This is a great day on a bike. Highlights include Antietam National Battlefield (map), Harper’s Ferry Road, Harper’s Ferry, Old WV Route 55, S Mill Creek Rd, Smoke Hole Rd, Seneca Rocks, and U.S. Route 33.
This 227 mile ride starts with a visit to the Antietam National Battlefield. The 9.2 mile ride through the park is beautiful and haunting.
From the Park’s website: “23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.”
Antietam was the deadliest one-day battle in American military history.
The displays in the Visitor’s Center are very well done. The Center is open 7 Days a Week from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (301) 432-5124.
The Dunker Church was the Northern Army’s first objective. The church was built in 1852 on land donated by Samual Mumma of the German Baptist Brethren. They were known as Dunkers or Dunkards for their practice of baptism by full immersion. The Dunkers were pacifists who believed in simplicity and modesty, which included not placing a steeple on their meeting place.
Northern troops marched through The Cornfield on their way to the Dunker Church. Many did not make it. Union Gen. Joseph Hooker remembered that “every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they stood in their ranks a few moments before.”
Southern troops lined up along the picket fence to repel the Northerners. Famous after battle photos show unbelievable loss of life along this fence.
Fighting then shifted to the sunken road. The road earned the infamous name “Bloody Lane.” Confederates set up a rifle pit in this wagon road and put up stiff resistance until they were flanked.
The last major offensive involved the North’s Ninth Corps under General Burnside making three assaults on the stone bridge that now bears his name. Confederate Gen. Robert Toombs and fewer than 500 Georgia soldiers held them off. Confederate General James Longstreet wrote: “Gen. Toombs held the bridge and defended it most gallantly, driving back repeated attacks, and only yielded it after the force brought against him became overwhelming and threatened his flank and rear.”
Once done at Antietam, follow beautiful Harper’s Ferry Road along the Potomac River to Harper’s Ferry. This is a scenic ride with some fun curves that is popular with motorcyclists.
Stop at John Brown’s Fort in Old Town. John Brown tried to start a slave revolt and fought his last stand in the blockhouse that bears his name. The structure was built in 1848 as an armory’s fire engine and guard house. It was in this building that John Brown and several of his followers barricaded themselves during the final hours of their ill-fated raid of October 16, 17, and 18, 1859.
Leave Old Town and continue to Bolivar Heights. This was the location of the North’s last stand in Harper’s Ferry. General Lee was worried about the large Union garrison in Harper’s Ferry and did not want to leave a large enemy force in his rear during his march into Maryland. He sent Stonewall Jackson to deal with the problem. When Jackson arrived, he was astounded by the Union’s military lapse of judgement in not adequately protecting the high ground at Maryland Heights and Loudon Heights. Jackson easily captured those heights and used them to rain artillery on the Union position at Bolivar Heights. The 12,419 Federal soldiers captured by the Confederate Army in the Battle of Harpers Ferry was the largest number of United States troops to surrender until the fall of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II.
Leave Harper’s Ferry and cross the Shenandoah River to Virginia. Turn right on VA Route 671
(Harper’s ferry Rd.) Turn right on Route 9 and cross back into West Virginia. Re-cross the
Shenandoah River and turn south on Route 340. Follow Route 340, Route 7, and I-81 to Strasburg, VA. Turn west on U.S. 48 (Corridor H) and ride through George Washington National Forest and into West Virginia.
Just after you cross the West Virginia State Line, stop for lunch at the Kac-Ka-Pon Restaurant in Wardensville. The restaurant is known for its pie!
Just after Wardensville, bear right onto Old WV Route 55. This road twists and turns below the newer and straighter U.S. Route 48. This is a very nice ride with fun curves.
In Moorefield, pick up U.S. 220 south for a few miles and then turn right onto Rig Rd. This is a great 2 lane curvy road that is easy to miss.
Rejoin U.S. 220 south for a short while and then turn right onto S. Mill Creek Rd. This is another great road that is easily missed
Smoke Hole Rd is a wonderful twisty road with great views of the South Branch Potomac River. The road is narrow with sharp curves and some campsites. The riding is great, but riders must stay vigilant for sharp changes of direction, hikers, and other vehicles.
Pick up WV Route 28 and take it south along the North Fork South Branch Potomac River. The riding is easier here with lots of high speed sweepers. I find this a welcome respite from the plethora of tight turns on S. Mill Creek Rd and Smoke Hole Rd.
Turn south on WV Route 28 to the Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. Stop at the Seneca Rocks Scenic View.
Seneca Rocks is one of the best-known landmarks in West Virginia. These rocks have long been noted as a scenic attraction and are popular with rock climbers.
A popular romance of the Rocks — “The Betrothal of Snow Bird, Princess of the Seneca Indians” — was written in 1932 by Harry Malcolm Wade.
“Princess Snow Bird, who had grown to maidenhood in the shadow of the rocks and scaled their heights many times, proposed a contest to her father, [Chief] Bald Eagle. She would climb to the crest of the rocks as prospective suitors followed. The first to take her hand would become her mate. Bald Eagle agreed, and at the end of the climb, of seven suitors, only one remained, the others having turned back from fear or fallen to their deaths. From their lofty perch, Snow Bird and her future mate surveyed the surrounding realm of the Seneca that would be theirs to rule one day.”
Leave Seneca rocks on U.S. Route 33 west. Route 33 is a wonderful ride with terrific curves and great pavement. Turn right on U.S. Route 219 in Elkins and follow it to the trip hotel.