What To Photograph At Harpers Ferry

Forget the typical postcard views! My hiking shoes barely touched the cobblestones in the town of Harper's Ferry. I knew this wouldn't be the typical story told by the Traveling Photographer. Yes it's true, John Brown's Fort still stands sentinel, and yes, several historic buildings reveal a fascinating history.  But this trip was more about capturing a few unique photo of the Harpers Ferry area, visiting with old friends, and hiking a section of the AT Trail where West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland come together.

So buckle up and prepare for a photographic peek into the Harper's Ferry area through a slightly offbeat lens. 

Sure, the panoramic view below from Jefferson Rock is a classic, but wander away from the crowds and explore the charming backstreets of Harpers Ferry.

Jefferson Rock Harpers FerryJefferson Rock, Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry offers the budding photo enthusiast plenty of opportunities for taking appealing photos, whether you focus on natural subjects or the many historical buildings in the town.  The photo of Jefferson Rock above has both nature and manmade elements  as I composed it to include the rocks, the mountains and the Harpers Ferry bridge into Maryland in the distance.


The photo below is of the train and foot-bridge that crosses The Potomac River at Harpers Ferry. I used this bridge during my section hike of the AT trail that took me from West Virginia into Maryland.  I recommend you walk the bridge as one of the things that's worthwhile doing when you visit.

Harpers Ferry Appalachian Trail bridgeHarpers Ferry Railroad and Appalachian Trail bridge

Don't forget to use your widest angle lens setting and find unique camera angles to create strong compositions of whatever subject you're photographing.

Yes, history cast its long shadow on Harpers Ferry, but woven within its threads were moments of unexpected photographic beauty and quiet contemplation.  Sometimes, the most captivating photographs lie in the details. The timing was perfect for taking the photo of the gorgeous sage below. Taken in the late spring on an overcast day gave me the effect I love.

Sage BlossomsLinks Bridge Vineyards
Sage Blossoms

The hike up the steep but short trail to Weverton Cliffs is worth the effort and you get the opportunity to take one of those photos that reveals no evidence of mankind's imprint on the natural world.

View from Weverton CliffsView toward Harpers Ferry from Weverton Cliffs


As you can imagine, photographing the Potomac River and the mountains is more appealing to most photographers (above), but aiming my camera in the opposite direction gives you an interesting portrait of the the layered rocks that form the cliffs.

Weverton Cliffs RocksGeologists Playground
Rocks at Weverton Cliffs

The rocky subject above and the angle I chose to shoot from has likely not been chosen very often.

Camera Gear For Harpers Ferry

Because I was backpacking, I wanted to keep my gear light, so I chose to take just one camera and one lens with me

I was thrilled with the image quality I was able to get with the photo of the nearby Charles Town Horse race below.  My Canon mirrorless R6 Mark II did an amazing job in such a dimly lit situation (High camera ISO setting), even with a "slow" kit lens like my RF 24-105mm f/4-f/7.1. It's become my favorite camera to use for travel photography now. Here's my complete gear list.

The race track and casino in Charles Town is only 8 miles from downtown Harpers Ferry and gives you the opportunity to test your action and nighttime photography skills. 

Charles Town Horse Race TrackCharles Town Horse Race Track


Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and the surrounding areas are treasure troves of history, offering stunning vistas of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers feet. But beyond the grand landscapes lie hidden photographic gems – a world of details waiting to be photographed by you.

One of the most remarkable looking trees I've ever seen-and it was alive.

Strange hollow treeTwisted Hollow Tree
Appalachian Trail

In this photo of the iris I chose an angle and position to isolate this one flower.

Iris FlowerIris at Links Bridge Vineyards
Thurmont, Maryland


Google Map to Explore The Harpers Ferry Area

The nearby towns of Charles Town, Frederick, and Antietam will provide you with plenty of photo ops. Use the interactive map of Harpers Ferry below to explore the area.





Much of the view of the river from the Harpers Ferry Brewery  is hidden by the overgrown foliage on the hillside below the brewery, but I walked around until I found this angle. This vantage point included the river as a diagonal line in the composition that leads your eye into the photo toward the sundrenched hill in the background.


View from Harpers Ferry BrewingPotomac River
View from Harpers Ferry Brewing

College friends at vineyardsCollege friends at Vineyards

By stepping away from the expected and embracing the unexpected, you'll capture a side of the Harpers Ferry area that other photographers will miss. So, ditch the typical tourist traps and let your camera lens become a tool to discover the hidden soul of this extraordinary town.

Truth be told, it was an excursion where the photography was the third priority, and my time to get any remarkable images,  with the rainy weather, was limited. Hopefully this post has whet your appetite to take your own photos of Harpers Ferry.



Bruce Lovelace portrait

Bruce Lovelace is the publisher of TravelingPhotographer.com. Bruce shot portraits full time for over 35 years. Now he shoots more travel photography.  Read more about him on the About Page. He also publishes how to articles and camera gear reviews at the  Photography Tips and Canon Geek websites.

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