The Peaks of Otter are an impressive trio of iconic mountains of Virginia's Blue Ridge.
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Collectively, the Peaks of Otter are three summits around Abbott Lake along the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 85.6 and Route 43, which leads to Bedford. Peaks of Otter is one of the signature stops along the Parkway in Virginia's Blue Ridge and the hiking trails are popular with locals and sightseers alike.
Explore the mountains and then add area flavor and sites to create a great weekend or more away.
Many hikers at Peaks of Otter conquer Sharp Top first, and it’s where you’ll find the most people. It’s also the toughest trail with steep sections sure to amp up your heart rate. Be sure to carry plenty of water and perhaps a walking stick.
Start at the Nature Center and pace yourself for the climb. The summit is about two hours up, and the view is rewarding with 360-degree views that once convinced folks they must be at Virginia’s highest elevation.
If the trip up sounds too daunting or you find that you want to rest your legs for the way back down, good news! A seasonal shuttle delivers hikers within a quarter-mile of the summit and you can also catch it for a ride back.
This leg-stretcher is great for a breath of fresh air. Take your time along this moderately strenuous trail and read the signs as you go. The trailhead is behind the visitor center and the signs share pieces of history about the mountain community.
This is another visitor center loop trail. It can be a starting point for the Johnson Farm Trails or simply continue on for the ridge views of the loop.
An interesting rock formation can be seen when you take a spur path near the top of the ridge. Called Balance Rock, it’s one large boulder balanced atop a smaller one.
This strenuous trail is a designated National Recreation Trail that leads to the highest peak of the Peaks of Otter at 4,004 feet. It’s along this trail that you can pick up the Fallingwater Cascades Trail.
If you're looking for a challenging hike at the Peaks of Otter that offers stunning views and fewer people, the Flat Top hike is a great alternative to Sharp Top.
Overlapping a section of the Harkening Hill Loop, the Johnson Farm Trails are also a loop. This relatively easy trail leads to the 1850s Johnson Farm and their seasonal living history demonstrations.
The Johnson Farm Trails are a TRACK trail, which means it’s kid-friendly. Simply have your child log their hike at KidsInParks.com to track their outdoor excursions and win prizes.
From the Flat Top Trail, Fallingwater Cascades Trail is a National Recreation Trail. It’s a loop that showcases the beautiful 100-foot cascading waterfall of Fallingwater Creek.
Take caution if rock-hopping across the creek, especially if the water is high.
The easiest trail at Peaks of Otter is the leisurely stroll around Abbott Lake where you’re nearly certain to see plenty of wildlife. It’s ADA accessible and was actually voted Best ADA-Accessible Experience in the Blue Ridge Outdoors Best of the Blue Ridge Awards, and is another Peaks of Otter kid-friendly TRACK trail.
Peaks of Otter Visitor Center (Open Seasonally)
85919 Blue Ridge Parkway, Bedford, VA 24523
Take Your Adventure Further
Explore the area around Peaks of Otter and put your senses to the test. Not only is the scenery beautiful, but the flavors are delightful.
Photo Credit: Header Photo & National D-Day Memorial - Sam Dean Photography | Sharp Top Trail - Jared Ladia | Flat Top Trail - Freddie Hodges | Abbott Lake & Beale's Beer & BBQ - Visit VBR, Peaks of Otter Lodge - Virginia Tourism Corporation