Our first winter in Harpers Ferry was extraordinarily mild.
So much so that this was the only hike I did under winter conditions!
If you think it’s beautiful in summer, you should see this place in winter. It’s magical.
This was our last hike of 2019.
We squeezed it in during that weird period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
For Lexi and me, it was our second hike up Weverton Cliffs (route description). For the boys, it was their first real mountain climb.
Weverton Cliffs, Md. is the third mountain hike accessible from Harpers Ferry, after Maryland Heights and Loudon Heights. It’s a 9-mile out-and-back from Harpers Ferry — much too far for a 2yo and 4yo — so we opted to start from the car park at the base of the mountain.
The route is part of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a short and easy climb and rewards walkers with some of the best views of this area. It’s well worth doing but I’d avoid weekend afternoons.
8/15/19: Last week we were on vacation in Castleton, Virginia, with Lexi’s family. It’s close to Shenandoah National Park. When we realized we were only a half hour drive from the trailhead of Old Rag, we took the opportunity to go and climb it.
It’s a 10 mile loop if you start and end at Nethers, with about 2,500ft of height gain. The summit is 3,291ft high and affords magnificent views of the Shenandoah and foothills. The final section along the top ridge is an interesting rock scramble, through crevices, up staircases, past caves, up gullies etc. and makes for quite a sporting ascent.
It’s a super popular hike for those reasons and because it’s close to Washington, D.C..
We left the boys with the grandparents and avoided the weekend crowd by going on a Monday.
It’s a fantastic hike, and lives up to its marquee status. However, it was popular even on a weekday, so definitely one to avoid on summer weekends.
For more info on Old Rag, check out the: topo on All Trails
[Editor’s note: this hike took place at the end of August, the week before my and Lexi’s wedding, when everything was extremely hectic. It was the perfect antidote to the stress we were feeling at the time. And now, I’m finally catching up on blogging!]
Length: 9 miles — Height gain: 3,000ft
Known as the “roller coaster”, this section of the Appalachian Trail is an hour drive outside of DC, to the north of Shenandoah NP, and somewhere we had not yet explored.
The trail duly lived up to its name with hardly a flat mile as we climbed and descended all day. Our reward was a stunning lookout from the summit of Buzzard Hill. We gazed out at an endless sea of wooded hills, entirely natural and devoid of man made intrusions.
This turned out to be one of the harder hikes I’d done in the DC area, on account of the endless up and down. My calves ached for days after this one! The view was one of the best though, so this is definitely going in the memory bank as a great day out.
Check out the hiking guide – information on this site here.
“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports. . . all others are games.” – Ernest Hemmingway
Saving the best to last (see part I and part II of our NZ adventures): my brother and I were given carte blanche for the final day of the holiday so we chose a mountain day that would challenge us – Black Peak. It’s a spiky summit, accessible from the road but still far from the madding crowds, and one which would require just shy of 2,000m height gain (and subsequent descent). It would be a big day out.
A photo essay from the final day in the South Island of New Zealand:
We were rewarded with one of the best days of walking I’ve had in a long time. The day had everything: perfect weather, a long and challenging route, a mountain summit, historic huts, jaw-dropping scenery and no other people. It was a sublime.