The view from the top of Devil's Nose. Photo by Conner DeHaven

Hiking In and Near West Virginia

West Virginia is well known for its beautiful mountains and rivers. It is also very well known for its outdoor activities such as rafting, rock climbing, and fishing. One activity that speaks to many people living and traveling in West Virginia is hiking. West Virginia has an abundance of hiking trails from the Eastern Panhandle to Greenbriar Valley. There are also great hiking trails in the Maryland and Virginia area.

Hiking is a great way to get outdoors and see different parts of the beautiful areas. Once it starts to get warm, hundreds of people head to Harpers Ferry to make the trek up Maryland Heights. Maryland Heights is a hiking trail located in Washington County, Maryland. It is located just across the river from the historic town of Harpers Ferry.

I had a chance to talk to Kirstin Shrom-Rhoads who is the director at Manidokan Camp and Retreat Center on Harpers Ferry Road. The camp is part of the Methodist Church and is just over a mile from the Maryland Height trail head. The campers during the Summer often get to hike the trail and learn history of the mountain and Harpers Ferry.

Shrom-Rhoads talked about her experiences with hiking on Maryland Heights and other hikes as well. She said, “Hiking helps me to breathe easier, to slow down and exhale. I feel a strong connection to nature and God while I hike, as well as a connection within my body as it does the work of walking along the trail.”

Maryland Heights played a role in the Civil War and has historical value. “I appreciate the historic and regional experience of considering how people moved artillery and horses up those hills to build, and the beauty of the town from the viewpoint above. I wonder about the strategic setting for wartimes and also am happy I didn’t live then… although I like learning about it” says Shrom-Rhoads.

The trail itself it rated moderate to strenuous depending on the trail you take. The normal overlook trail is 4.5 miles round trip from lower Harpers Ferry. There is also a separate trail that takes you to the stone fort that was used during the Civil War. This trail is 6.2 miles round trip from lower Harpers Ferry. There is also a small trail that loops back to the overlook trail that leads to the old Naval Battery.

The best part of the trail, and the reason that everyone wants to hike Maryland Heights is the overlook. The overlook is a large rock scramble that overlooks sections of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. All of Harpers Ferry can be seen across the Potomac River from the overlook.

Although Maryland Heights is a great trail, the parking can often be a catastrophe. There used to be parking all along Harpers Ferry Road. This provided an easy walk to the trailhead. Unfortunately, this parking has not been available since the start of Covid-19.

The unavailable parking along Harpers Ferry Road forces hikers to park at the visitor’s center. This adds roughly two miles round trip to the hike. There is also parking available at the train station in Harpers Ferry. The train station requires payment to park in this parking lot.

If you haven’t hiked Maryland Heights before, I would suggest getting up to the overlook to check out the view. For those who are looking for new trails or are fed up with the Maryland Heights parking situation, there are many hiking trails in the areas surrounding Harpers Ferry.

The closest trail to Maryland Heights is the Loudon Heights trail. The trail head is located on the right side of Route 340 heading towards Frederick. Parking for the trail is located off Shenandoah Street. Hikers use the sidewalk on the 340 bridge to reach the trail head. The hike is rated at moderate and is six miles out and back. The overlook at the top of Loudon Heights, known as Split Rock, provides a different perspective over Harpers Ferry.

One of my personal favorite hiking trails is located in Hedgesville, West Virginia. The trail is called Devil’s Nose and is a very short and moderate hike. The trail is only about two miles round trip. The trail overlooks the Meadow Branch Creek gorge.

There is also a second trail that leads to the overlook called Tuscarora trail and is six miles round trip. It may be easy to confuse the trails, so this trail uses blue blazes on the trees. The shorter trail uses white blazes.

The Shockey’s Knob trail is located near Glengary, West Virginia. This trail head is located further away from Shepherdstown than the others, but it is a very nice hike. The trail is different from the others because it is a loop trail instead of an out and back. This provides different scenery throughout the entire hike.

This trail leads to High Rock which provides a fantastic view of Back Creek Valley. The trail is a total 6.2 miles.

For those looking to do a day trip, Blackwater Falls is a great location to hike. The state park is located in Davis, West Virginia, and is about two and a half hours from Shepherdstown. Blackwater Falls State Park has about 20 hiking trails and about 20 miles worth of trails. They provide maps of all the trails in the lodge.

The state park also provides lodging if you are interested in weekend trips of a full vacation. The state park also has boating, camping, fishing, and snow sports. They also have tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts. They not only have rooms available in the lodge, but they also have cabins available for rent.

For people who are looking for trails closer to their area, I would recommend using an app or website such as Alltrails. These websites explain where trailheads are and show the path that previous hikers have taken.

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