Skip to Main Content

Peaks of Otter Recreation Area


Elevation: 2565 ft.

The Peaks of Otter is formed by the triangulation of three mountains: Sharp Top Mountain, with a summit of 3875 feet; Flat Top Mountain, whose peak is at 4001 feet; and Harkening Hill, whose apex reaches 3372 feet. Nestled between these mountains is Abbott Lake. Seven trails meander throughout this recreational area, traversing old-growth hardwood forests, open meadows, rocky outcrops, a cascading waterfall, streamside woodlands, and lake habitats.

The Harkening Hill Loop Trail goes through cerulean warbler breeding habitat. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease

The Harkening Hill Loop Trail goes through cerulean warbler breeding habitat. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease/DWR

Birders will, perhaps, find the best birding on the Flat Top Mountain Trail, where high-elevation neotropical songbirds nest. In the summer, look for black-throated blue, cerulean, Blackburnian, worm-eating, and Canada warblers, as well as blue-headed vireo, scarlet tanager, and rose-breasted grosbeak. The woodlands resonate with the melodies of veery and the chipping of dark-eyed junco. Spring and fall can produce a large number of migrants. Migratory passerines may be found in the woodlands, raptors soaring above, and common loon and other waterfowl and shorebirds taking refuge in Abbott Lake. Other wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, red fox, and even black bear inhabit this large recreation area. Herp lovers will be enthused to find timber rattlesnake, American toad, and five-lined skink lurking along the trails along with a variety of salamanders. In addition to the hiking trails, this site offers lodging facilities, picnic shelters, a restaurant, and a visitor’s center with wildlife displays and a gift shop.


Physical Location: Milepost 85.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Visitor Center Coordinates: 37.445300, -79.609760

From Bedford, VA, take State Rt 640 for 2.8 miles, then turn left onto State Rt. 643 and continue 0.7 miles. Turn right onto VA-43 N and travel 5 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn right onto the parkway. Travel 0.4 miles to the Recreation Area, which will be on the left.

Location & Directions

View on Google Maps

Site Information

  • Site Contact: (540) 586-4357
  • Website
  • Access: Free, Daily

Birds Recently Seen at Peaks of Otter Recreation Area (as reported to eBird)

  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Gray Catbird
  • American Robin
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Kentucky Warbler
  • American Redstart
  • Cerulean Warbler

Seasonal Bird Observations


  • Visitor/Nature Center
  • Camping
  • Food
  • Accessible
  • Hiking Trails
  • Information
  • Interpretive Nature Program
  • Interpretive Trail
  • Lodging
  • Parking
  • Picnic
  • Restrooms
  • Scenic Drive/Driving Tour
  • Historical Site