Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Quick New Year's Hike: Loudon Heights

There are three classic hikes around Harper's Ferry, West Virginia that lead to rock outcrops overlooking the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.  Maryland Heights is probably the most famous due to the Civil War battle that took place there.  It overlooks the confluence of the two rivers and the town of Harpers Ferry.  Weverton Cliffs are just three miles down the Potomac River from Harpers Ferry and mark the first big climb of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland.  The last is Loudon Heights and it was the only one we hadn't done.  We passed near there when we hiked the section of the Appalachian Trail leading from Virginia into Harpers Ferry, but we didn't actually go out to the overlook since it would have added several miles to an already long hike.

Tuesday, we took advantage of the holiday for a rare mid-week hike with WanderMindfully.  We started at the small parking lot on the Appalachian Trail and the US Highway 340 bridge.  The Appalachian Trail crosses the bridge and is separated from traffic by jersey barriers.  It is quite possibly the least pleasant half mile out of a total of over 2,200 miles on the Appalachian Trail.  At least it isn't very long.  There was a dusting of snow on the ground at the trailhead and, as we climbed, it got deeper and covered the trail.  We steadily climbed to the top of the ridge where we left the Appalachian Trail and headed north on the blue-blazed Loudon Heights Trail.  We had lunch out on the rocks overlooking the Potomac.  On our way back, we returned to the Appalachian Trail via an orange-blazed trail which makes a short loop along the side of the ridge. It was a pretty hike with which to welcome 2013.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
Looking west up the Potomac River towards Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  The overcast skies gave the river a beautiful steel blue color that doesn't quite come through in the photo.
 A fern on the rocks where we had lunch.
The snow-covered orange trail.
A Mallard Duck on the Shenandoah River.
Looking northeast down the Shenandoah River from the US 340 bridge towards the confluence of the rivers.  Harpers Ferry is on the left.

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