Mountain Mama Vacation Homes

11 Best Free Things to Do in Harpers Ferry

A walk into the quaint town of Harpers Ferry feels like being transported 180 years back in time. Old brick and stone buildings have signs echoing a simpler time — “Fancy Goods” on one side, “White Hall Tavern” on the other. 

You venture into True Treats Historic Candy for a buttercream truffle, then walk out to the river. People are kayaking along the tranquil water, reminding you of all the nature Harpers Ferry has to offer. 

Kayaking might cost you a few bucks for a rental, which has you thinking: are there free things to do in Harpers Ferry? Things like the Appalachian Trail and the Split Rock Overlook come to mind. We understand the sentiment: traveling gets expensive, especially with kids. Luckily many of the free activities are family-friendly.

Many of our clients love spending entire days and evenings in our cozy cabin rentals. You have everything you need to pass an afternoon of laughs, comfort, and excitement with your loved ones, proving that money isn’t mandatory for a good time. 

Still, you might want to plan a few more activities for your Harpers Ferry stay. We’re three steps ahead of you with this guide. Walk with us through all the free things you can do in Harpers Ferry. 

About Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry oozes history. A stroll through the historic center treats your eyes to authentic late Victorian architecture and history frozen in monuments. These buildings came up in the mid-1800s, and the town took great lengths to maintain its foundation and restore its character in some cases. 

Your grandparents might have heard stories of the great Battle of Harpers Ferry from 1862 — part of the American Civil War’s Maryland Campaign. 

Then, there’s the town’s pinnacle position in slavery and abolition. In 1859, the late abolitionist John Brown led 21 men through the town and sparked an uprising to combat slavery in the infamous “John Brown raid.” His efforts were futile but important in setting a precedent for other freedom warriors to come. 

Understandably, the town was designated a National Monument in 1944, then a National Historical Park in 1963. Today? Lower Town and the surrounding area are enshrouded with the town’s rich American history through preserved battlefields and sights, museums and galleries, and even a beloved historical ghost tour

Harpers Ferry boasts plentiful biking and hiking trails, along with scenic overlooks with gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many people day trip from Washington DC or Baltimore to the Harpers Ferry area for premium whitewater rafting and tubing.

Bottom line? Harpers Ferry is the perfect place to let your love of nature and history come together. And you can experience both without spending a dime!

11 Free Things to Do Around Harpers Ferry

A visit to Harpers Ferry offers tons of free things to take advantage of. For starters, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is owned and managed by the National Park Service, deeming much of the area’s experiences basically free for the public with a one-time fee pass

In addition, if you already own the National Park Service’s annual America the Beautiful Pass, you won’t need to pay the entrance fee.

Here are some of our favorite free activities in Harpers Ferry!

1. Get Inspired at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters 

Photo Credit: VCU Capital News Service via Flickr CC2.0
  • Address: 799 Washington St, Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Notable feature: Explore the gift shop and a visitor center.

Harpers Ferry is considered the halfway point of the approximately 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia and traverses 14 states. And inside the ATC, you’ll find dedicated, friendly, and wonderful workers and volunteers who are extremely knowledgeable about the trail and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. 

You will probably even run into thru-hikers (people hiking from Maine to Georgia in one trip) who have just hit the halfway point. They get their pictures taken and sign a hiker registry to mark the momentous occasion. Ask them about their travels — we’re sure they’ll share!

2. Indulge in a Barbecue by the Water

Mountain Mama Vacation Homes and Cabins often have lake access or a pool. Plus, almost every property has a barbeque to grill your favorite meat and veggies. Pineapple-steak skewers, anyone?

Don’t get us started on the views! Imagine indulging in a warm summer afternoon while enjoying the lovely mountain scenery, all while the aromas of honey ribs and spicy chorizo waft through the air. 

Grill up some juicy burgers and dogs, mix up creamy potato salad, and get the corn-on-the-cob rolling! This is a perfect way to spend a day without paying for activities. And the best part? After a nice big meal, you can stretch out on the patio and listen to the birds as the sun warms up your face and invites you to rest and digest.

3. Explore the Ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church 

Photo Credit: Wangkun Jia
  • Address: 168 Church St., Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
  • Notable feature: Close to Jefferson Rock (named for Thomas Jefferson), which overlooks the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers right before the point where they meet.

If you are an American history buff, Harpers Ferry has more than enough historical sites to keep you occupied. The town was one of the most coveted strategic sites for the North and the South during the Civil War. 

St. John’s Episcopal Church was both a hospital for wounded soldiers and a barracks during the Civil War. However, it sustained extreme damage during the war and remains in ruins to this day. Take a walk back in time to see the beautiful but slightly eerie remnants of the church and remember the lives lost during this time. 

4. Be a Trail Angel

Photo Credit: Nico Schueler
  • Address: Anywhere on the Appalachian Trail or at AT Road Crossings. 
  • Notable feature: Interaction with other travelers and hikers.

Quite a few vacation rentals and cabins from Mountain Mama are just a stone’s throw from the Appalachian Trail (AT). But you don’t have to stop at just hiking. Dedicated trail angels are peppered throughout the paths to help travelers find their way and offer snacks and beverages. 

Volunteer as a trail angel and make a hiker’s day with cold water or sodas. You can also take some time to chat and learn about hikers’ journeys hiking 2200 miles on the AT. 

5. Enjoy a Home-Cooked Meal with Views of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Photo Credit: istetiana
  • Address: Your vacation rental.
  • Notable feature: LOTS of counter space and kitchen equipment!

Why not slow things down with a home-cooked meal at your mountain cabin? You’ll be equipped with a full-range kitchen, complete with all the knick-knacks you need to finally try out that Moroccan recipe you saw on Instagram. 

While the vegetables simmer, walk over to your personal porch or patio and breathe in the fresh, crisp breeze flowing through the property from the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

But hang on — where do you go for groceries? Head on over to Wilt’s Produce or Bushel & Peck in town to get fresh local foods. If you are looking for a bigger grocery store, ALDI, Martins, Walmart, and Food Lion are nearby. 

And if you want a little something special, don’t miss out on a trip to Bolivar Bread Bakery. You’ll love the fresh baguettes and pretzarollis — Bolivar’s take on West Virginia’s state food, the Pepperoni roll!

6. White Hall Tavern

Photo Credit: William Silver
  • Address: Y39 Potomac St, Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Notable feature: Live-action re-enactments of 1850s life.

White Hall Tavern used to be right across the street from the federal Harpers Ferry Armory before it was destroyed in the Civil War. The tavern stands tall to this day and has since become an exhibit in Harpers Ferry National Park. 

In the 1850s, many men gathered here — it wasn’t kosher for women to drink in public yet. However,  the men were of many classes and stations, whether armory workers or simple town folks who wanted to unwind! 

7. Get Out and Hike!

Photo Credit:

You won’t be able to complete the legendary thru-hike unless you have 5 to 7 months to spare, but you can still go on a few shorter hikes. 

First, you can hike south on the Appalachian Trail and touch the Virginia border! This hike is 2.4 miles one-way from High Street in Harpers Ferry to the WV-VA border. Breathe in deeply and relish the sounds of rustling leaves and chirps from hummingbirds and warblers.

Craving something more intense? How about a 43.5-mile hike that touches four states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia? Thru-hikers strive to touch all four states within less than 24 hours. But if you aren’t a seasoned hiker, you might camp out and stretch the hike over a few days. 

8. Watch the Sunrise over the Mountains

  • Address: Your vacation rental.
  • Notable feature: Sunshine and meditation potential.

If you stay in a Mountain Mama cabin, you’ll be nestled in one of the most striking yet peaceful mountain ranges in the Eastern United States. Before you get back to the hustle and bustle of daily life, we invite you to wake up a little earlier than usual to watch the sunrise over the mountains. 

Sun salutations on three. Try out some morning meditation in the peace and quiet of the still morning air as the sun brightens the earth. Or, stand on the porch with a hot cup of coffee before starting your day. 

9. John Brown’s Fort

Photo Credit:

Remember John Brown, the abolitionist? 

His raid on the federal armory informed some important developments in the Civil War. While the other buildings of the federal arsenal are now gone, John Brown’s Fort remains. The structure acted as an “engine and guard-house” and was where John Brown and his men barricaded themselves at the end of their raid. 

Fun fact:  the fort has actually been disassembled and moved four times before being restored and placed back in Harpers Ferry. Now, it sits 150 meters away from its original position, which can be identified by the obelisk that now marks the original spot.

10. Watch Movies by the Fireplace

  • Address: Your vacation rental.
  • Notable feature: High-quality cushions and couches to snuggle up on!

Harpers Ferry can get quite chilly in the fall and winter months. Wouldn’t hot chocolate by the fireplace just be grand? Picture that with your favorite feel-good movies to laugh at with the entire family. 

Mountain Mama has fireplaces in almost every one of our vacation rentals. Get some wood and build a crackling, cozy fire while you get some chocolate chip cookies going in the oven. As the delicious aromas waft through the house, decide on a movie to cuddle up to.

11. Harper Cemetery 

Photo Credit: William Silver
  • Address: Harpers Ferry, WV 
  • Notable features: Calm ambiance and mountain views.

As long as you don’t find cemeteries off-putting, you will be rewarded with a trip to Harper Cemetery.  It lies on four acres of land, beautifully overlooking the Potomac River as it shoots through the gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Did you know the founder of Harpers Ferry, Robert Harper, is actually buried here? He and his entire family, along with plenty of others, under gravestones from the 17, 18, and 1900s. 

People come here mainly for the view. Stunning vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains follow a jolly walk up the hill.


The Best Things in Life are Free

Who knew you could experience such a historic city to its fullest without spending much money? Hiking, mountain sights, monuments, history, and cozy nights at home — what more can you ask for on vacation? 

Whether you spend the day hiking the trails or exploring the center, you’ll want a cozy place to rest your head each night. Mountain Mama offers fully renovated homes with comfortable furnishings, barbecues, lakeside access, and much more to indulge in total relaxation. 

We’re so happy you’re here. Let us take the reins with your mountain accommodations — book your Mountain Mama vacation home today!


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