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Maryland Heights - Harpers Ferry, MD

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
5.3 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
3.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,600 ft
Harpers Ferry National Park Service
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Harpers Ferry Weather Forecast

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Park 100 yards past the trailhead on Sandyhook Rd. If that parking is full, there is additional parking further down the road. 39.32920, -77.73169

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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Hiker Reviews For The Maryland Heights Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, September 04, 2017
My wife and I have hiked this trail multiple times in the brief time we've lived in the area (note: we always take the long trail, never the short one), both alone and with visiting company who haven't hiked much, and with or without our two dogs. I finally decided to review it.

Our take is this: despite the heavy crowding on weekends and holidays, which we prefer to avoid most of the time, it's still one of our favorite local-area hikes (we live in Frederick, MD, about 25 minutes away) and we've found that when we hike with visiting family or friends who aren't used to hiking much or even at all, the fact that so many other people are on the trail actually inspires them as they feel they are "not alone" in their effort. And they (like we) never fail to be impressed by the view at the main overlook. Regardless of weather or crowds or any other factors, that one-of-a-kind view down into Harpers Ferry and over the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers and surrounding mountains always provides more than sufficient payoff.

For dog owners (at least for those with athletic dogs who love to exercise hard) it's a winner for sure, regardless of how many other dogs are out on the trail or not.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Really nice hike, especially for history buffs. Started the trail at 10:30 am, got the last spot in the first parking area. In my opinion, the signage and blazing could be better almost everyone who I passed on the way down stopped me to ask if they were on the right track. The photos linked in the Hiking Upward guide were very helpful! The first part of the section up to Stone Fort had me huffing, but I was surprised at how quickly it leveled out and was a nice stroll. I like hikes that reward a climb with some nice flat sections before you have to go down again. Only passed one other person on the hike up to Stone Fort, but the Maryland Heights Overlook trail was PACKED. Keep an eye out for yellowjackets and other ground bees if you stop to take a breather on the way up, I almost sat on one more than a few times. The flora and fauna is really gorgeous this time of year, there were some remnants of raspberries and blackberries, tons of butterflies and damselflies, and a few lizards. Most of the hike is quite nicely shaded, so it's a very nice hike for sunny days like today. Completed hike in about two and a quarter hours.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, December 26, 2016
This hike was hard and fun! I did it with some friends on December 26, 2016. It's a great winter hike, but make sure you layer up because the ridge is windy and cold!!

-Awesome view of Harpers Ferry from the Main Overlook cliffs
-Huge amount of Civil War history & artifacts
-The trail is really well-maintained and well-marked
-Fabulous view of the Potomac River from the ridge
-Only an hour drive from Montgomery County!

By: Brad K Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, November 14, 2016
Completed this hike in conjunction with the C&O/Weverton Cliffs hike, with a lunch break next to Lock 33. 14.4 mile total hike that day. The Maryland Heights portion took me just over 4 hours to complete at a moderate pace, including some time exploring the fort at the top of the ridge and a nice break at the overlook. I noted the trail head parking appeared full as I walked past, and I crossed paths with a few other hikers along the way, but there was plenty of solitude along the trail. I took the blue trail clockwise followed by a walk out to the overlook cliff before returning. From the canal up to the top of the ridge is a pretty steady climb, with the grade getting significantly steeper along the blue trail, which is the old civil war road. Apparently the Union army hadn't learned switchback technology to make life easier -- its a straight path directly up! Felt encouraged after reaching a sign following a steep grade noting that Abraham Lincoln had already turned around by this point when he attempted to review the troops at the fort during the war.

The payoff after arriving at the ridge is worth the climb. Significant civil war earthworks and stone fortifications remain on site. The layout and construction of this fort was quite unique compared to other civil war forts I've explored. I was the only one in the area of the fort while up there. The view from the top is OK, but still quite overgrown despite most of the leaves already being down. Returning down the ridge is also quite steep and more rocky than the western approach. The overlook trail is clearly much more traveled than the stone fort portion -- very wide and simple to follow. The overlook looking down into Harpers Ferry is fun and a good spot to rest before completing the hike. There were two other groups at the overlook when I arrived, a student research group working in the area and another solo hiker came in as I was leaving. Far from solitude at that point, but not terribly crowded either.

Overall, a nice combination of distance, workout and history to make this a very memorable day hike. Its a nice compliment to the history lesson you get in Harpers Ferry. If you can only do one hike while visiting this area, this would be the one to do.

By: Kevin H. Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, November 03, 2016
How the soldiers during the Civil War took things like canons and huge amounts of water up the "heights" part of this hike is beyond me. This part of the hike is super steep, but once you reached the top, it was worth it and the cool air breeze is rewarding, as well. The hike completely pays off when you are able to overlook the historic Harpers Ferry. This area is definitely camera worthy. It did rain on my journey back down, so I had to be careful with the rocks becoming more and more slick. Parking was not an issue for me, but it was a week day. May want to arrive early on a weekend day. Parked right across the street from the Potomac River, which was nice to walk along as I cooled down from the hike. The entire hike is pretty rich in history, as the park service has posted at least 4 or 5 signs along the trail as it relates to the Civil War. Would definitely do this hike again.

    View all 62 reviews for the Maryland Heights hike
Early February

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