View Full Version : Chester Gap to Harpers Ferry

12-01-2008, 17:16
A bit of background: originally from California, avid hiker and camper over there for ~15 years. Can comfortably carry about 20lbs-40lbs depending on weight distribution. Have only day hiked in this area, don't know much about the wildlife or unique conditions around here (i.e. in California we have those darn raccoons that influence food storage, burrs to contend with on the trails, etc).

I'm planning a hike from Chester Gap (Front Royal, VA) to Harpers Ferry (WV) mid-December. However, I am not from this area and am looking for tips/advice that would help in planning. I anticipate a 3-day, 2-night hike at 12-16 miles per day. Any special cold weather gear? Type of socks? Bivy or one-person tent? What resources are available once reaching WV in terms of transportation, showers, food, etc.? Where to park at Chester Gap? How to get back to Chester Gap to pick up the car? Anyone who has done this segment have other veteran knowledge to impart?

I'm sure I could get away with a lot considering the short length of the hike, but this is also a probe hike for longer ones in the following months.

Thank you for the hand-holding!

12-01-2008, 23:48
route always depends, gear always depends, etc.
the mid-atlantic is weird. it could be 70 and sunny or 25 and 2 feet of snow.
having 2 cars or running shuttle is ur best bet for logistics.

tent, tarp, hammock, or bivy is fine; what do u prefer?

cold weather gear?
1. ultralight down jacket
2. nice socks, wool or synthetic
3. nice bag with a 0-32 rating
4. lightweight and midweight long undies (both; top & bottom)
5. synthetic short sleeve shirt
6. shell (top & bottom)
7. nylon shorts
8. good pad (i prefer full length in winter)
9. cook kit: stove, pan, mug, spoon (canisters are slow and wasteful in 'real' cold weather or they just won't work.)
10. water kit: drops or filter or both with bags &/or bottles
11. first aid & blister kit (u pick)
12. fire kit (i like fires in winter cuz it's dark at 5 anyway... yay tv!)
13. boots/shoes (go with best fit, waterproof or not)
14. crocs, etc.
15. 10 essentials

in the mid-atlantic, no matter what season, it will be wet! waterproof ur stuff!

12-02-2008, 00:02
The ATC has a list of shuttle providers and you can find most in the guide books. There is a hostel just north of HF on the MD side just over the tracks. Did the section in April last year. Weather can play a roll as always. We the Roller coster section in the pouring rain. I am not sure if Bears Den is open year round or not.

12-02-2008, 00:05
I would suggest you print out the ATC shuttle list from their website. You'll find plenty of shuttle providers there. I would leave my car in Harper's Ferry and hike to it, rather than try to hook up with a shuttle afterwards. You're car should be safe there, but you need to let the park service know when you leave your car. You're looking at closer to 17-18 mpd, and part of that is through the rollercoaster, while not as bad as a lot of people make it out to be, but it does have a bunch MUD's to deal with which can be tiring. I took Circuit Hiker's advice and did this section in winter, and was glad I did. There is a reasonable amount of water, and the temps are great for hiking. Racoons and shelter mice are probably all the wildlife you'll have to be "concerned" about, but hang your bag you'll be fine. Good luck.

12-02-2008, 00:09
that section is 54.5 miles. this equals 18.2 miles a day for a 3 day hike...

12-02-2008, 10:06
Check Harpers Ferry Outfitters for shuttle possibilities. I know every inch of that section as I live 45 minutes from the trail here in Northern Virginia.

Parts of this section are moderate (Chester Gap to Manassas Gap).
Manassas Gap to Sky Meadows is relatively easy...
SkyMeadows to Bear's Den is difficult (rocky, lot's of ups/downs)...
Bear's Den to Harpers is easy.

Plan on being cold. Water is available at:
Jim and Molly dento shelter
Manassas Gap Shelter,
Dick's Dome shelter,
Rod Hollow Shelter,
Sam Moore Shelter
Bear's Den,
Blackburn trail center

You'll have no problems. enjoy.

12-02-2008, 10:32
How far is Bears den to HF?

12-02-2008, 11:14
bear's den is on rt. 601 between 50 and 7. not sure of mileage...

12-02-2008, 20:56
How far is Bears den to HF?

About 20 miles.

12-02-2008, 22:15
Phil if I go on this one I can leave my truck at either end and shuttle but it only carries me and two passengers.

12-03-2008, 01:42
This past weekend I did rt 7 in VA to harpers ferry then continued up to alt us 40. I wish I had spent more time looking around harpers ferry. lots of nice shelters in this area. Friday and Saturday were nice weather but Saturday night we woke up to marble sized hail at the Garvey shelter. When we woke up it was 28* on my digital thermometer. The high it recorded on the 11 mile hike back to the car was 35. it rained the whole time and the wind on the of the ridge was quite strong. We often had ice falling on us from the trees. I just wish I had brought my other warmer water resistant boots. So be perepaired for really bad weather.

12-03-2008, 02:04
yo link and newb: i work in arlington at Casual Adventure. come holla at me. -phil-

12-03-2008, 09:01
Ok whats the closest shelter in va to HF?

12-03-2008, 10:59
yo, check out this thread in the hooking up forum: "DMV Hikers: Any December Plans?"
its the same stuff...

12-03-2008, 11:03
David lesser shelter about 9 1/2 miles from the bridge over the potomac. It also looks like there is a hostle in Harpers Ferry (HI/ AYH)

There is a shelter much closer on the MD side.

12-03-2008, 14:47
...There is a shelter much closer on the MD side.

That would be Ed Garvey Shelter, an easy 6 miles from the bridge. The shelter's southern exposure makes it ideal in winter. Check out this pic (http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/showimage.php?i=9015&catid=member&orderby=posts&direction=DESC&imageuser=5065&cutoffdate=-1).

12-03-2008, 15:05
do u prefer?

cold weather gear?

3. nice bag with a 0-32 rating

I would lean more to the zero bag than the 32 degree personally. It was 15 degrees here in the lowland this AM. You might be okay with 15 degree bag with a liner just in case.
That area is also farther north than me, so snow, sleet, freezing rain is possible with precipitation. Check the weather and bring the necessary gear.

There was a pesky racoon at Sam Moore shelter that attacks. That was several years ago.

You can park at Rt 522 at Chester Gap. We did for several days with no problems. Or better yet, get a shuttle there and park safely at the visitor center at HF Nat'l Historic park.

Downhill Trucker
12-05-2008, 00:53
I hiked from Front Royal to PenMar this fall and stayed a layover day in Harpers Ferry. We stayed at The Town's Inn and the people there were awesome along with alot of hiker friendly amenities. Two doors down from there is Harpers Ferry Outfitters and they were awesome as well. I would call there or the ATC for shuttle info.

We stayed at Dick's Dome shelter the first night, Rod Hollow the second, Bears Den the third, and David Lesser the fourth night. We were averaging about 10 miles a day. These sections are rocky at times and are a little more difficult than other sections I have done. One thing I would caution about coming to the east coast: the trails footing can be far worse than out west. The grading can be a bit more difficult. I've always thought that while the west has the rougher mountains, the east has the rougher trails.

Blackburn Trail Center is awesome. There was also come cool campsites on Crescent Rock just inside WVA. All the shelters in this area are awesome. We didnt use tents the entire trip. Bears Den is a great Hostel that should not be missed. 25 bucks gets you a bunk, laundry, tv, internet, a whole pizza and pint of ben and jerrys. Great sunset view is 100 yds away from the Hostel. I would suggest taking your time and enjoy all the great stops in this section.

If you have any questions let me know, I've done this area a bunch. I can also email you the PATC field guide for this section in a 5x7 card format (way cool).

Here is a link to our pics from this section...

12-05-2008, 00:58
Of the shelters mentioned, I'd avoid Dick's Dome. The others are fine. Blackburn Center is a ways off the trail but worth the trip.