Maryland Heights is another of those must-do circuits for most hikers in the metro area. With a spectacular view of Harpers Ferry from the main overlook, and steeped in Civil War history, this shorter circuit is a favorite for many. But be prepared for the crowds, on nicer days this hike is very busy.
The main ridge at Maryland Heights has the ruins of Union Civil War forts, trenches, gunpowder magazines, and infantry encampments. With most of the circuit having informational signage describing the different ruins.
From the parking area start up the Combined Trail and pass the Naval Battery built in 1862, and first of the Union fortifications on Maryland Heights. At the next intersection, and informational sign, turn left uphill on the Stone Fort Trail as it very steeply ascends towards the ridge.
Once arriving at the ridge pass through the main fort area, then climb a set of log stairs to reach the main interior of the fort. This main section, and largest earthwork, was constructed in June of 1863. The main stone wall on the north of the fort was erected to protect it from northern attack.
From here the Stone Fort Trail will pass back to the south, with views of the Potomac River to the east through the trees. The trail will descend more steeply before ending at the intersection of the top section of the Combined Trail.
Turn left towards the overlook and in 150 yards turn right down the Overlook Trail. The main overlook for Harpers Ferry is in 0.3 miles.
Return to the Combined Trail, then follow it past the two trailheads for the Stone Fort Trail as it descends back down to Sandyhook Rd.
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Reviews For The Maryland Heights Hike (5 Most Recent)
GREAT day hike, great views. It should not be a 3 in difficulty, more like 4
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 09, 2014
Caveat: THE PARKING STINKS! Also the trail head is VERY poorly marked from the paved road. Best signage is actually on the wide trail adjacent to the river. There are steps leading up from the river at the trailhead. You may have to plan part of your hike as the distance to parking and/or drop hikers at the trailhead and the driver hike back alone. This impacted the time we had on the mountain and adversely affected us meeting our party. Loved the view. Overall 4 stars.
Date of Hike: Friday, August 01, 2014
As this is close to my house, I hike here occasionally. In my opinion, this hike should not be rated a 3 in difficulty, it's probably a 4. The ascent up the mountain is very "Big Schlossish" having a rough first couple miles of ascent. After the fork in the trail (where you get the option of going right or left), after taking the left turn the trail turns left and goes up in a relentless fashion until you get to the top. I personally don't like it because I'm not a fan of hikes that I have to stop for a second to suck wind. Also, once you take that left fork, solitude really jumps from a 1 up to about a 4 or even a 5. When I've hiked the Maryland Heights portion I rarely see anyone. Once at the top, the trail gets really easy, not even a 2 in difficulty, and is virtually as flat as the towpath. The views are okay at the top. I wouldn't say they are marvelous, but after seeing the lower overlook over Harpers Ferry, they really are a let down. To me, this is the sort of hike you should take if you are a history buff. If you are looking for views, stick to the right at the forks, and go to the lower western overlook. It's much better.
The only thing of note is to be careful after you past the forts. There are a lot of pointed rocks in the grass and I found myself turning my ankles a lot, both at the top and on the way down.
Date of Hike: Saturday, May 03, 2014
Trail is in pretty good shape after a week of rain. The climb to the top is pretty steep but has some good views when you reach the top. My kids (8 and 11) made the whole route with very few issues. The civil war signs were interesting but lacked any depth other sites have. All and all its a good trail with a couple amazing views!
Date of Hike: Sunday, April 06, 2014
Great Hike...we did the lower/shorter portion...views of the 2 rivers and Harpers Ferry were beautiful. The climb up was very steep, but the reward was worth it. We found parking down near Lock 34 and walked down the C&O Canal trail to the trailhead. Busy rail day, I think about 6-7 trains went thru during our hike. Not overly crowded on such a beautiful day...lots of dogs hiking too.