Maryland Heights and Stone Fort Trail

Harpers Ferry and the Potomac River from Maryland Heights

Harpers Ferry and the Potomac River from Maryland Heights

I’ve lived in the Martinsburg, WV area for a number of years, but this is only my second trip to the top of Maryland Heights.  The first time was roughly 25 years ago, and at the time I was residing in Morgantown.  I rode over with a friend on a day trip, and we saw people on the cliff and decided to go up and have a look.  The trouble is that I was in grad school at the time, and my exercise regimen consisted of heavy reading and lifting 12 oz. weights.  Needless to say, I was gasping for breath and cursing all the way to the top.  Thankfully, times do change!

A look toward Harpers Ferry

A look toward Harpers Ferry and the Shenandoah

The trail begins next to the C&O Canal, along Sandy Hook Road, and it immediately heads straight up the hill.  Statistically, the up-and-back trip to the overlook is approximately 3.3 miles, with an ascent of 1200′.  The Stone Fort Trail circuit adds an additional 2 miles and 400′ of elevation gain.

Potomac River

Potomac River

The lower end of the Stone Fort Trail appears as a left turn about tw0-thirds of the way up the hill.  It is a difficult climb that ends in a flat stretch of woods before continuing up a flight of log steps near the fort ruins.  Along the way, there are numerous interpretive signs.  Without causing a spoiler alert, the gist is that in 1862, Confederate troops captured the heights and forced the surrender of 12,000 troops in the town below.  It’s easy to see why: from this vantage point, it would be easy to shell anything or anybody that came into view down below.

Stone Fort Ruins

Stone Fort Ruins with interpretive sign

The fort was never completed, but it is an impressive sight with a view of its own.  Also, the stones are a sign of things to come.  From here, the Stone Fort Trail follows a sharp, boulder-strewn ridgeline before descending steeply toward the overlook trail.  It reminded us a lot of the difficult rocky stretch we encountered last week on the AT’s Roller Coaster section.  In fact, Maryland Heights has a number of similarities with a few of our other local hiking trails.

Trail sign

Trail sign…up, up, up!

For starters, the ascent was reminiscent of the long climb from Spruce Pine Hollow to the Devil’s Nose on the Tuscarora Trail, and the crowded trail was similar to the C&O Canal below Seneca Creek.  I guess you could say that the hike had its ups and downs in both the literal and figurative sense, and the limited parking along the road probably makes Maryland Heights a trip best taken on a weekday or during the off-season.  Nevertheless, the workout and view were worth the trip, and including the Stone Fort Trail made it all worthwhile.

Candee really loves her new LL Bean Continental Rucksack

Candee really loves her new LL Bean Continental Rucksack

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Janedsquires on September 24, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Tom, you are a hilarious writer and make excellent descriptive comments about our hike. I’m glad I know you and Candee.


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