Whenever I get a bit anxious or stressed, the best remedy is a long walk, or even better a good, sweaty hike. There are so many great trails within a reasonable drive from DC, but I quickly get bored with the same options. This was my first time hiking the Maryland Heights Trail, with killer views of Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, and it did not disappoint.
The drive to the trail head was a little over an hour, but well worth it. Before the hike even begins, there are beautiful views of the Potomac River, which is so much prettier out this way than it is in DC.
I would love to bring Ashton out here another time and just walk along the river. It seemed so peaceful, even if the path was a bit crowded.
But we had other plans. We hit the combined trail across the street and immediately started going uphill. We followed this loop, which starts out as a pretty darn steep climb.
It was the absolute perfect day for a hike. Blue skies, temperatures in the low 60s and just the slightest breeze.
The hike was enjoyable from the start, challenging but with plenty of beautiful and historical distractions. The trail is home to ruins from the Civil War and if you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy reading the informational signs set up along the way.
After passing the Naval Battery, built in 1862 by the Union and once manned by gunners from Washington’s Navy Yard, we joined the Stone Fort Trail for the steepest and most challenging portion of the hike.
I like to think I’m in decent shape, but I was huffing and puffing by the time we got to the top – a definite leg and lung burner.
Eventually, we made it to the stone fort and were treated to sweet Blue Ridge Mountain views.
We were sweaty, happy and hopeful that we were done with the steep climbing for a while.
It would have been a lovely and relatively secluded spot to stop for lunch, but our hikes are usually a bit rushed since we have to get back to the dog in a reasonable amount of time. I kind of want to get a baby carrier for Ashton so he can join us when we hike. The little guy has a lot of energy for a senior, but he’s not quite an all terrain animal.
The next portion of the hike was mainly downhill as we set off to rejoin the Combined Trail before connecting to the Overlook Trail, which as the name suggests leads to the main overlook at Maryland Heights.
The path to the overlook is also mostly downhill. It’s possible to bypass the more challenging segments of the trail and just head straight to the main event, depending on how much time allotted time and activity level. As such, this was definitely the most crowded portion of the hike.
The views really are spectacular, overlooking historic Harpers Ferry, the Potomac River and the mountains.
After getting your fill of the vistas, it’s a quick climb back up Overlook Trail and then a long descent back down to the trail head.
Tips for Hiking the Maryland Heights Trail
- Get there early. There isn’t much parking and spots fill up fast.
- Bring plenty of water and a snack, especially if you’re doing the full loop. If you have time, there are several places perfect for a picnic lunch along the trail.
- Go to the bathroom before you get there! There are no restrooms at the trail head. (I always forget to do this…)
- Wear sunscreen, comfortable hiking shoes and bring bug spray. Watch out for ticks!
- After your hike, head to nearby Harpers Ferry, WV or Purcellville, VA for more exploring or a delicious meal. There are also many wineries in the vicinity, and you definitely deserve a drink after a tough hike. If you need suggestions, check out my list of eight great wineries in Loudoun County, or this post for even more ideas. Happy hiking!