From the north, the Appalachian Trail enters West Virginia at Harpers Ferry by way of a footbridge over the Potomac River. Only about four miles lie in West Virginia proper, passing within just a quarter-mile of ATC headquarters, then crossing the Shenandoah River, ascending the Blue Ridge at Loudoun Heights, and straddling the Virginia-West Virginia border for the next fifteen miles. The Trail also straddles the Virginia-West Virginia border several hundred miles farther south, near the New River. Harpers Ferry is historic and scenic and is served by Amtrak and commuter trains that run into Washington, D.C. It makes an ideal location to start or end a hike.
Directions: Park at the RT 7 & 601 parking lot. There are plenty of parking spaces at that lot. It can hold about 150 cars and it's free. Take the blue parking lot trail (middle of the lot) towards Bears Den and then when you reach the AT (white blazes) turn right or north. The trail then leads you back down towards RT 7 and at RT 7 you will see white arrow painted on the pavement pointing left to the crossing point on Pine Road. Cross over RT 7 and enter the little parking lot. Begin the hike by heading north on the white blazed Appalachian Trail, as it crosses over the first ridge, then making several steep switchback descents before reaching a small run in 0.8 miles. 100 yards past the run cross over an unblazed trail and remain on the Appalachian Trail. The trail ascends quickly with steps along a ridge. The trail is steep at points but you never have to use your hands. Long grades make it bareable. A lot of the trail is large 2 foot stepping stones. The trail winds up and down ridges. A hundred yards up and then 100 yards down. (Hence the trail name Rollercoaster). You ascend and descend about 5 times with the final ascent into Raven Rocks being the toughest.
After ascending the next ridge come to a nice view of the Winchester Valley to the west, before descending and arriving at the Raven Rocks Hollow stream in 1.2 miles from the last run.
Climb the final ascent of 0.4 miles, passing a sign marking the Virginia, West Virginia border, then reaching Raven Rocks where you will find fantastic views towards the south west and the Shenandoah Valley.
The view from Raven Rocks is one of the best in the area. Although the distance is only 5.5 miles with a vertical gain of 1,530ft, there are three strenuous ascents on this out and back hike. Raven Rocks is also a popular area with rock climbers, as it can be accessed by a road 0.4 miles from the east. Make sure to wear sturdy footwear, as the hike that remains entirely on the white blazed Appalachian Trail, is very rocky.
Once past Raven Rocks the trail becomes fairly level. You'll soon reach the Blackburn Trail Center. This is a nice place to stop when you're on the AT. You can get hot meals there, as well as sodas, snacks, and water. There are several campsites nearby and AT thru-hikers are allowed to sleep on the large screened in porch of the main building. It's all paid for by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and PATC, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.
You can hike another mile or two to the David Lesser Memorial Shelter and spend the night in there. This shelter is very nice. It has a large glass window above the entry and has a big porch swing. There is a fire ring and picnic tables as well. A spring is located just a short, but steep, hike away. Reach WV 9 at Keyes Gap, cross the road and continue on. About half a mile passed Keyes Gap the trail becomes very rocky.
Cross Shenandoah River on the 340 bridge. Near the end of this section hike you will reach Jefferson Rock. Jefferson Rock is a rock formation on the Appalachian Trail above lower Harpers Ferry in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. It consists of several large masses of shale rock, piled one upon the other, that overlook the Shenandoah River just prior to its confluence with the Potomac River. The name of this landmark derives from Thomas Jefferson, who stood there on October 25, 1783. He found the view from the rock impressive and wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia that "this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic".
0.2 miles further you'll reach Harpers Ferry Railroad Bridge. This rail-with-trail bridge crosses the Potomac River near its confluence with the Shenandoah River, at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. A cantilevered section of the bridge allows pedestrian access between Harpers Ferry and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park (C&O Canal Towpath) and connects the Appalachian Trail from West Virginia to Maryland.