Walking up the access road is the quickest and easiest way to reach the summit of Apple Orchard Mountain if you want to bag it quickly or just want to see the view and not have to hike in the dark.
The "trailhead" for this hike is just past Sunset Field (mile marker 78.4) going north on the Blue Ridge Parkway before you get to the Apple Orchard Mountain overlook (mile marker 78.7). You can park at the Apple Orchard Mountain overlook and walk back to the access road or simply park on the side of the road. The access road is very rarely used and assuming you are not blocking the road itself, you will not likely have any problems.
The access road is locked down but is quite accessible to foot traffic. It's technically off-limits to hikers but locals will park their cars near the road and walk up commonly. The only truly off-limits area is the radome and associated facilities.
None, this could be done in flip-flops.
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