View Full Version : The Bear's Den to Harpers Ferry

09-05-2009, 21:17
Planning a three day trek with a friend for late October and we're interested in traveling from the Bear's Den to Harpers Ferry.

Have checked out the AT Online Companion, but would like any insight on this 20 mile part of the trail, especially camping sites or anything else we should know. We're intending to just take it easy and do the miles over the three days.

Also, who do we arrange a shuttle with to get back to the Bear's Den?

Del Q
09-06-2009, 15:55
Nice hike, I am not a long distance guy (yet), did this in one day, pretty easy hiking, maybe too short and too easy. Maybe go South, do the "Rollercoaster", stay at this AWESOME Hostel then two days North to Harpers Ferry?

09-08-2009, 07:14
Probably something that could be easily finished in two days, but we just want to take it easy without being in a hurry.

09-08-2009, 09:48
Have fun....good section, plenty of history too in the woods with fortifications, etc

Pedaling Fool
09-08-2009, 10:02
The only real hilly sections (and they aren't all that hilly) is right outside Harper's Ferry and Bear's Den. The area between is very much like walking on a flat ridge. There's supposedly a gap called "Wilson Gap" ~1 mile south of the Blackburn AT center; the area is so flat I've never been able to locate that gap, despite being through that area about 3 times in the last few years. BTW, if you go down to the Blackburn AT center, you'll really get a sense of the ridge you're walking on. Also, the Devil's Racecourse is neat to look at and wonder where all them rocks came from in such a concentrated area.

09-08-2009, 10:08
Just got home yesterday from doing that exact section except we hiked from Harpers Ferry south. We intended to hike all the way to I-66 but our new hiking partner pooped out on us just before we got to Bear's Den Hostel. We'd stealth camped the night before on a blue blaze trail just down the hill from the hostel and were VERY fortunate to meet a local guy out for a walk who gave us a ride back to HF. If not for him we would have likely gone to the hostel to see what was available (shuttle, cab, etc.) We didn't stay at the David Lesser shelter but did stop there for water. By far one of the nicest shelters I've ever come across! It's a quarter-mile down to the spring but there was plenty of water. We stealth camped another night in a really good spot. If you're interested I can see if we still have the coordinates written down - PM me if you want them.

09-08-2009, 11:48
Just sent you a PM regarding a shuttle.

Lemni Skate
09-08-2009, 12:01
If you're doing this in three days then do eight the first day and spend the night at Blackburn Trail Center. This will be your hardest day by far, but it won't be all that tough. A lot of people roll in to Harper's Ferry from Blackburn so the next two days won't be bad. I'd try to camp somewhere just north of Key's Gap the second day (short day), and then enjoy an easy 7 miles (flat and then downhill) into Harper's Ferry the last day.

Blackburn would be a must stop for me on this section with your schedule.

lazy river road
09-08-2009, 12:34
I was thinking of doing a similar hike in early october...starting at Harpers Ferry then either going North or South which ever way my feet carried me....I was going to do a down and back so i dident have to hassel with a shuttle although people tell me its easy to set one up...i was more worried about cost...some of the ones I read about werent cheap

09-08-2009, 12:55
There's a campsite just north of Keys Gap, but it is very close to the road.

You might also consider stopping at David Lesser Memorial Shelter for your second night, which has a few decent tent sites. My journal notes that I covered the 3 miles north to Keys Gap from the shelter on smooth woods roads in only 50 minutes, it was so easy. It does get a little rockier north of Keys Gap.

09-09-2009, 09:38
Thanks everyone for your suggestions.

The way it looks at this moment, we'll start at Bear's Den and hike to the Blackburn Trail center and camp there the first day. The second day hike from Blackburn to Keys Gap and then the third day to Harpers Ferry.

We want to camp with our tents each night, and as I read things, this is not an issue along this portion of the trail. The only issue mentioned in the Companion is that camping is not permitted a 1/2 mile before and a 1/2 mile after Keys Gap.

As for water, if I read the Companion correctly we can get water at the following points --

Bear's Den
Spring -- 2.8 miles after Bear's Den
Sand Spring -- 1 mile after Spring
Blackburn Trail Center -- 5.1 miles later
David Lesser Shelter -- about 3.2 miles later
Keys Gap -- about another 3 miles later
and then finally Harpers Ferry

Finally, is Keys Gap a point where the AT crosses a road? And if we turn east or west its a short distance to grocery stores/food & water?

Again thanks.

Lemni Skate
09-09-2009, 12:46
Yes, Key's Gap crosses a road (not a good spot to leave your car--vandalism). If you head East it's not very far to a small grocery/convenience store if I'm remembering correctly.

You'll have plenty of time your second day so I would hike to the store before I camped, so camping just North of Key's gap would be ideal.

09-10-2009, 06:42
it's a great little section I did it in May in 3 days from Sky Meadows state park to HF lots of great campsites, and the rollercoaster was a great ride and workout