Harpers Ferry, WV

I think one of the best day trips from Washington, DC is Harpers Ferry, WV and nearby Sheperdstown, WV. They are only about 1.5 hours away and the route up there doesn’t really have the traffic you see on routes like I95. Not only is Harper’s Ferry a unique site in a geographic sense, it holds a significant place in American history and retains some beautiful–albeit restored–architecture. Sheperdstown is a beautifully preserved 19th century town with a nice main street filled with restaurants, cafes, and shops.

Harpers Ferry in the fall

Harpers Ferry in the fall

Sheperdstown, WV

Since I was hungry, I headed to Sheperdstown, WV, right across the border from Maryland. A nice little one main street town, Sheperdstown is a must-visit for any visitor headed to Harper’s Ferry. It is a typical mid-Atlantic town largely built in the 19th century–if you took away the cars, wine shops, and cafes, and replaced them with dry good stores and blacksmiths shops, the Sheperdstown of today would almost be indistinguishable to a Civil War soldier transported into the future.

Sheperdstown, WV

Sheperdstown, WV

I spent about an hour and a half in the town walking around and taking pictures. There were a bunch of good places to eat and some great looking coffee shops and other retail places you can whittle away an afternoon in.

After some Yelping, I finally settled on a Mexican place,  Maria’s Taqueria, that made some awesome tacos that I devoured on the steps of McMurran Hall, a former courthouse that is now part of Shepherd College :  For about $8, I got a towering mound of tacos and cheese that hit the spot and satisfied me for the rest of the day. I also found a cool coffee shop called Lost Dog Cafe which had a San Francisco/hippy/multi-color decor and a chill vibe. I even brought in my dog Ollie and they didn’t seem to mind at all.

Harpers Ferry, WV

Potomac River near Harpers Ferry

Potomac River near Harpers Ferry

I then drove the 30 minutes or so on back roads to Harpers Ferry. For those interested in geography, Harper’s Ferry is one of the best spots on the East Coast to learn about how rivers and how they drain the region through their outlets into the Atlantic Ocean. The town was built on the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, and thus held a hugely important strategic position in the days when river transport and water powered mills were king. Now, the town is basically just a museum–it would have turned into a ghost town without the support of the National Park Service, which operates the Harpers Ferry Historical Park.

It costs $10 to park, which includes a ride on the shuttle bus to the town. But since I had Ollie, we walked down from the lot down to the town. It took about 30 minutes, but the scenery was beautiful. I even snapped a couple pictures of this cool waterfall:

Harpers Ferry small waterfall

We eventually got down to the town and took in the beautiful rivers in front of us.

Walkway over Potomac

Walkway over Potomac

After admiring the views, I did the short walk up to the restored town of Harpers Ferry. I had Ollie in tow so I didn’t expect to be able to visit the stores and stuff, so I  walked around for about 15 minutes snapping some shots and taking in the scene.

Harpers Ferry town

Harpers Ferry town

Having got a sense of the town, we hiked back up to the parking lot and visited a couple of farm stands on the way back. Check out these pictures of Ollie enjoying the fall season:

Ollie at a farm in West Virignia

Ollie at a farm in West Virginia

dog

Ollie at the pumpkin patch

Recap:

An easy day trip from DC for history buffs, hikers, and nature lovers.

Tips

  • If you bring a dog to Harpers Ferry, you can still see the historic town; you’ll just have to walk down the hill. I only recommend the walk for people who are healthy and in relatively good shape, as it’s about a 30 minute walk down to the town.
  • Go in the early fall, when it’s still warm out and go to farm stands on the way back to get your pumpkins

Food

Sheperdstown WV: Maria’s Taqueria: serves excellent taco and burrito plates at a reasonable price; good for takeout and eating on somewhere in town

Cafe

Sheperdstown, WV: Lost Dog Cafe: high quality coffee served in a laid-back atmosphere with 60’s counterculture decor

Shops

Sheperdstown, WV: Grapes and Gourmet, a wine and store on the main strip with a good selection of local wines as well as international ones. Dog friendly as well; in fact, I think they have a dog in the shop. There was a wine tasting the day I was there and I picked up a couple of reds.

Map

Kevin is based in Washington, DC and writes about his travel adventures in the Mid-Atlantic region and around the world. Through entertaining writing and eye-catching photography, he aims to provide readers with useful information as they plan their next trips.

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