Jefferson County — ‘Best Recreational Activities in the Area’

02/21/2012  | 

Whitewater rafting at Harpers Ferry, WV.

Jefferson County WV offers a kind of similar physical activities that military personnel can now share with their families. Those activities, particularly around Harpers Ferry, include rock climbing on Maryland Heights, hiking, bicycling, water related activities and now soaring along the Potomac River shoreline at 55 feet high on the area’s only major zipline adventure.

The area offers activities named recently by a Baltimore publication as the “best recreational activities in the area.” The Harpers Ferry area has three major rafting companies that provide 40,000 person trips down the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers including Class I-III rafting, canoeing, kayaking, and tubing. All rating trips have professionally licensed guides in each raft to provide expert guidance and safety. Outfitters in both Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown provide gear for most recreational pursuits.

Depending on water levels and time of year, one or the other river or both are used. All three rafting companies put in and take out at the same place, though their offerings vary.

Minimum height and weight restrictions may preclude small children from participating in the water activities.

Major hiking trails vary from easy to very strenuous and include sections of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park, the Appalachian Trail and a trail that goes to the top of Maryland Heights. The C&O Canal trail is virtually flat, with only a 600 feet difference from Cumberland, MD to Georgetown in Washington, DC, a distance of 184 miles. The C&O Canal towpath is also an excellent bike trail, with wide tired bicycles the preference of most riders. Bike rental is also available from outfitters on the West Virginia side of the canal.

The Appalachian Trail crosses the Potomac River bridge at Harpers Ferry and traverses through the downtown area before climbing a small hill to Jefferson Rock and then proceeding towards the Shenandoah River bridge. The portion of the trail in West Virginia is less than three miles long, and is considered quite manageable by most persons who have done minimal hiking. The trail itself runs from Maine to Georgia, a distance of over 2000 miles, with is midpoint at Harpers Ferry.

The trail to the top of Maryland Heights (1100 feet high) is considered strenuous. It is steep going up and just as steep coming back down. In fact hikers sometimes find the hike down more difficult that the hike to the top because it is difficult to slow down. On a hot day, extra water is recommended. The view from the top is spectacular.

Other shorter less strenuous hikes are also available in the area. Proper footwear is a must. A stop at the Appalachian Trail Visitors Center in the Upper Town is recommended to get detailed information on any hiking you might attempt.

The new zipline features zips, ladders, suspension bridges, and a final rappel, delivering over two and a half hours of adventure. Professional guides are with you at every turn. Minimum age and minimum/maximum weight limits apply. It is for those persons not afraid of heights.

For most activities, reservations are suggested and there are group discounts. Most have some kind of discount for military personnel and their families.

Contact information for your recreational fun:

For additional information on Jefferson County WV call 1-866-HELLO-WV or visit our website at Discover It All in Jefferson County, in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.

Bob O’Connor is the Assistant Director of the Jefferson County CVB and is a published author. Visit his website is
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