Harkening Hill

The lowliest of the three Peaks of Otter, Harkening Hill is the only one with a “loop” trail that swings by the top. A gain of just under 1,000 feet from the parking lot makes it a decent 3.5-mile walk. Harkening Hill sees far less traffic than the bigger Sharp Top, so the trail is in better shape. Many interesting granite boulder formations are found on Harkening Hill.

The loop trail that includes the summit of Harkening Hill starts immediately behind the visitor center. Side trips from the 3.3-mile loop include a trip to “Balance Rock” which is an impressive granite boulder balanced on a smaller one and a trip to Johnson Farm which provides a glimpse of the agricultural history.

If you park somewhere centrally at Peaks of Otter (such as the visitor center or the Sharp Top parking lot), you can hike the Harkening Hill Loop and then link to the out-and-back hikes up Flat Top and Sharp Top for a total of about 12 miles.


  • 3.5 miles

Hike It

  • Begin the hike by ascending a switch back to a ridge just south of Harkening Hill summit.
  • At 1.4 miles, continue the climb over boulders for a pleasant view of Parkway’s mountains.
  • After 1.7 miles, climb beyond the marker for a spectacular view at the summit. The elevation here is 3,364 feet.
  • Another highlight of the trail is only 700 feet past the summit. A short trail to a perfectly balanced rock formation lies ahead known as Balance Rock.
  • Continuing past Balance Rock, follow the trail and at the 2.1-mile mark, arrive at a fork where you will turn left onto the Johnson Farm Trail. The Johnson Farm is a history museum open in the summer to visitors.
  • After passing the farm, continue down the lane and turn right past an old hotel site. In ~500 feet, continue straight at the Johnson Farm-Harkening Hill Junction to finish the loop, bringing you back to the parking lot.


From Roanoke – Take the Blue Ridge Parkway and use the exit at milepost 86 to arrive at the Peaks of Otter Parking Lot. Park at the visitor center and go towards the amphitheater. At the rear of the amphitheater, there is a sign which directs you to Harkening Hill and other trails offered at the Peaks of Otter.


Nearby Wineries

  • Peaks of Otter Winery Expand Collapse

    Located in Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia at the foot of the Peaks of Otter, the winery of the same name features fruit of the farm wines.

    Although Peaks of Otter grows many fruits for the wine, apples are the main crop. Apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, and pears are used to make wine, cider, and butters. These “grandma’s style” wines are excellent with snacks, as an after dinner wine or just sipping.

    The winery is open daily from April through December and on weekends January through March.

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