Sunset hike up Loudon Heights

29 March 2021

7.9 miles / 1,702 ft height gain / 3 hours 4 minutes

For some time, I’ve wanted to hike one of my regular mountain loops at night. This week, the conditions aligned when I missed a morning slot (too tired!) but still wanted to get out for a decent hike. A night hike was the solution!

I set out after dinner, having kissed my kids goodnight, since I wouldn’t be home before they went to bed.

There’s something special about the light in that hour before sunset. The sun is low in the sky. It’s warm and everything glows. The world seems more relaxed, even nature feels like it’s winding down at the end of the day.

I’ve hiked this trail many times in the past two years, but it felt new doing it at a different time of day. The views were different. Maryland Heights looked magnificent, basked in the evening sun.

I reached the junction in 47 minutes, about 5 minutes slower than usual on account of the big dinner I’d eaten just before setting off. I saw a handful of other hikers on their way down, but then had the mountain to myself, another advantage of going late.

I reached the lookout around 7.20pm, about 10 minutes before sunset. I stayed through the sunset, marveling at the light show and indulging my nature photography passion.

I enjoyed another half hour of fading light, watching a beautiful orange and mauve sky slowly fade out like a puddle evaporate on a hot day.

It’s been so long since I’ve been out in the mountains at night that I harbored a little trepidation about the darkness.

When I made it back to the junction I could barely see my feet on the trail, so I donned the headtorch for the last hour home. The world abruptly shrunk to the narrow beam of light on the trail ahead. I was only spooked twice by rustling in the trees beside the trail. One of those times, when I shone my torch in the direction of the noise, I saw three pairs of eyes staring straight back at me. Deer. Gave me a fright though!

I made it home at 9pm, a little over 3 hours after setting out. A great adventure!

Next, I’d like to try a full night hike, setting out at 9pm.

All these photos were taken on a Google Pixel 5 by hand.

View of Maryland Heights in the evening light
Split rock with Maryland Heights in the background
Beautiful evening light on the Loudon Heights overlook trail
Sunset over Harpers Ferry from Loudon Heights lookout
The rocks lit up briefly before the sun set
Yours truly at the overlook
Lower town of Harpers Ferry at sunset
Potomac River and Harpers Ferry lower town at sunset
Split rock at sunset. Compare with the earlier photo of split rock
Passing the power lines on the way down, as the light ebbed away
I spent the last 45 minutes following the narrow beam of my headtorch

1 thought on “Sunset hike up Loudon Heights

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