With Maryland Heights and C&O Canal/Weverton Cliff, this is one of three beautiful vista hikes that start in the Harpers Ferry area. Significantly less crowded than the other two hikes, the Loudoun Heights hike also has several beautiful views of the Potomac River and Harpers Ferry.
Mile 0.0 – From the parking area at the Harpers Ferry train station, walk a short distance down Potomac Street, then make the right up Hog Alley. At the top of Hog Alley turn left, then in 50 yards turn right up the hand-hewn steps that lead to the most prominent landmark in Harpers Ferry, St. Peters Roman Catholic Church. The church was completed in 1833 to accommodate the influx of Irish laborers that supported the construction of the C&O Canal. During the Civil War Father Costello flew the British Union Jack to symbolize the church's neutrality, which sustained minimal damage during the war. The church was remodeled in 1869 to today's appearance.
Mile 0.2 - Now follow the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) passing the ruins of St. Johns Episcopal Church on the right. This church was used as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War, and sustained considerable damage. The church was abandoned in 1895 when a new church was built in the upper town. From St. John's continue a short distance to Jefferson Rock on the A.T.
Mile 0.3 - In 1733 Thomas Jefferson on visiting this spot proclaimed: "On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac [Potomac], in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea ... This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic." Around 1860, the US Armory Superintendant ordered red sandstone supports placed under Jefferson Rock because it was "endangering the lives and properties of the villagers below." From Jefferson Rock it is a short distance along the A.T. to Harper Cemetery. The 4-acre cemetery was set aside by John Harper, a Pennsylvania architect who passed through the area in 1747 then settled there, founding Harpers Ferry. Continue along the A.T passing a turn off to the Appalachian Trail Visitors Center on the right, then stay right on the A.T. where the trail splits, and continue to US340.
Mile 2.2 - After ascending for 0.5 miles cross Chestnut Hill Road. From Chestnut Hill Rd. it's 0.3 miles to the intersection of the orange blazed trail. Turn left on the orange blazed trail as it climbs to the ridge and intersection with the blue blazed trail
Mile 3.2 - Turn left on the blue blazed Loudoun Heights Trail north passing a view of the Potomac River at a power line clear-cut. The trail then descends to the right and passes around the mountain.
Hiked this trail in the early morning and it was so peaceful. At age 62, it was a challenge but well worth the effort. I enjoyed the well marked trail and the serenity of the walk. Itís a must do!!
Date of Hike: Friday, July 12, 2019
PLEASE READ: The AT has been relocated just south of the intersection with the orange blaze trail there is no longer a connection to the blue blaze trail. To reach the overlook, take the orange blaze trail to the blue blaze trail.
Date of Hike: Sunday, August 26, 2018
Nice, long hike. Lots of shade. Gnats/bugs were pretty bad, but wildlife amazing! Saw lots of groups of deer up close. Trail gets long near the end, but immensely worth the final mile. Didn't see many people despite it being packed in Harpers Ferry-I think most people hike the Maryland Heights trail. Very peaceful at the top-worth hauling lunch/picnic and taking a nap before heading back.
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 19, 2017
Great hike. The good workout makes you appreciate the view at the overlook. The uphill section on the AT from the highway 340 bridge will make you sweat, but once you reach the blue-blazed trail that runs along the ridge line to the overlook, it's easy. With the full foliage of summer there are only a few clear views until the overlook, but the trail is nice. On a summer Saturday I only encountered about a dozen people once I left the bridge, so, while it's not solitary, it's certainly not as congested as Maryland Heights. I had the overlook to myself. I think that the view from Maryland Heights is better, but the different perspective that Loudoun offers is pretty cool. If you want to skip the walk through town, be assured of parking, and save the fee at the railroad station parking, park at the Visitors Center. Take the free five minute shuttle bus ride to the stop just outside of town, and start your hike from there.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 9, 2017
I will be honest -- this was not my favorite hike. The outlook was neat, but by the time I got there, the bugs had been terrible and I had seen so few people I managed to spook myself a bit (I love solo hiking for the record, but in this case I saw only 3 people over the course of several hours so this might be a ringing recommendation for some) and I thought that the view from MD Heights was slightly better (I realize this might be an unpopular opinion). I'm not sure if it was just an off day for me or if this hike just isn't for me but I didn't love it, but it still was a nice solid workout and it is very quiet.
Date of Hike: Saturday, May 20, 2017
Planning to go on a weekend? Get there early! I started at 6:45am and when I came back to my car at 10:30, the parking lot was full. The fee for parking is $10 at the train station--I didn't see anywhere to pay when I left may car, but when I came back, there was a ticket on my windshield (you can mail it if you forget cash the day of your hike).
I found that the section between the bridge and the Loudoun Heights trail was definitely the most strenuous, but manageable. I made it to the overlook at 8:30...so it took me an hour and 45 minutes to get there. Nobody else was there which was nice, and I got to take my time eating breakfast and enjoying the view. On the way back, I saw more groups of hikers making their way up to see the overlook, so I felt pretty good about my decision to get started early. What I don't like about the hike is that there is so much traffic noise from 340--I know it can't be helped, but I prefer getting out into nature to get away from that.
Date of Hike: Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Based on the other reviews and considering I hiked midweek in late fall, I expected to find complete solitude on this trail. To my surprise, I saw quite a few groups all along the trail -- not crowded by any stretch, but not isolated either. The first portion along the AT through Harpers Ferry is well traveled, but quite fun & historic. I thought crossing along the highway bridge was a nice change of pace from the usual, though hardly considered hiking. The climb up and down the ridge had enough switchbacks to make the elevation manageable, although I was suffering the effects of hiking Weverton Cliffs & Maryland Heights the day before & moving at a quite slower than normal pace. It took me 5.25 hours to complete this hike with a brief stop at the overlook and some time chatting with a couple about other AT day hikes. The blue trail along the ridge was much more pleasant than the orange trail that spends a good portion following a power line clearcut. The return back into town allows for an easy side path through the old Storer College campus and to the ATC headquarters. This is another "don't miss" hike and well worth the effort.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 3, 2016
Very nice hike with a decent amount of hills. Can hike easily in sneakers as there are no rock scrambles. A couple of points:
1 - You need to pay to park at the train station. There is a box for the cash (I think $5 or so) and you leave a receipt on your windshield. Otherwise, you will get a $10 ticket :-)
2 - I found the timing slightly off. My group wasn't terribly slow, but it took us 4:45 for the hike.
3 - Lots of restaurants to enjoy after, but note this is a touristy area, so nothing high end and expect long waits everywhere.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 16, 2016
I hiked this hike Saturday with a hiking group from the Meetup app. I have hiked this before, and this is not a standard 3 when you compare it to the other two harpers ferry hikes.
In order of difficulty they are 1. Maryland heights lower-(easiest)
2. Maryland heights-upper ( harder), and Loudoun Heights (hardest)
There is a lot of "up" on this hike. It will wear you out. Keep that in mind when you get to the overlook, because there is a lot of up on the way back before the descent. I stayed at the overlook a little too long, and, heated up in the 95 degree heat, cramped. This made for a fun time on the way back.
That said, the overlook is fantastic and well worth the trip. Make sure in this heat you bring lots of water and bananas, and you'll be fine. You might want to hike Maryland heights first just to see if you are up for it.
Date of Hike: Sunday, July 10, 2016
We parked at the secondary parking area and paid the $10 fee. The initial 1.5 mile climb up the AT is a tad steep but I was carrying my 16 month old and it wasn't bad. We turned left on the blue trail and the first two overlooks don't have much of a view so make sure you make it to the last overlook. You have a great view of Harpers Ferry and any trains crossing the bridge. There were also numerous people floating on the river. The 6.3 mile circuit took 2 hr 20 mins walking time so it is a 3 hr hike if you spend a little time at the overlook. Overall great hike and would do again!