OverviewThe lowliest of the three Peaks of Otter, Harkening Hill is the only one with a loop trail that swings by the top. A gain of just under 1000 feet from the parking lot makes it a decent walk, and Harkening Hill sees far less traffic than it’s bigger brother Sharp Top so the trail is in much better shape. Many interesting granite boulder formations are found on Harkening Hill, and bouldering opportunities would exist if it were not for the incredible amount of poison ivy.
Getting ThereFrom Interstate 81, exit 162 (from the South) or 167 (from the North) and take Rt. 11 into the town of Buchanan.
Turn South onto Rt 43
Turn North onto the Blue Ridge Parkway
The visitor center is at milemarker 86
Trails to the toplook at the links section for a map of the area trails.
The 3.3 mile loop trail that includes the summit of Harkening Hill starts immediately behind the visitor center (Blue Ridge Parkway mile 86) and is well signed. There is a park map on display outside the visitor center. Side trips from the 3.3 mile loop include a trip to “Balance Rock” which is an impressive granite boulder balanced on a smaller one (This was a good formation, but there are much bigger boulders balanced much more precariously on both Flat Top and Sharp Top) and a trip to Johnson Farm which will provide a glimpse of the agricultural history of the area.
If you park somewhere centrally at Peaks of Otter (For instance, at the visitor center or at the Sharp Top parking lot), you can hike the Harkening Hill loop and then link the out-and-back hikes up Flat Top and Sharp Top for a total of about 12 miles of walking.
I have read that the Peaks of Otter is an incredibly popular place to visit in the summer. Keep that in mind when you plan your trip here.
Red TapeFree to park
Free to hike
CampingIn the Peaks of Otter vicinity, camping is only permitted in the 144-site campground run by the Blue Ridge parkway.
camping information and reservations: (540) 586-4357
There also is a hotel at Peaks of Otter
External linksCartoon map of the area trails
Blue Ridge Parkway information
Peaks of Otter winery