Where better to be this winter than in the iconic mountains of Virginia’s Blue Ridge? Less than an hour from downtown Roanoke by way of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 85.6 are the Peaks of Otter, among the 7 Natural Wonders of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
Worth an adventure in every season, the Peaks are an impressive trio of mountains. Explore these sister mountains and explore the area surrounding them.
Peaks of Otter: Sharp Top Mountain, Flat Top Mountain, Harkening Hill
The Peaks of Otter are Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill. At 3,875 feet in elevation, Sharp Top was long believed to be the tallest mountain in Virginia, but in fact, Sharp Top isn’t even the highest of the three Peaks. Flat Top holds that title at 4,004 feet. Harkening Hill rises to 3,375 feet. The highest mountain in Virginia is Mount Rogers at 5,728 feet.
Visiting the Peaks of Otter is easy. Situated along the Blue Ridge Parkway with Abbott Lake glistening nearby, The Peaks of Otter Lodge draws interested travelers year ‘round. The lodge is open daily spring through fall, but weekends only during the winter months. The cozy rooms include WiFi but you will not be treated to a television. Consider a trip to the Peaks to be an escape from everyday life and the noise that goes along with it.
Delight in a hot meal at the Lake View Dining Room when you visit. Like the Lodge, it is open Friday through Sunday in winter. The Saturday Night Prime Rib Dinner is a fantastic treat for those passing through or staying the night.
Hiking is one of the best ways to experience the Peaks of Otter and get an incredible view of the surrounding area. On a clear day, you can see for hundreds of miles. From the easy and ADA compliant Abbott Lake Trail (1 mile) to the strenuous Flat Top Trail (4.4 miles), you’ll encounter a range of hiking variety in regard to difficulty and views. The trek to the summit of Sharp Top (1.5 miles) is the most popular hike at the Peaks of Otter, though many also love the Fallingwater Cascades Trail (1.6 mile loop) that includes a chance to see a waterfall. Those trekking with children will want to check out the Kids in Parks program to learn how moving through the outdoors can be rewarding. The Peaks of Otter has six Kids in Parks Adventures for children to track.
Capture a glimpse of history when you see Polly Wood’s Ordinary, an 1830s tavern and the first bit of visitor lodging in the area. You’ll find it adjacent to the Peaks of Otter Lodge along the Flat Top Trail.
Sharp Top Mountain Shuttle: From May through early November, the Lodge offers a shuttle service that takes visitors within 1,500 feet of the summit at Sharp Top Mountain, providing an option for hikers unable to complete the entire trail. Visit the Lodge website for more shuttle information, including prices and schedules >
Plan for a Warm Return
Astrology and Astronomy are popular in dark places where the night sky shines so bright. Peaks of Otter is one of those places. Be sure to watch for the 2019 “The Peaks Under the Stars” events and plan your visit accordingly.
The Johnson Farm is an interpretive 1930s farm with demonstrations during the warmer months of May through September. Try your hand at tending the garden this spring!
For those who enjoy camping, the Peaks of Otter Campground is open seasonally May through October.
Best admired from a distance, the Peaks of Otter are situated on either side of the Blue Ridge Parkway 10 miles west of Bedford. Just 10.5 miles east of the Peaks, Peaks of Otter Winery & Orchards offers a great view of the soaring beauties. Enjoy a flight of the farm wines with the view. If you’re up to it, hike from one destination to the other. The trails of Peaks of Otter are among our favorite hiking trails near wineries in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
In Bedford, 15.6 miles away, is the National D-Day Memorial. Both impressive and somber, a visit here is certain to give you a new appreciation for the events of June 6, 1944. Take your time to learn of the sacrifices made by all servicemen at Normandy, but most especially, The Bedford Boys.
Beale’s Brewery is an ideal place to grab lunch and a Virginia craft beer. Their BBQ is giving other joints a run for their money, and their craft beer is gaining quite the momentum for those with a taste for fine suds. Beale’s is 13.5 miles from the Peaks of Otter.
“I’m so glad to find this spot in Bedford. In one meal I had tacos, bbq, beer, and Mac n’ cheese.” -Brandon M.
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest is an excellent stop for history. See their ongoing archaeological investigations and perhaps gain a better understanding of Jefferson’s personal life while you’re there. Poplar Forest is 25.8 miles from Peaks of Otter in Forest, Virginia.
Things to Know
The Peaks of Otter Visitor Center is open mid-May through late October annually.
At times, the Blue Ridge Parkway must close due to inclement weather. To not be caught off guard, take a look at the real-time closures website before you travel.
The Sharp Top Shuttle is not available during the winter months.
Some of our favorite adventures include mountains. Okay, a vast majority of them include mountains. However, we’d be remiss to not give you the big scoop on Peaks of Otter. It truly is a four season destination for those who are up to the challenges each season presents. Enjoy the great outdoors of Virginia’s Blue Ridge with these additional opportunities to consider: