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Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 85.6 – 90.9: Peaks of Otter

With stunning views, natural beauty, and the surrounding Jefferson National Forest, it’s no wonder the Peaks of Otter area has attracted people to the region for more than 8,000 years.

Native Americans passed through the area while hunting, and European settlers began to call the region home in the mid-1700s.

The area wasn’t a secret for long: in 1834 the first inn opened and by the turn of the century the Peaks of Otter was a popular tourist destination. Today, the Peaks of Otter still inspires travelers on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The visitor center offers restrooms, water, and an amphitheater. It is open May through October. Postcards, books, and other items reflecting nature and local-interest themes are sold here, and the center features an exhibit on wildflowers, birds, and animals of the Blue Ridge. Bus rides to within 1,500 feet of the Sharp Top summit are available at a station not far from the visitor center.

Behind the Peaks of Otter Lodge is Abbott Lake, named for Stanley William Abbott, the Parkway’s first resident landscape architect and planner. The 24-acre lake features a one-mile loop trail, and is stocked with smallmouth bass, catfish, golden shiners, sunfish, and blue gill.

What to Do

Explore Polly Wood’s Ordinary, a cabin that served as the first lodging for travelers through the area starting in the early 1830’s.

Johnson Farm is also here – a living history farm that entices visitors to play games, help work the garden, or enjoy nature’s beauty by relaxing on the porch in a rocking chair.

  • Enjoy the Peaks of Otter Lodge with 63 rooms and restaurant
  • Stop by the Visitor Center at Milepost 86 to find a ranger or get information about programs
  • Picnic amid natural beauty along Little Stoney Creek with tables, charcoal grills and comfort stations
  • Take a hike, with six trails to choose from within the Peaks of Otter area and three National Scenic Trails fewer than eight miles away
  • Go fish! Abbott Lake is open to fishing for anyone with a valid North Carolina or Virginia fishing license. Please note the special regulations posted lakeside
  • Explore a small gift shop for Blue Ridge Parkway keepsakes at the Visitor Center
  • Grab a snack or camping supplies at the camp store, located at the start of the Sharp Top trail, near the campground
  • Camp under the stars at a Parkway-operated 144-site campground at the foot of Sharp Top mountain, with sites for 92 tents and 52 trailers or RVs, water, comfort stations with flush toilets and cold water sinks (no showers or hook-ups)

Peaks of Otter Campground | MP 85.6

Sharp Top is historically significant as it marked the northernmost boundary of the Cherokee Nation. This area includes a 62-table picnic area, camp store, and 141-site campground, which features 53 RV/Trailer sites. Reservations can be made for portions of this campground online at www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

Area hikes include: Sharp Top, Elk Run, Harkening Hill and Johnson Farm Trails.

Historic buildings include: Johnson Farm and Polly Woods Ordinary.

Highlights