Slackpacking Harpers Ferry

Destination: Harpers Ferry, WV

| Activities: Hiking and Slackpacking

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 Harpers Ferry, where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) headquarters is located, and Chester Gap just outside of Front Royal. In between are 60 miles of classic AT trail with varied terrain including beautiful vistas over the Shenandoah Valley, the 'roller coaster' section (with those AT 'muds' and 'puds'), great shelter areas for lunches and breaks - all the time following the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains that forms the boundary between Virginia and West Virginia. Join us as we complete this beautiful section of the AT!


  • 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
  • We’ll enjoy staying at a traditional AT hostel, the historic Bears Den Lodge

Departures and Prices

October 08 to October 14, 2022
$2095.00 - Available
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  • Two to three experienced AGC guides, based on group size
  • Six nights lodging
  • All meals from dinner on Sunday through breakfast the following Saturday
  • Daily shuttles back and forth to the trailheads

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

Trip Documents

Trip Intro

This trip is rated both a 4 and 5 because it involves hiking from 6.5 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. 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 will begin out trip just outside the historic town of Harpers Ferry, although there will be limited time to visit it.

We will be staying at a hostel: the historic Bears Den Lodge located right on the Appalachian Trail. This stone lodge was built in 1930. We will have all of the reservable bunk rooms in the lodge for this week (there is one downstairs bunk room always available for hikers). Most of the beds in the lodge are bunk beds, but because we have the entire hostel, we will only occupy the lower bunks (yay!). Each bunk room has a bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet. There is also a washer and dryer at the hostel.

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 1PM at the Dulles Airport (IAD) or 3PM at the Bear's Den Lodge in Bluemont, Virginia, approximately 35 miles south of 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 Bear's Den Lodge by 3PM. After claiming your bed and settling in we'll gather for introductions and trip orientation before enjoying one of the first delicious dinners made by your guides. The Bear's Den is quite isolated, and a short walk brings you to clearings where the sky is star studded with no ambient light - a wonderful beginning to an exciting trip!

Overnight: Bear's Den Lodge (D) Overnight: Bear's Den Lodge (D)
Every day we'll have an early and hearty breakfast so we have adequate time to prepare for our hike and hit the trail while the morning is still ripe. After breakfast we'll shuttle to the very tip of Harpers Ferry, near the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, where we'll start along the Appalachian Trail. Passing Saint Peters church and Jefferson Rock, we'll cross over the Shenandoah River and continue under a colorful autumn canopy to Keys Gap. For those who would like to keep hiking, we'll continue through Buzzard Rocks, along Laurel Springs, and on to the Blackburn Center situated approximately .3 miles off trail. The Blackburn Center is a Potomac Trail Club (PTC) maintained shelter area. Here you’ll see bunkbeds and tent platforms for those who are backpacking or thru-hiking. Our group will meet our shuttle here and head back to Bear's Den. Distance: 13.0 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 2,720 feet/1,900 feet

Think you might want to ease into the week a little more gently? We've got you covered. You can always take out at Keys Gap for a 6.3-mile day with an elevation gain/loss of 1440 ft. /800 ft. (You don't have to decide till you get to Keys Gap!) Tonight, and every night we'll return to the lodge where the guides will prepare a filling, home cooked meal, designed to replenish your spirits and your body.

Overnight: Bear's Den Lodge (B, L, D)
Another wonderful day on trail! This morning we'll shuttle back to the Blackburn Center (where we ended yesterday) and hike the .3 miles (all uphill!) to rejoin the AT. We'll pass through Snickers Gap (maybe a trail angel will have left some real Snickers?) and begin the first 4 miles of the infamous 13.9 mile 'Roller Coaster'. This section earned the nickname due to its tightly packed ups and downs; there will be plenty of rocks and challenging hills. We'll pass Raven Rocks and Crescent Rocks (yes, there is a theme here) and at the end of the day we'll actually walk into the Bear's Den Lodge from the trail! Dinner tonight is a wonderful treat; a lovely al fresco pizza dinner (catered by a local restaurant) complete with a scrumptious salad and dessert (pizza never tasted so good!).

Distance: 9 miles Elevation gain/loss: 2,100 feet/2,000 feet

Overnight: Bear's Den Lodge (B, L, D)
Leaving the hostel this morning, we'll first pass by the Bear's Den Rocks, beautiful granite and sandstone boulders that indeed look like they would make the perfect den for bears! If you want a big challenge, you have the option to hike 13.9 miles, including the remaining 9.9 miles of the 'Roller Coaster', and on to Ashby Gap. If that isn't appealing, you can opt out earlier, after 7.5 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 shuttling back to our home on the trail, the Bear's Den Lodge.

Distance: 13.9 miles Elevation gain/loss: 4,000 feet/2,000 feet, or 7.5 miles and less gain and loss.

Overnight: Bear's Den Lodge (B, L, D)
After another satisfying breakfast, we'll be back on trail this morning starting at Ashby Gap. Today’s hike starts by passing a rock wall that was originally surveyed by 19-year-old George Washington. Then the trail passes several AT shelters including Whiskey Hollow and Manassas Shelter. Whiskey Hollow is a newer shelter built by the local AT club. After a long and smile inducing day, ending at Manassas Gap, we'll shuttle back to the Bear's Den for another terrific home cooked meal and a well-deserved rest.

Distance: 13.6 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 2,400 feet/2,780 feet.

Overnight: Bear's Den Lodge (B, L, D)
Can it really be over so soon? Sadly, yes. Luckily our last day on trail is a spectacular one! We'll put in at Manassas Gap for our final 8.7 miles of the trip. About halfway through we can 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 even running water! We'll finish the day with a slow downhill, losing about 1,000 feet in elevation, and find ourselves on Route 522 awaiting our shuttle. We should be back in plenty of time to prepare for dinner out tonight where we'll remember our week together and say goodbye, until the next AT opportunity!

Distance: 8.7 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 1,955 feet/1,590 feet.

Overnight: Bear's Den Lodge (B, L, D)
As always, we start the day with a filling breakfast, except today we won't be burning it off with a long hike! After close to 60 miles and about 12,000 feet elevation gain and loss in 5 days, our bodies might be grateful not to hike today! If driving, you’re free to leave any time today. If you are flying, there will be a 9:30AM group shuttle to IAD for flights out after 12:30PM. (B)

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.


(41 reviews)
4.9 Food
4 Lodging
4.9 Safety
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Shannon B.
0 months ago

The agency and the guides were well prepared for every eventuality and all conditions. I did not have to worry about a single thing! When participants raised concerns, even small ones, they were addressed immediately and professionally.

Brenda K.
0 months ago

The guides and Claire’s cooking.

Pamela H.
0 months ago

Great hiking, great week meeting new women, and another great week with Claire as my guide!

Constance M.
0 months ago

Leaders were excellent. Good camaraderie among attendees.

Jennifer K.
0 months ago

The guides! Along with the quality of planning, knowledge and kindness. The women who were also on the trip. The meals (where else can you hike 60 miles and not loose an ounce😂) Lodging was what I expected with a traditional hiker hostel. I know it’s harder to cook in a shared kitchen and for some didn’t seem fancy enough. I however, enjoyed seeing how thru hikers and local trail users survive on trail. I enjoyed the Bears Den

Lynn W.
0 months ago

Great group of women, wonderful guides, and challenging trails. Good food and fun hostel life!

Doris E.
11 months ago

Pam F.
1 year ago

Eenee F.
1 year ago

Covid continues to be so confining that we were all excited to escape into the wilderness of the Appalachian Trail. The private Bear's Den was a wonderful oasis for our group. I was so impressed with the fitness of the other 9 hiker-ladies. We all hiked together and no-one ever lagged behind. The Guides generosity and attention to our comfort and care exceeded my expectations. They were terrific.

Wendy S.
1 year ago

Sheila C.
1 year ago

Susan R.
1 year ago

Sure helped that we had fantastic weather!! I was travelling with a friend that I met way back on the GC-Havesu trip. Another bonus is that two of my 2021 trips will re-connect me w/ladies I met on this trip. It was good to see the 'back office" on a trip - what better way to see what really happens after the planning is done.

Brenda D.
1 year ago

I was a little disappointed there was only a couple of good overlooks along this particular section of the trail and, due to the rockiness, I spent a majority of timing looking at where I was placing my feet vs. being able to enjoy the landscape.

Rachael S.
1 year ago

Fabulous guides, always encouraging and helpful. They work really hard to 'take care' of us and keep us safe. The weather was hard one day and I became hypothermic, by my own stupidity. I learned a valuable lesson, which they carefully and thoughtfully guided me thru.

Tara R.
1 year ago

The previous slackpacking trip I had done (Virginia) and the following one (Maryland) were all based out of a single place of lodging. This trip had 3 different places to stay. I really prefer the one "home base."

Patricia Y.
1 year ago

I have never had a bad AGC trip as it relates to the guides and the activities and the planning that goes into a trip. THis trip because of the women who were on the trip was especially wonderful but AGC has no control over how a group of 10-12 strangers will bond or not bond. THis group was especially cohesive and friendly.

Sj T.
1 year ago

Tara M.
2 years ago

The highlights of my trip were finishing an entire section of the AT, all of the really delicious food and the interaction between the members of our group. I loved staying at Mountain Home. I liked that AGC supported the HI Hostel by staying there (its one of my favorite organizations) and Bear's Den too. Also the day we finished the rollercoaster was my favorite day start to finish: made to order french toast at Mountain Home, excellent and challenging hiking, Claire meeting us at the end with coffees and chocolates then having Thai curry for dinner. I could not have wished for a more perfect day.

Rita R.
2 years ago

I just enjoyed the ease of everyday. All details were expertly handled and we were able enjoy the hike, each other and wonderful meals and showers.

Charlene S.
2 years ago

Guides were so enthusiastic, upbeat, and helpful, it would have been impossible not to enjoy it!

Mary B.
2 years ago

Completing the rollercoaster portion of the hike--we knew it would be challenging and 8 of 12 of us did it and stuck together.

Charyn H.
2 years ago

I was not sure what to expect and was very happy with the guides (great job!), the food, and the accommodations. I really appreciated the fact that we stayed on schedule, yet felt relaxed and well prepared for the day ahead.

Mary U.
2 years ago

Alice R.
2 years ago

The beautiful scenery and challenging hiking on the AT, meeting and interacting with other women interested in hiking, enjoying the experience without having to worry about logistics and meal prep.

Rebecca J.
2 years ago

Marta B.
3 years ago

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

Susan C.
3 years ago

Great group of ladies. Good food. Beautiful hike.

Patty B.
3 years ago

Alexis E.
3 years ago

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

Lynda N.
3 years ago

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.

Julia J.
3 years ago

Laura R.
3 years ago

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

Susan S.
3 years ago

The highlights would be the physical challenge and camaraderie among the women

Vicki B.
4 years ago

trip was everything I wanted! great people, challenging and beautiful hikes, incredibly organized with excellent leadership.

Laura R.
4 years ago

The gorgeous hiking (weather was perfect!!), amazing company of new friends, the food, the awesome guides. Everything was just fabulous. It could not have been a better week.

Laurie W.
4 years ago

Being able to slackpacking the AT for five days to see if I would be able to hike for five days in a row and eventually try to section hike and camp out on the AT.

Rita A.
4 years ago

Well organized itinerary throughout day for optimal hiking experience. Meals were thought out, well prepared and appetizing. Would have liked to start hikes earlier in the day however weather permitted later starts so it worked.

Annmarie E.
4 years ago

Highlights were the great group of women on this trip, the challenge of trails we hiked, and being able to have Marian as one of the guides.

Karen N.
4 years ago

Flexibility for length of hikes.

Judy K.
4 years ago

Finishing each day. Having lunch overlooking a valley

Terri R.
4 years ago

The guides were awesome. I felt honored and privileged to hike Harper's Ferry with Marian. She made a point to talk and get to know with each of us on an individual basis. I enjoyed the challenge and left feeling more confident by my abilities.

  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.