Jefferson Rock – Harpers Ferry, West Virginia - Atlas Obscura

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Jefferson Rock

This shale formation along the Appalachian Trail once inspired the third president of the United States.  


This incredible vantage point is named after Thomas Jefferson after it inspired him to write an impassioned description of his experience when visiting this location in his 1785 book, Notes on the State of Virginia. 

The following portion of his description appears on a historical marker located a short distance from the formation:

“On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Potomac in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction, they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder and pass off to the sea…This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”

The most prominent portion of shale that makes up Jefferson Rock was initially balanced on an unstable natural stone formation. The organic platform suffered from extreme deterioration as a result of weather events and human contact. In 1860, the United States armory superintendent ordered red sandstone supports installed under the largest portion of Jefferson Rock because it was “endangering the lives and properties of the villagers below.”

Know Before You Go

Jefferson Rock is located along the Appalachian Trail just up the hill from the ruins of St. John's Episcopal Church.

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September 7, 2021

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