Adventure Us: Peaks of Otter

In the dog days of Roanoke summer, when you feel like the bowl of the valley and the urban microclimate are working together to trap the heat and melt you into a puddle, it’s great to know there are cool getaways within an hour’s drive. It’s even better when these getaways have health, scenic, cultural, and educational value! Peaks of Otter has all this and more.

The drive from town to the Peaks of Otter on the Blue Ridge Parkway is itself worth the effort. On a clear day, you can see miles both east and west from the ridgetop (and in places, you can see both directions at once). Be sure to stop at an overlook or two and enjoy it. We’re truly blessed to have such a natural treasure so close by, and for free!

But once you arrive at Peaks of Otter, you have many more treats in store. First, step out of the car and enjoy the 10 or even 20 degree temperature drop from the valley! Then, stop by the visitor center and the small museum, which documents the rich history of the area, from the American Indians to the early pioneers. With its cool climate and iconic peaks, Peaks of Otter has been a destination for travellers since the early 1800s, as well as a place of significance for the Indians for centuries. Next, depending on your energy level (or those of your kids), take a hike! There are several interesting trails for all ages and abilities. For the most adventuresome, allot several hours to climb Sharp’s Top or Flat Top trails and be rewarded with stunning views. But for those of us with more modest abilities, there are still plenty of options: the Johnson Farm Trail takes you past a 150 year old working farm and homestead, Harkening Hill has its own gorgeous overlook, and the Fallingwater Cascades Trail leads you to a beautiful waterfall. Easiest of all, yet still scenic, stroll around the lodge lake on Abbott Lake Trail, stopping to examine the first lodge built here in the 1830s, Polly Woods’ Ordinary. Bring your fishing gear if you’re so inclined. And of course pause to say hi to the massive snapping turtles lounging in the lake!

This area is home to the Peaks of Otter salamander, which inhabits only 45 square miles of the surrounding forest. Despite its tiny geographical range, this salamander is flourishing due to careful conservation and the remarkable microclimate of the Peaks of Otter. If you’re quiet, you just might see one as you hike around Abbott Lake at dusk. 

By this point, you’ve earned yourself a nice dinner in the lodge restaurant. Enjoy the view of Sharp Top across the lake and maybe catch some live Appalachian folk music!

Whatever your age, interests, time constraints, and energy level, Peaks of Otter offers you a unique experience in a place of mountain beauty and peace.

Name: Peaks of Otter, 85554 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Bedford, VA 24523

Time from Roanoke: 1 hour

Activity Options: Trails, Restaurant, Lodging, History

Nearby Food: Peaks of Otter Lodge

Nearby Attractions: Apple Orchard Falls (Blue Ridge Parkway), National D-Day Memorial (Bedford)

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Cristy Carr

Cristy and her family keep busy writing, tutoring, homeschooling, homesteading, and adventuring in the beautiful Appalachian mountains.
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