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Loudoun Heights – Keys Gap, VA

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
11.0 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
6 hours with 1 hour of breaks
1,595 ft
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Park at the Keys Gap/Appalachian Trail parking area on VA 9. 39.26180, -77.76241

Following the Appalachian Trail north from Keys Gap this hike features the beautiful Loudoun Heights overlook of Harpers Ferry and Potomac River. There is also a nice vista from a utility clear-cut with Virginia to the east and West Virginia to the west. For those making this a backpack, there are two good campsites between the clear-cut and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The one downside to this ridge walk is the extremely rocky section of Appalachian Trail just south of Harpers Ferry National Park.

  • Mile 4.0 - At the intersection the white blazed A.T. turns left/west downhill towards the ATC Visitors Center. Stay straight remaining on the ridge following the now blue blazed Loudoun Heights Trail. This section of the hike is the most popular and can be very busy on nice weekends. In 0.5 miles the trail will arrive at the intersection of the orange blazed cutoff trail.
  • Mile 4.5 - Pass the orange blazed trail on the left and continue descending the blue blazed trail.
  • Mile 4.8 - The first of the three good overlooks of the Harpers Ferry area. Continue downhill.
  • Mile 5.0 - The second overlook. Continue downhill making several switchbacks.
  • Mile 5.5 - Arrive at the hike turn around point and Loudoun Heights Overlook. This is the best overlook of the hike with beautiful views of Harpers Ferry and confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Retrace your route back to Keys Gap.
  • Mile 11.0 - Arrive back at Keys Gap and VA 9.
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Hiker Reviews For The Loudoun Heights Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Hobo Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
FYI- I hike from the Keys Gap parking lot all the time and there seems to be a lot of car break-ins at this lot. Especially if cars are left overnight. Make sure you do not leave ANYTHING valuable in your car. I suspect the nearby trailer park. Blackburn Trail Center also use to be broken into a lot before the care taker took over. Also, after a rain, the first mile of the AT towards Harper's Ferry is a swamp. The first mile of AT trail is in ridge bowl and the water has now where to go. I mean shoe deep mud.

By: Solo Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, February 19, 2018
Trail is mostly small to midsize rocks and poles were helpful. I did a modified version of this hike by starting at the Route 9 lot and then at mile 4 taking the left turn down to Harpers Ferry. The turn and everything else on this trail are very well marked. The hike down to Harpers Ferry was smooth and the return offered a great vertical workout. Harper's Ferry is a cool little place to stop for lunch or a snack and turn around to retrace your route. Someone did a great job of designing the highway bridge to accommodate hikers as they built a nice stairwell under the bridge and added a concrete barrier between the cars and hikers. Well done and much appreciated. In total I did about 14 miles in about 5 hours. You could easily add mileage after Harpers Ferry as the AT and C&O Canal trail continue together in parallel to railroad tracks

By: Steve Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, June 01, 2017
I'd give it three stars but the Loudon Heights Overlook bumps it up to four. The best overlook I've seen on any hike in this area, and the only one I wanted to stay at for an extended time. As the description notes, the hike is rocky along most of its length. It's not much worse than the rockiest hikes I've encountered in George Washington National Forest (Signal Knob, Three Top Mountain). I did fine wearing trail runners. I had two hiking poles in my backpack in case it got too tough but didn't use them. Definitely the rockiest stretch of the Appalachian Trail I've run into in hiking 50 miles or so of pieces of it. In a couple very rocky patches I lost the trail and trail blazes but following the rocks shortly brought be back to the trail. About 20 other hikers on the AT, one other on the blue-blazed portion down to the overlook. Seemed busy for a weekday but didn't feel crowded. It was quite muddy for parts of the first mile, like 2-3 inches deep, but I was able to walk around the worst parts. A longer hike but the relatively low elevation change made it a bit easier than I expected. No streams or springs so bring enough water. This parking area is shared with the Keys Gap/Buzzard Rocks hike going south (which I also recommend). If you look at the reviews of that hike a couple note some odd characters hanging out in the parking area. There is a notice posted at the trail head to stow your belongings and lock your car. A panhandler at the trailhead asked me for spare change. I didn't feel unsafe but it's odd because I don't see such activity at any other trailhead. Please be alert.

Mid April
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