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 1000 feet from the parking lot makes it a decent walk. Harkening Hill sees far less traffic than it’s bigger brother Sharp Top so the trail is in much better shape. Many interesting granite boulder formations are found on Harkening Hill
Directions to Trailhead
- 3.5 mile loop
- Moderate difficulty
- From Interstate 81 take exit 162 (from the South) or 167 (from the North)
- Take Rt. 11 into the town of Buchanan
- Turn South onto Rt 43
- Turn North onto the Blue Ridge Parkway
- The visitor center is at milemarker 86
The 3.3 mile loop trail that includes the summit of Harkening Hill starts immediately behind the visitor center and is well signed. There is a park map on display outside 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 (This was a good formation, but there are much bigger boulders balanced much more precariously on both Flat Top and Sharp Top) and a trip to Johnson Farm which will provide a glimpse of the agricultural history of the area.
If you park somewhere centrally at Peaks of Otter (For instance, at the visitor center or at the Sharp Top parking lot), you can hike the Harkening Hill loop and then link the out-and-back hikes up Flat Top and Sharp Top for a total of about 12 miles of walking.