Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park… a place where George Washington envisioned military strength, abolitionist John Brown struck a blow against slavery, factories from the early 1800s witnessed innovations that fueled the Industrial Revolution and where two rivers and three states meet. It’s also a pet-friendly National Park in a charming town flush with sights to see, and of course, historical facts to learn.
Charles and I visited Harper’s Ferry two weekends ago during a road trip that also included a stop at Shenandoah National Park. We had our pups in tow, and were impressed with how pet-friendly the park was.
While the park lies in three states; West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland, the main entrance is in West Virginia. It’s also almost smack-dab in the middle of the Appalachian Trail.
An easy drive from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, we spent half a day exploring the park. Here are 10 reasons to visit Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park:
1.) View the Convergance of the Potomac & Shenandoah Rivers
The raging Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, uniting in perfect harmony. Well, maybe not… the river is still pretty gnarly, even after the two merge into one. But to see the rushing waters that cut through the Blue Ridge Mountains so many years ago is pretty cool.
2.) Stroll Historic High Street
Darling AND incredibly historic, High Street is lined with Victorian and Federalist-style houses, built on the high ground in the late 19th century, that played host to guests including Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell and Woodrow Wilson. (Seriously!)
Today, it’s lined with shops, restaurants, B&Bs and even the John Brown Wax Museum, where the story of John Brown & the Harpers Ferry raid comes to life via wax displays.
3.) Walk the Footbridge Over the Potomac River
A cantilevered section of the bridge allows for guests to cross over the Potomac River, a must-do during a visit to Harper’s Ferry. Hold on to your hats, though, it can be very windy! (If you’re lucky, you may even see a bird’s nest!)
4.) Climb the Stone Steps the Jefferson Rock
Climb many stone steps, past St. Peter’s Catholic Church and the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church to Jefferson Rock. A fabulous look-out over the town, in 1783 Thomas Jefferson exclaimed “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.” And over 200 years later, the sight is still a beauty!
5.) Take in the Ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church
Built in 1852, the church served as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War, during which it suffered considerable damage. St. John’s Episcopal was rebuilt but was basically abandoned in 1895 when a new Episcopal church was built further up in town.
Today, the National Park Service preserves the ruins and manages the trails around the site so that visitors may still enjoy the fragile ruins.
6.) Admire St. Peter’s Catholic Church
The only church in Harper’s Ferry to escape destruction during the Civil War, St. Peter’s Catholic Church stands tall among the area’s landscape. A Neo-Gothic beauty, it still offers Mass every Sunday at 11AM and I can imagine the views from the church are pretty spectacular!
7.) View John Brown’s Fort & the John Brown Memorial
Down the hill to the left of Charles in the photo above is a building now known as John Brown’s Fort, the building in which abolitionist John Brown and several of his followers barricaded themselves during the final hours of their ill-fated raid against slavery in mid-October, 1859.
On the morning of October 18, a storming party of 12 Marines broke down the door of the building, taking Brown and the remaining raiders captive. Brown was charged for “conspiring with slaves to commit treason and murder” and was tried, convicted, and hanged on December 2, 1859.
The memorial and the building are poignant reminders of our country’s history with slavery.
8.) Peruse the Harper’s Ferry General Store
Stop by the store for a glimpse into life on the Appalachian Trail. A resupply store as well as a tourist destination, you’ll find hiking-related necessities along with touristy items and even bike rentals!
9.) Peek Into the Springhouse & Root Cellars
As the sign says, “These small caves carved into the shale cliffside at one time served as springhouses and root cellars for residents of this block. The cooler subsurface temperatures of a root cellar helped preserve herbs, vegetables, and fruits in the days before modern refrigeration.”
Imagine having to venture out in the middle of winter to retrieve your sweet potatoes… sure makes me thankful for modern amenities! It was an interesting sight to see!
10.) Dine at Cannonball Deli
We wanted to hit the road so we opted to order sandwiches to-go, and our wraps from Cannonball Deli could not have been more delicious. I had the Falafel Wrap (pictured) and Charles ordered the Buffalo Chicken wrap – both of us enjoyed! They did have a lovely outdoor seating area that was dog-friendly, where we would have dined had we had more time.
Have you visited Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it!
For more information about Harper’s Ferry and other pet-friendly National Parks, visit the National Park Service’s website for the park, here.
Read more about taking your pets to Harper’s Ferry, here.