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)
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.
Into the darkness
Date of Hike: Saturday, December 28, 2013
The important thing to know is that the visitor center and bus shuttle stop running around 5 pm. So what the NPC rangers don't tell you is that if you come after 2-3 pm, you should look for parking further down the hill after you drive past the parking lot. Otherwise, like us, you may have to walk 1.5-2 miles back from town in the dark!!
The park trail has some mud and icy patches so be careful and be sure to bring hiking shoes.
We have gone on this hike 3-5 times before but after the fall, all the colors are pretty dull (brown/grey).
The town itself is small but nice, if you want to walk through it and check out the historic stores.
Date of Hike: Saturday, November 02, 2013
The whole hike- Stone Fort Trail plus Overlook took us 2.5 hours round trip from the trail head, including about 15 minutes at the top for a snack and about 10 minutes stop at the overlook, and we were going at a pretty decent speed. Be warned that the overlook trail (and the overlook) can be pretty crowded on the weekends, but the steep Stone Fort trail much less so. We did not even try to park in one of the 8-car lots by the trail head, nor was there any room at either of the NPS lots near the historic town, so we had to park at the Visitor's Center (a couple miles away from the historic town) and take the shuttle. All in all, round trip from the visitors center parking lot (including shuttle to the historic town, plus 15-minute walk to trail head, plus the hike and back) took almost 3.5 hours. Very pretty with the fall foliage, and the views are awesome from the overlook looking down on the confluence of the two rivers and the town, but the views are more distant and less direct from the Stone Fort. Worth doing as a day trip from DC for sure.
Date of Hike: Monday, October 21, 2013
There were no spaces in the train station lot and none on the street when we arrived at 10:30 a.m. on a Monday. Went up to the National Park visitor's center lot and took the short bus ride back down, so it was pretty quick. That's a good option of you are running late.
The hike was fairly crowded until the turn off to go up to the ruins of the Union Civil War Fort. After that turn we saw no one, and for good reason as it was really very strenuous getting to the top. In fact, I wouldn't attempt going all the way up to the fort unless you were in pretty decent shape. We went up the west side which as a previous reviewer noted was wide and fairly well marked, until the very top where we actually got lost a little bit looking for markers and the fort. The east side is indeed narrow, rocky, and in places slippery with leaves and loose stones. On the way down I was at times unsure if I was on the actual trail, and had to look around quite a bit for the few markers there.
If you're up for the climb to the fort you will really enjoy getting up close to civil war history. Really makes you think about what a hell of a time that was. And the views are fantastic. Don't forget your map and bring a good amount of water.