Standing guard over the lush woodland forests that engulf the famed Blue Ridge Parkway are the three Peaks of Otter: Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill. These majestic spires dominate the skyline and the scenic vistas for miles around, making them the crown jewels in this pristine forest and recreational oasis. For centuries the rolling hills and forests around Abbot Lake – a sapphire jewel at the center of the park – was a revered hunting ground for Native Americans, and historic figures like Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee would frequent these idyllic mountains. Today, visitors enjoy camping, fishing, and several breathtaking hikes to the nearby peaks that reward the intrepid with panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Smith Mountain Lake to the south.
A Walk in the Woods
Hikes in the region range from gentle walks around scenic Abbot Lake to more rigorous day hikes to the summits of Sharp Top and Flat Top. Scaling the mountain peaks yields a reward of incredible vistas and sunrises, with plenty of opportunities for viewing the abundant wildlife (deer, wild turkey, rabbits, fox, forest birds, and more) in their natural habitat. An easy yet rewarding hike is the circuit around Abbot Lake. You will walk through mountain meadows burgeoning with brilliant wildflowers and alive with a living sea of migrating butterflies in the spring, while the autumn brings a fireworks display of fall foliage like you have never seen. Fishermen will want to grab a license and try their luck on the well-stocked waters of the lake which boast abundant bass, sunfish, and bluegill.
Hiking the Peaks
The hikes can be done in combination or separately. Sharp Top is the shorter of the two summit hikes and the most popular (and crowded); but even at 3.6 miles the elevation gain is quite steep and the workout is strenuous. Still, the views and scenic overlooks are well worth it. From the summit you have uninterrupted 360-degree views of the scenic forests and valleys far below. In addition to the stunning natural beauty, Sharp Top has a melancholy segment of history attached to it as well. This peaceful peak was the site of two different WWII tragedies: a B-25 bomber crashed here during training exercises in 1943 (its wreckage can be found if you know where to look), and the town of Bedford far below lost 19 of its young men during the initial landings on D-Day in Normandy in 1944—a huge blow to the small community.
From Sharp Top you can continue on to Flat Top via the Lake Trail. Connecting the two makes one long hike (9.8 miles), or you can access Flat Top directly from the Visitor Center and tackle its 6 miles on their own. This hike offers much more solitude due to its longer length and smaller crowds, and it offers views of Abbot Lake, relatively easy switchbacks, and a stunning meadow full of mountain laurel, a brilliant flower that blooms every spring.
The luxury vacation homes at Smith Mountain Lake Properties are an ideal place from which to explore the natural wonderland at the Peaks of Otter. Just a short drive away, we revel in the iconic mountain tops’ beauty every day, and we are proud to offer the best value, the most luxury, and the best customer service in the entire region. Browse our entire selection of lakeside homes and make your reservation online, today!