another wooden bridge the Saint Peter’s Roman Catholic Church comes into full view on the top of the hill, beyond the elevated wooden Winchester & Potomac Railroad tracks. This wooden structure to me is a work of art and I found it magnificent.
While heading back towards the river we meet Moose a pit-lab mix who is soaking wet after a nice swim. Off course the two of them hit it off right away, but we have to part ways.
Finding this pretty big stump right at the edge overlooking Shenandoah River gives Mag the needed elevation to pose for a photo. The Potomac River bridge is in the distance. There are also two bridge carcasses here, one towards Loudoun Heights the other to Maryland Heights. 3 of the pillars have vegetation overtaking their tops.
We climb up the wooden stairs to The Point overlook where we could connect to the Appalachian Trail, however the Footbridge to C&O Canal and Maryland Heights is closed indefinitely.
3 trails meet here to provide endless miles of solitude. The Appalachian trail is about 2181 miles long. The C&O Canal trail is 184.5 mile- and the Potomac Heritage trail is 710 miles long.
Here is a bird view of Harpers Ferry to better understand the town and its surroundings.
We end up walking towards John Brown’s fort which like so many other buildings is a museum now. From here, we can see on our right, up on the hill the monument for the original Fort. Beyond that is the US Armory Site and the Train Station on Potomac Street.
“Outside the fire engine house, U.S. Marines, commanded by Robert E. Lee, ended the raid on October 18, 1859. Sixteen people died in the raid.”
We keep on Shenandoah street between beautiful historical houses. On our right there is the museum of John Brown across from Arsenal Square. The next block of buildings on our left is called Lower Town which gave the trail its name. It houses an information kiosk (present days), an 1800s Dry Goods Store, the Provost Marshal Office and Boarding house and A Place in Time. At the end there is a replica of a Hardware Store with a water level – flood measure. Throughout Harpers Ferry’s existence there were several major floods which eventually destroyed the factories and made life impossible here.
Leaving towards the bus stop, following the railroad on our left we also notice the Industry Museum across the street along with the Bookshop. Crossing The Green and passing by the Shuttle bus station – where Mag almost gets on one – we get to the Blacksmith Shop and this beautiful cottage.
FYI: the shuttle goes from here to the Historical Park Visitor Center. We rather climb there even though Mag needs reassurance.
So we take the Lower Town trail back to the small bridge towards the Appalachian trail bridge walking next to Shenandoah River. At one point we follow the splitting trail under the railroads then chose the middle path overshadowed by American Sycamores to round up under the huge pillars.
The trail goes straight as an arrow next to Shoreline dr. for what feels like a mile. Super windy down here, I am glad that the sun is out. We follow it until we see the Visitor Center sign.
After the crosswalk we have to hike pretty steep through lime stone rocks next to a small gorge. It’s beautiful.
The views are spectacular thanks to the nakey-nakey trees. Down below the timeless Shenandoah River billows gracefully in shades of green. Towards the West it shimmers like a silver fish, reflecting the rays of our Sun.
At the top the vista is broad, the parking area framed by fluffy white clouds. We take a 15 minute break, sitting in the grass, cuddling and watching the fast moving sheep up in the sky.
On the way down we stop to marvel about the small waterfalls, steadily fed by groundwater from above.
At the bottom, instead of following the trail sign sending us back the same way we keep straight. Crossing the tracks again takes us down to the shore.
The water is beautiful and inviting with its smaragd color and sandy, small pebbled beaches. The contrast is lovely with the blue of the sky. Canadian geese and Mallard ducks sunbathing on rocks in the middle.
Getting back to the bridge is not as easy as I thought on the shore. The trail disappears mid way and it is quite difficult to move through the stony surface with a dog without ending on my bum. Closer to the pillars we have to get on the railroad’s gravel and finally reach back to our starting point. My hubby is still about 20 minutes away so we take a seat on the wooden guardrail.
Time goes by a bit faster while we wait, we make friends with 3 guys asking about Mag. Turns out one of them has two pits and is heading to Hungary this summer. Small world.
Here is our adventure map. I didn’t use ResQWalk this time to yet again save battery power on my phone.
We really enjoyed this walk, packed with historical details.
We will be back to explore the Loudoun Heights trail, the Murphy-Chambers Farm trail and both of the Schoolhouse Ridge trails. There is also the Stone Fort trail in Maryland Heights, not even talking about the 3 major trails that meet here. Hopefully the footbridge will be open by then.
Thank you for reading!