Where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet and majestic mountains rise, you can’t resist the call of the wild. It’s easy to answer in Jefferson County, where outfitters provide the equipment and guidance – all you have to do is choose your adventure. From hiking legendary trails to conquering whitewater rapids and discovering secret fishing spots, here are five of the best things to do outside in Jefferson County.
1. Take an epic hike. The legendary Appalachian Trail runs right through Harpers Ferry, near the headquarters and visitor center of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Pick up a guidebook or chat about your hiking plans at the conservancy’s visitor center, then get underway: Nearby, a blaze leads to a footbridge over the Potomac River and continues to the historic C&O Canal. From the C&O, long-distance hikers can connect to the Great Allegheny Passage, a rails-to-trails route that spans 150 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.
2. Ride the rivers. In Harpers Ferry, the outfitter River Riders has you covered for just about any adventure, from cycling to a treetop challenge course. But in this town defined by the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, you must get on the water. River Riders’ whitewater rafting trips conquer class I-III rapids (target spring or fall for maximum thrills, when water levels rush). You can even experience whitewater tubing with the River Riders Potomac adventure, which zips you over the river’s rapids alongside the historic town. Slow down with River Riders’ Shenandoah float – a ride so mild, you can bring a picnic. River Riders rents canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, too, but note that all activities are subject to seasonality, weather conditions and some age restrictions.
3. Catch the big one. Make Harpers Ferry your hub for fishing in Jefferson County. This town situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers promises productive fishing – especially if you’re after smallmouth bass. In fact, Fly Fisherman magazine named both rivers to its top 10 for surface fly-fishing the species. Book your excursion with The Angler’s Inn – proprietor Bryan Kelly is head guide, with two decades of experience and a carefully selected team of local guides to assist you. Angler’s Inn excursions include your vessel (specially engineered by Kelly to maneuver the rivers’ tight spots), on-board guide and equipment for fly-fishing and spin-casting.
4. Pedal and paddle. In the heart of West Virginia’s oldest town, Shepherdstown Pedal & Paddle rents equipment and runs guided excursions. Book a “Pedal & Paddle” package to cycle along the C&O Canal, an essential access to the Allegheny Mountains (and its coal) between the 1820s and 1920s. Brake for ice cream before paddling back to Shepherdstown via the Potomac River – the waterway affords picture-perfect views of the historic town and surrounding mountains. Shepherdstown Pedal & Paddle also guides historic cycling tours to neighboring Harpers Ferry. Want to explore on your own? The outfitter rents bikes, canoes, kayaks and even tubes for river floating, plus all the essentials (helmets, paddles and life jackets).
5. Swing for it. In Charles Town, two golf courses invite public access. Family-owned Sleepy Hollow Golf & Country Club is laidback for the love of the game: Rates are affordable, your green fee is good all day, and there are no designated tee times to plan around. Locust Hill Golf Course was rated one of the best public access courses in West Virginia by Golfweek magazine. Both courses offer 18 holes and a winning Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop.