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)
Really awesome day trip from the DC area! Got a bit of a late start - parked at the Harpers Ferry Visitors Center around 10:15 (free because of 100th NPS anniversary, normally $10/car I believe). Took the free shuttle to downtown Harpers Ferry and walked across the Railroad bridge to the parking area. Decided to take the long loop on the way up - pretty steep incline for about 20-30 minutes, then relatively flat the rest of the way around. Lots of cool signs with little historical notes spaced pretty regularly which made for good breaks. On the way down we stopped at the Harpers Ferry overlook for lunch - great view. Kind of crowded but that's to be expected. Not really any good views on the long loop, but it was mostly shaded so it made for a good hike. 3.5 hours was exactly right.
Near the parking area there's a bunch of areas to go in the river to cool off afterward - definitely recommend doing so! Obviously be mindful of the currents. After walking back into downtown Harpers Ferry we got ice cream at Scoops and then headed out. Really fun day!
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 02, 2016
I hike Maryland heights 5x a week in the summer. The lower trail is great for anyone that is not an experienced hiker. For me, I use the lower hike to get in shape for other, more strenous hikes. One of the reaons why this is my most frequently done hike is the overlook, and while a lot of people use this trail, most of the time if you go early in the morning you are by yourself most of the way out.
That said, I have a lot of pet peeves about this trail. Many people hime with their dogs unleashed here, even though it's against park rules. I have seen big dogs run up to little children many times, scaring them. Those same people let their animals poop on the trail and leave it there. So much so that you see something new almost daily.
The upper overlook is non existent and completely overgrown with trees. Don't go all the way up unless you want to see the ruins of the fort, or just want a harder workout. The ascent to the upper overlook is significantly harder than the lower.
If you find yourself liking this trail, I suggest you consider hiking Loudoun heights next time. It also has excellent views of Harpers Ferry from a different vantage point. That hike is also a little harder and significantly longer.
Date of Hike: Sunday, May 22, 2016
Great hike, but beware the crowds. . .started at 08:30 Sunday morning, got the last spot in the second parking area. . .hiked the reverse of these directions (kept right on the way up, down the overlook trail, then return to the loop to the Stone Fort). Great views along the way in several spots even with the trees, and nice variety of Civil War fortifications. Not too many folks on the way up, including only a handful on the main overlook. . .but I think I passed 200+ people of the way up as I was hiking out at 11:00 or so. Be warned, go early, particularly on the weekend.
Date of Hike: Tuesday, April 26, 2016
I have been wanting to walk this trail for several years, and finally got to go this April. We left Harper's Ferry about 6:30 am, and the weather was perfect. We walked at a steady pace, but had to stop a few times to catch our breath, but the overlook was worth every step. We were the only ones there, and so we had lots of time to enjoy every moment of it. Would love to bring all of our grandkids so they could experience it. I bet it is beautiful in the fall.
Date of Hike: Sunday, February 28, 2016
Overall a decent day-hike. The day we went was a wonderful break in otherwise cold/gloomy weather for the last few weeks. As such, the trail was a bit crowded from folks itching to get back outside and get some sun. Most hikers do not opt to do the full loop, rather take the direct trail to the lookout. Because of this, we didn't experience many crowds until we got near the lookout. Even then, we were able to descend a bit onto the rocks to the left of the lookout, which were not crowded as only the more avid hikers were willing to scramble down the rocks to get there.
The trail is very worn-in, and wide - even saw a handful of people pushing big-wheeled strollers to take babies to the lookout. Great if you just have the itch to get out, but if solitude is your thing, this trail is not it when the weather is nice. Maybe on a colder winter day, or rainy day you'd have it to yourself.