Harpers Ferry, W. Va.

Baltimore Sun reporter

Go here: This is where the Shenandoah meets the Potomac, where the Appalachian Trail joins the C&O Canal path, where past and present converge as well. A lot of things come together in the misty, mystic hamlet of Harpers Ferry, W.Va. - often, in its history, tragically so. Here, abolitionists led by John Brown clashed with backers of slavery in an ill-fated attempt to take over an arsenal and launch a slave revolt. It's been more than 150 years since John Brown led a group of men who seized the arsenal at Harper's Ferry in an attempt to incite a slave rebellion, but the town still looks much as it did then. Quaint shops and museums dot the narrow streets. Much of the town is owned by the National Park Service, whose rangers offer guided tours of the area.

Stay here: Quality Hotel Conference Center, 4328 William L. Wilson Freeway, Harpers Ferry, W.Va. (304-535-6302; offers a free continental breakfast, free high-speed internet, and indoor pool and exercise room. Rates start at around $100. Or try the Hilltop House Hotel (304-535-2132;

Eat here: Town's Pub & Eatery, 179 High St., Harpers Ferry (877-489-2447;, offers old-time favorites, such as barbecue chicken, mac & cheese, salisbury steak.

Don't miss this: While thousands pass through every weekend, most drawn by whitewater rafting and tubing, Harpers Ferry has managed to balance capitalism and conservation. To get a bird's eye view of the area's natural beauty, hike to Jefferson Rock and see where the rivers meet. Or go river rafting and immerse yourself in the confluence of history. The rivers led to the town's settlement, to its name (Robert Harper ran a ferry linking Maryland to what was then Virginia) and to the floods that have both erased and revealed pieces of its past.

Get here: Just over an hour from Baltimore, it's an easy day trip, but it's also ideal for a weekend escape: Getting there won't chew up most of the time or most of the gas money. Take Interstate 70 west to U.S. 340 South.

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