photo of Harpers Ferry

Autumn in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Harpers Ferry

Historic Harpers Ferry is best known as one of the catalysts for the Civil War: Radical abolitionist John Brown led a raid on the town, hoping to spark a slave uprising and eventually end slavery. The town went on to change hands eight times during the Civil War before serving as the site for the important Battle of Harpers Ferry, which led to the Battle of Antietam. It was also the site of the 1906 Niagara Movement, a civil rights movement led by W.E.B. DuBois. A large part of the town, with a population of around 300, is now located inside Harpers Ferry National Park.

Harpers Ferry is situated in the stunning Shenandoah Valley at the convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers and is one of the few towns that the Appalachian Trail passes directly through. The many opportunities to enjoy nature will keep visitors busy. River Riders, the local outfitter, offers gear and guides for rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and tubing in the rivers, or biking the trails. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitors Center offers a shop where hikers can stock up on supplies, exhibits, maps, and guides—a great place for hikers to get started or rest and staff members are available to answer questions.

A visit wouldn't be complete without learning more about Harpers Ferrys political, social, and architectural history. Strolling through the quaint town, visitors pass many old homes and other buildings, several of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a walking tour with O' Be Joyfull Historical Tours and Entertainment, which include costumes, music, and storytelling. You'll get an abundance of insider information about the town and its most notable people from town historian, Rick Garland.

The town also boasts several quaint B&Bs (some in historically significant buildings), a business district with restaurants and shops, and kitschy tourist attractions like an old-time photo studio and the John Brown Wax Museum.

Compare Rates to Harpers Ferry