From: October 14 to October 20, 2018

Destination: Harpers Ferry, WV

  • Slackpacking Harpers Ferry

    The Appalachian Trail, while often rugged and remote, is designed to accommodate both people who want to hike the entire trail and those who choose to section hike it, either by backpacking or by slackpacking. This trip covers the northernmost section of Virginia, covering 60 miles between Chester Gap and Harpers Ferry, where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) headquarters is located. In between are 60 miles of classic AT trail with varied terrain, great shelter areas (including one with both a front porch and a solar shower), beautiful vistas over the Shenandoah Valley, the 'roller coaster' section (with those AT 'muds' and 'puds'), and a night in a classic hostel right on the trail - all the time following the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountain ridge that forms the boundary between Virginia and West Virginia. Join us as we continue our travel along the trail.12
  • Sunday, October 14
    Meet at 1 PM at the Dulles Airport (IAD) or 3 pm at the trip hostel in Harpers Ferry. If you are flying, group transportation from the airport to Harpers Ferry will be arranged for 1pm. The shuttle ride is about an hour and will deposit you right at the door of the hostel. If you prefer to drive to Harpers Ferry, please plan to arrive at the trip hostel by 3 pm. We will start with introductions and a discussion of all things hiking as well as an overview of the week. There will be some time to relax and go for a walk while the guides prepare the first of many delicious dinners. We'll head to bed early, anticipating an early morning. Overnight: Harpers Ferry Hostel, Harpers Ferry

    Sunday, October 15
    Today and every day we'll have an early and hearty breakfast so we have adequate time to prepare for the day and get on the trail early. After breakfast, we'll shuttle to our first 'put in' spot - Chester Gap, just north of Front Royal. This will be our longest shuttle, about 90 minutes, as we're going to the southern most part of our section. We'll join the AT as it travels alongside the U.S. Zoological Park for approximately 2 miles. These first few miles will be up with approximately 1000 ft. gain in elevation. Once getting to the top we will (of course) head down - which pretty much describes every day. We'll be sure to take a break at the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter area. This shelter has a great front porch as well as a solar shower and yes, running water! From here we'll continue another 4.4 miles to our take out point in Manassas Gap. Tonight and every night we'll return to the hostel where the guides will prepare a filling, home cooked meal, designed to replenish your spirits and your body. Distance: 8.7 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 1590'/1955'

    Tuesday, October 16
    Another day on trail! This morning and every morning, we'll enjoy breakfast before getting into our shuttle for the trip back to the place we ended the previous day. Starting at Massassas Gap we'll see the Discovery Monument, commemorating the site where the first English explorer saw the Shenandoah Valley. The trail today passes several AT shelters including Manassas Shelter and Dick's Dome Shelter. Dick's Dome Shelter is quite unique - a Geodesic structure located near a shallow, rocky river snd close to a brand new shelter built by the local AT club! Our take out spot today is at Ashby Gap. Just before we get there, we'll see a rock wall that was originally surveyed by 19-year-old George Washington. After a long and absolutely satisfying day, we'll shuttle 'home' for another delicious home cooked meal and a bit of relaxation. Distance: 13.6 miles Elevation gain/loss: 2780'/2400'

    Wednesday, October 17
    Today when we leave the hostel, we'll have our day packs organized for another type of adventure. Yes, we're still hiking, and today we have a choice. If you want a big challenge, you have the option to hike 13.9 miles, including the first 9.9 miles of the infamous 'Roller Coaster, so called because of tightly packed ups and downs. Plenty of rocks, great challenging ups and lovely wooded downs. If that isn't appealing, you can opt to skip the first 6 miles. You will still have lots of up and down, but the shorter mileage allows you to do it at a slower pace.

    Regardless of which you choose, at the end of the day we'll end up at the historic Bears Den Hostel where we'll spend the night. There we'll be treated to a lovely al fresco pizza dinner (catered by a local restaurant) complete with a gorgeous salad and homemade dessert - pizza never tasted so good! Plus, you get a chance to see what the thru hikers like about this place - a soft bed and a hot shower along with lots of friendly faces and camraderie. Although we have that every night, for thru hikers its a complete delight to have it right on the trail. Distance: 13.9 miles Elevation gain/loss: 4000'/2000' or 7.5 miles and less gain and loss. Overnight: Bears Den Hostel

    Thursday, October 18
    Leaving the Bears Den Hostel we'll first pass by the Bears Den rocks - beautiful granite and sandstone boulders that do look like they would make the perfect den for bears! The theme of the day continues to be 'rocks' - especially views from rocks, Raven Rocks and Crescent Rocks to name a few. We'll also pass through Snickers Gap - maybe a trail angel will have left some real Snickers?! Our destination and take out point for the night is the Blackburn Center, situated .3 miles off the trail. The Blackburn Center is another PATC maintained shelter area - in fact, it's the largest that is currently operated and they offer bunk space, enclosed shelter space, and tenting platforms for those who are backpacking. We'll meet our shuttle there and head back to the hostel. Since we didn't have a morning shuttle and our mileage is lower today, we may have some time to visit the pretty and historic town of Harpers Ferry. We'll gather before dinner to enjoy a few appetizers before our home cooked meal. Distance: 9 miles Elevation gain/loss: 2100'/2,000'

    Friday, October 19
    Can it really be over so soon? Sadly, yes. And our last day on trail is going to be a great one! We'll shuttle back to the Blackburn Center, and hike uphill to rejoin the AT. We'll hike along the boardwalk (think beach?) of Laurel Springs, through Buzzard Rocks, and onto Keys Gap. But wait, that's not all! We'll continue through this beautiful terrain under thick canopy all the way into Harpers Ferry and to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy where we'll be met by our van. Alternatively, if you're looking for a shorter day with more time to spend in Harpers Ferry, you can start the trail at Keys Gap for the final 6.5 miles. Dinner out tonight will give us the opportunity to remember our week together, get all those 'trail names' straightened out, and say good bye until the next AT opportunity! Distance: 13 miles Elevation gain/loss: 1900'/2700' or 6.5 miles and 800'/1300'.

    Saturday, October 20
    As always, we start the day with a great breakfast. Except today we won't be burning it off! After close to 60 miles and about 12,000 feet elevation gain and loss in 5 days, our bodies will be confused - no hiking today! For those of you driving, you are free to leave anytime after breakfast this morning. For those of you flying out of Dulles, the shuttle will leave the hostel @ 9am and you can plan to fly anytime after 12:00pm.
  • Price: $1450  (see this page for discounts). Deposit $300. There are no singles available on this trip. Please make sure you understand our cancellation policies.

    Trip Includes

    • Two experienced guides
    • Six nights lodging
    • All meals from dinner on Sunday through breakfast the following Saturday
    • Daily shuttles back and forth to the trailhead
    • Round trip transfer from Dulles International Airport (IAD)

    What's not included:  Airfare to/from Dulles airport (IAD), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities. 

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  • Common Questions

    If you’ve never traveled with us before, you may have some questions about how we do things and what you can expect. We’ve answered the most common ones below and are always available by phone or email to answer any others.

    How do I pay for my trip?

    You can make the deposit by submitting a secure form with your credit card information after filling out the registration form or calling us with your card information. We will send you an invoice for the balance due with your Predeparture Information 4 months before an International trip and 3 months before a domestic trip. You can get a 3% discount for paying the balance by check.

    What if I’m coming alone?

    The majority of women who travel with us come by themselves. If you want to pay a single supplement to guarantee your own room, or if you want to share a room with someone with whom you are traveling, you can indicate that on the registration form. Otherwise we randomly assign roommates and rotate every time we change lodging – it’s a great way to get to know different women on the trip.

    Can you accommodate special diets?

    It depends on both the trip and on your specific needs. With advance notice, we can accommodate most dietary restrictions or allergies on our domestic trips, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten intolerant. This is not always true on international trips, so please contact us in advance if you have specific dietary needs. We've found that if you are willing to bring some of your own snacks and a couple of items to supplement what is on the menu (peanut butter is always good!) and possibly have less variety than you are used to at home, then dietary needs usually are no obstacle. If in doubt about your specific dietary needs, especially if you have Celiac disease, please give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email.

    What if I have to cancel my trip?

    The amount of your refund depends on how close to the trip you cancel and whether it is a domestic or an international trip. You can read our cancellation policies here. We highly recommend travel insurance because cancellations are always unexpected; we will send you additional information about insurance when you register.

    Will my family be able to get in touch with me in case of an emergency?

    Yes, we always send out emergency contact information. On a few trips, because of limitations in communication, the best approach is to give them the office number and let us make the contact.

    What other information will you send me?

    When you register, we’ll send you a Trip Summary that includes the itinerary, travel information, and a packing list. Three to four months before your trip we’ll send you Pre-Departure information that includes detailed information on how to get to the trip starting point, pre- or post-trip lodging suggestions, suggested books and websites etc. Four to six weeks before the trip, we’ll send you a list of everyone who is registered along with their travel plans; and a Pre-Trip letter with the name of your guide(s) and how to contact them if your arrival is delayed as well as any other important updates.

    Do you help with pre-trip and/or post-trip hotel reservations?

    For international trips, if you want to stay at the hotel where we’re staying the first night before the trip, or at the hotel we’re staying the last night after the trip, we’re happy to make a reservation for you. Otherwise our PreDeparture Information will have hotel suggestions. Our travel agent is also happy to help you with this.

    How does the waitlist process work and how often do people cancel?

    If you are interested in a trip that is full, you should sign up here. If there is a cancellation, we send out an email to everyone who has expressed interest and ask them to respond within 24 hours. If more than one person is interested, we give the space to the person who has traveled with us before or in the order of being put on the waitlist. Frequently, even when we have a long wait list, it is the last person to sign up who is still available to go. Whether or not there will be a cancellation is completely unpredictable, although not uncommon.

    What is the role of the guide(s)?

    On every trip, the primary roles of the guide(s) are to ensure your safety and to make sure that, to the extent possible, you are having the trip you want. The guide(s) will also make sure that you know what is happening each day and what you need to bring to be prepared. On domestic trips the guide(s) will also likely be driving, preparing picnic lunches and sometimes other meals, providing skills instruction, and giving you information about the natural history of the area. On any trip where we partner with another company (which is most international trips and some trips that require special equipment), the AGC guide will work with the local guide to make sure that the trip is conducted in accordance with the AGC philosophy.

    What if I have more questions?

    Give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email. A Program Manager is assigned to each trip. Once you have registered, she will send you a registration confirmation letter that includes her name and email, and she will be your primary contact. Her job is to make sure that you get all your questions answered and that you feel completely prepared for your adventure.

    What if I'm the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape/only single woman/only mom on the trip?

    You might be. Someone has to be the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape person on the trip. And while the great majority of our trips have both single and non-single women, and moms and non-moms, sometimes they don't. But it doesn't matter if you're "different" in any of those ways - what you will share with everyone else is a desire to experience adventure in your life, and an appreciation of the joy and camaraderie of being in an all women's group.

Trip highlights

  • Enjoying the beautiful vistas over the Shenandoah Valley
  • Hiking the infamous "roller coaster": 13.5 miles of ups and downs
  • Learning the role that this area played in the Civil War
  • Experiencing hostel life at the Harpers Ferry Hostel
  • Staying 1 night at the historic Bears Den Hostel along the AT

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