CNY Hiking HOME PAGE Peaks of Otter Virginia BRP Highlights

Developed Areas Along the Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway
Peaks of Otter

Harkening Hill Trail
Johnson Farm Trail
Elk Run Loop


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All three of these trails begin or end at the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center.  These scenic, short to moderate length interpretive trails give visitors a real sense of how southern Appalachian mountaineers truly lived.  The outer loop of Johnson Farm and Harkening Hill Trails rolls the human as well as natural history of the area into one wonderful 3.9 mile hike.

Elk Run Loop Trail is a 0.8 mile loop that begins in the breezeway between the buildings of the visitor center at the very end of the Harkening Hill Trail. It is a mostly easy hike with one steeper downhill section.  The trail is self-guiding nature trail with written displays describing the forest community.

Follow the signs between the gap in the visitor center, bear right and come to a bench in 0.1 mile.  An old grade becomes the path on the way to the second bench.  The trail passes a few more benches as it rises to a cemetery and another bench at 0.7 miles before descending quickly back to the visitor center.

Harkening Hill Trail is 3.3 miles long. It begins behind the visitor center and across from the amphitheater. This woodland trail climbs to a ridge where distant views are possible. A spur path near the summit leads to Balance Rock, an immense boulder balanced on a small rock.  The trail ends at the junction of the Johnson Farm Trail.

Johnson Farm Trail is a loop trail, approximately two miles long. Beginning at the north end of the visitor center parking area, the trail takes you to a trail junction in 0.3 miles.  Take the second left.  The first left is the return section of the Johnson Farm Trail.  The trail that goes right heads under the Parkway to the Peaks of Otter Lodge and the Abbott Lake Trail. 

The trail crosses a meadow before entering the woods and eventually following an old road grade into the farm after hiking nearly one mile.  The Johnson Farm, which was started in 1852, has living history demonstrations are presented on a seasonal basis. Allow a few hours for a leisurely visit at the farm.

The Johnson Farm Trail continues and reaches the Harkening Hill Trail at 1.3 miles.  If you decide to do the 3.9 mile outer loop with the Harkening Hill Trail, turn right.  Turning left will continue your hike on the Johnson Farm Trail, which crosses a couple of streams and reaches the original junction you first passes at the start of the hike.  Turn right and arrive back to the visitor center after hiking just over two miles.

There are a few pictures and a trail map below.  These hikes are featured in the hiking guide book Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The panorama above is from along the Harkening Hill Trail.

Johnson Farm

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Developed Areas Along the Parkway

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