From Mid-Atlantic Day Trips -Fellow blogger J. Hammer graciously agreed to guest blog for the Mid-Atlantic Day Trips Blog about hiking along Maryland Heights, near Harpers Ferry. This is part 2 of his two-part series.
Last post I mentioned that I hadn’t hiked the Stone Fort Trail section of Maryland Heights due to a lack of time. Well, I had plenty of free time on Tuesday, 11 November to complete this section of the trail, and it was well worth it.
Distances: from the Maryland Heights Trail Guide: railroad bridge to Stone Fort (round trip): about 6 miles (4 hours)
Combined Trail: Green Blaze
Stone Fort Trail: Blue Blaze (note: the blazes were light blue; in harsh/bright sunlight, the blue blazes look almost white)
Except for a few spots, the trail is clearly marked, but I included the blaze information anyway.
First, you’ll have to reach the Maryland Heights trailhead, and hike part of the way up the hill, as I described in my previous post.
The Stone Fort Trail starts not far from the Naval Battery (described in the previous post) which sits at about 679 feet, and it goes UP to over 1440 feet.
The start of the Stone Fort Trail.
Eventually you reach a more level spot on the ridge. This flatter area is where Civil War soldiers lived and worked for more than 3 years.
The campground is bordered by the exterior fort, a rock wall breast works that leads from the top of the ridge down the hill toward the Potomac River.
Some of the Stone Fort ruins:
|There are some nice views of the Potomac from the Stone Fort vista
(although a better view was from the 100-pounder battery)
The Stone Fort is a great place to stop for lunch, since it’s about halfway through the hike, and you’ve got a nice place to sit, relax, and take in the view (…and dry out a bit, since you’ve probably worked up a sweat just getting here.)
You’ll eventually reach the 100-pounder battery, site of the heaviest and highest gun on Maryland Heights. As you can see, it would have had a commanding view of the Potomac River and Loudoun Heights (VA).
From the 100-pounder battery location, you can see Brunswick, MD, and Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance.
A short distance from the 100-pounder battery, you start a rapid descent from the top of the ridge. This part of the trail is very rocky, so take your time and use your walking stick or trekking poles for balance.
Looking back toward the ridge:
Inside the battery
The battery operated up to six guns, able to reach Loudoun Heights in Virginia, and Bolivar Heights, above the town of Harpers Ferry.
After the 30-pounder battery, you’ll continue down the hill toward the main trail. The Stone Fort trail connects with the combined trail not far from the turnoff to the Overlook Trail. If you’re not too exhausted, hang a left at the trail intersection to take a trip to the overlook if you haven’t seen that yet. Otherwise, going right will take you back down toward the Maryland Heights trailhead, and back to town.
Stop by one of the shops in town for some ice cream or another snack, you’ve earned it!
Tip #1: If you can’t tell by the photos, the trail is somewhat steep, in some places more than others. Take your time and bring plenty of water (there are no fountains or water access on the trail at all). Also, make sure you take care of restroom business in town before you cross over the river.
Tip #2: I strongly recommend a hiking stick or trekking poles to help you up the side of the mountain. There’s plenty of loose gravel, rocks, and tree roots on the trail, so mind your steps.
Tip #3: There are a very small number of spots near the trailhead, so unless you get there early, you probably won’t get a spot. I recommend parking at the visitor center, taking the bus into town, and walking the rest of the way.
Tip #4: The Stone Fort is a nice place to stop for a lunch break, so if you’re willing and able to haul some food up the mountain, go for it, but please make sure you pack out your trash, as there are no trashcans anywhere on the trails.
Dogs: You can bring dogs along, but please make sure you clean up after them as well. Leave no trace except footprints.