Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry
Picture of Slackpacking Harpers Ferry

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry

Destination: Harpers Ferry, WV

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.


  • 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


  • 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

What's not included: Travel to and from Dulles International Airport (IAD), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, and travel insurance



NOTE: There is limited availability on single supplements and we cannot confirm availability at time of booking.

No Accommodations Available

*Please select a departure and accomodation to continue

This trip is rated both a 4 and 5 because it involves hiking from 8 to 14 miles a day (see the itinerary for daily mileage) and requires being in excellent physical condition. On two days there are shorter options and the rating of 4 is appropriate if you choose these or if you prefer to just take one or two days off from hiking. You can always choose to stay at the hostel for the day, which is a pleasant 3 mile walk from the town of Harpers Ferry. A rating of 4 requires aerobic conditioning for at least 40-50 minutes 4-5 times a week with additional endurance exercise (e.g. going for a 2 hour hike with elevation gain once a week) and strength training recommended. Going for longer hikes before the trip is recommended if you want to hike the entire 60 miles. Rating: 1 2 3 [4] [5].

This is a hiking trip on the northern Virginia section of the legendary Appalachian Trail. You will be hiking in the mountains with constant elevation gain and loss on a trail that is very rocky at times. We're staying just outside the historic town of Harpers Ferry, although there will be limited time to visit it.

We will be taking over the entire Harpers Ferry Hostel for the week. The hostel has three bedrooms, with 3 to 6 bunkbeds in each room. And while all of the beds are bunks, no one will have to sleep on a top bunk. There are 2 separate bathrooms, each with 3 toilets and showers. There is also great dining and living space. There are no singles available on this trip.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

Meet at 1:00 pm at the Dulles International 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.
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'
Another day on trail! This morning and every morning, we'll get into our shuttle for the trip back to the place we ended the previous day. Starting at Manassas 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'
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
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'
Can it really be over so soon? Sadly, yes. But our last day on trail is going to be a great one. We'll not only finish Virginia we'll do the entire West Virginia section too (which is not really as impressive as it sounds)! 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, through the town and then across the bridge that spans the Potomac into Maryland. The van will pick us up there or if you still have energy, you could walk 2 miles along the C&O canal directly back to the hostel. 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'.
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.

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on our trips. We take reviews very seriously and are constantly tweaking itineraries. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

I had a good time. The trip pushed me physically particularly on the long days.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

Great group of ladies. Good food. Beautiful hike.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

Meeting group members. Roller coaster (believe it or not). Silence in the forests and mountains. Achieving my personal goals.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

Trip was awesome... guides, other participants, hikes, food, scenery, you name it. Exceeded my expectations in many ways. Everyone was made to feel comfortable and could hike their hike at their own pace. This was amazing. I wasn't sure if I could hike the whole mileage, having not been on a hike like this before. I was glad I did. Guides were so supportive, of everyone.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

Challenging nature of hikes, organization and guides. The hostel was less comfortable and appealing than expected.

Slackpacking Harpers Ferry 10/14/2018-10/20/2018

  1. Where do we eat?
    The guides will be cooking breakfasts and most dinners at the lodging. Before you leave in the morning the guides will put out lunch 'fixings' and you'll take a packed lunch. One night we'll order pizza, and one dinner will be at a restaurant where you can order off the menu; other nights you'll relax in the lodge and have dinner there.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?
    If we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?
    On all of our trips, you only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. On this trip, where most of the lodging is based out of hostels, singles are not offered.