Are you considering a vacation to Harpers Ferry during the winter and wondering what there is to do in the off-season? Unlike some destinations, Harpers Ferry is still open and ready for tourists even in the cold of winter!
This mecca for outdoor enthusiasts is quieter in the winter months, allowing travelers to experience the best Harpers Ferry has to offer with little to no crowds. You will be able to enjoy activities like hiking and historical tours before returning to the warmth of your gorgeous West Virginia cabin in the evening.
Only a short drive from Washington, D.C., Harpers Ferry is a fantastic year-round destination that offers something special each season. From watching nature come to life in spring, whitewater rafting and kayaking in the summer, and leaf peeping in fall, all of these seasons offer an incredible getaway.
You’ll be happy to hear that winter is no exception.
The fairly mild weather means that wintertime visitors can still participate in all the activities that Harpers Ferry is best known for and have the added perk of possibly seeing the town glistening with snow flurries. The crowds will be far reduced in winter, meaning you will have popular spots such as the Maryland Heights overlook practically to yourself.
If you’re planning a winter trip to Harpers Ferry, this guide will cover all you need to know.
Harpers Ferry is located in a transitional climate zone, with the maritime climate of the Atlantic Slope meeting the Allegheny Mountains. Summer can be hot and humid, while winter can be characterized by dry, colder conditions, but extreme temperatures on either end of the spectrum are rare.
That means winter is the perfect time to book a cabin with a hot tub, since the temperature won’t be too cold to enjoy it. And when you’re ready to curl up inside, the fireplace will be waiting.
December in Harpers Ferry is pleasant and perfect for those looking to get into the holiday spirit. Average temperatures range from a low of 31 degrees Fahrenheit and a high of 43 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since January is the coldest month in Harpers Ferry, it’ll give you the best chance of enjoying the sights without any crowds. Temperatures are brisk, with an average low of 26 degrees Fahrenheit and a high of 40 degrees.
On average, Harpers Ferry gets 20-25″ of snowfall a year, which breaks down to roughly:
- 4.5″ in December
- 6.5″ in January
- 7.5″ in February
- 2.5″ in March
Warming up from January, February in Harpers Ferry is still chilly but is also the driest month. Despite the low humidity, February is the month with the greatest average snowfall. That makes February your best chance to enjoy a winter wonderland of fresh powdery snow! Temperatures range from a high of 48 degrees to a low of 31 degrees.
One of the best events in Harpers Ferry is only available in the winter! The Olde Tyme Christmas Festival takes place the first two weekends in December and is an amazing time for those seeking some holiday cheer.
The festival offers festive decorations lining the quaint streets, a visit with Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus at the town gazebo, live entertainment, and a Christmas market of handmade goods that make perfect gifts for everyone on your list. The free horse-drawn carriage ride is a truly magical experience.
See the best Christmas lights in town with the Holiday Light Tour. This driving tour route takes you through Harpers Ferry and the neighboring Bolivar to see the historic homes all lit up for the holidays.
The Olde Tyme Christmas Festival is a truly must-see event that will make you glad you chose to visit Harpers Ferry in the wintertime.
Hiking in Harpers Ferry doesn’t stop when winter begins! When you have the appropriate gear, winter hiking is a fantastic activity and an excellent way to see the best views of Harpers Ferry. Some hikes that may be overcrowded during the busy summer months will be nearly empty in the winter.
Harpers Ferry is known as a major destination for hikers due to being the psychological halfway point along the most famous trail in the country, the Appalachian Trail. This 2,200 mile trail begins in Georgia and ends in Maine, with hundreds of hikers attempting to complete this entire trail every year.
Although you may not be quite ready to attempt the AT, there is no reason to let the cold weather stop you from enjoying the hikes surrounding Harpers Ferry! There are numerous great trails leaving from town, and many have fantastic overlooks for the best views of town and the confluence of the Shenandoah River and Potomac River.
A few of our favorite scenic trails that are fun year round include:
- Maryland Heights Trail to the stunning Harpers Ferry Overlook
- Lower Town to Jefferson Rock (named after Thomas Jefferson), one of the key historical sites in the area.
- Loudoun Heights Trail with views of Harpers Ferry, the confluence of the Potomac River and Shenandoah River, and Pleasant Valley to the east.
Already a fantastic place to go tubing down the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers in the summer, come January 2023, it’ll be a great place for snow tubing, too. Owned and operated by River Riders, you’ll soon be able to enjoy your winter nights gliding down a winter wonderland.
Their team has been working hard to get the snow tubing park up and running in January. For up-to-date information, visit their Facebook page.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
The Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is the perfect destination for American history lovers and is open all year long. Harpers Ferry itself is actually located within the park, so even without going on a guided tour, you’ll get to experience some of the area simply by staying here!
For those that are interested in knowing more about the historic park, the Harpers Ferry Park Association offers certified guided tours of the park, during which the professional guides will give you an in-depth look at the history of the area.
The 2.5-hour tour covers abolitionist John Brown and the John Brown Raid, the Civil War, Meriwether Lewis at Harpers Ferry, Storer College, the Niagara Movement, and the local transportation and waterpower industries.
You will learn about the famous sites of the historic town such as John Brown’s Fort, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, and more.
The town of Harpers Ferry is well known as a hotspot for paranormal activity. The O’ Be Joyfull historical tour company operates the oldest ghost tour in America, taking guests on a walking tour through the town to hunt for the ghosts of Harpers Ferry. The tours are available year-round, so even in chilly weather you can participate in ghost hunting!
What to Pack for Winter
Packing for a winter trip to a cold destination takes a little more planning than other trips. Preparing for any weather conditions is the best way to ensure a comfortable, fun trip, so carefully think through your planned activities and what you will need.
Warm, Waterproof Outer Layers
When visiting Harpers Ferry in the winter, your coat is one of the most essential things on your packing list. You will need a true winter coat with moderate insulation and a water-resistant or waterproof exterior.
Thermal Base Layers
Base layers made of insulating materials such as wool, silk, bamboo, or synthetic fabrics are the key to staying warm in cold weather. Thermal layers have a huge range in quality and price, but even cheap base layers are better than none. Merino wool is one of the best options, offering high levels of comfort and warmth.
Warm socks are of utmost importance since your feet are some of the first things that will feel the cold. Wool or wool blend socks are an absolute must and will be the difference between enjoying a brisk day and being miserably cold.
Gloves, Scarf, and Hat
Wear gloves, scarves, and a warm hat to protect your extremities from wind and cold. The wind can make a mild day feel extra cold, so having a scarf to cover your face is a great idea.
Although snow isn’t likely, you may encounter wet conditions during the winter. Waterproof, insulated boots will be invaluable when it comes to keeping your feet warm and dry. If you are planning on hiking, a great tread is a must to keep you safe on icy trails.
Get Excited for Harpers Ferry in the Winter
Don’t miss out on a winter trip to Harpers Ferry! The weather may be cold, but the town is just as amazing. The best offerings of Harpers Ferry, such as hiking and history tours, are available all year long but by visiting in the winter, you’ll get peace and quiet while soaking up the surrounding natural beauty.
Enjoy the beauty of winter when you take a vacation in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.