Blue Ridge Parkway, VA: Flat Top Mountain

This 5.4-miler in the Blue Ridge Mountains climbs through poplars and oaks to the 4,001-foot summit of Flat Top Mountain, the tallest of the Peaks of Otter.
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This 5.4-miler in the Blue Ridge Mountains climbs through poplars and oaks to the 4,001-foot summit of Flat Top Mountain, the tallest of the Peaks of Otter.

Flat Top Mountain may not have the extreme popularity of Sharp Top Mountain or the historic allure of Harkening Hill (its neighbors to the south), but it does have two distinct advantages: a lightly traveled summit trail and an unbeatable ridge-top picnic spot. From the northern trailhead (there's another near Abbot Lake), this tree-lined route starts off with a short, level run just above the parkway before switchbacking up Flat Top's western slope. Tree-framed views of Harkening Hill and Johnson Farm are soon visible to the south.
The trail swings away from the road, passing numerous lichen-covered boulders—and maybe a deer or two—as it twists toward the summit. After passing the Cross Rock Trail junction at 2.2 miles, the path levels off along the mountain's spine, ending with a final short push to the top. The summit marker is missing, but the high point is a central boulder pile between rock outcroppings on the east and west ridges. A spur trail leads to the east ridge where pancake-flat boulders make for a prime picnic spot. From here, savor views of Bedford and the Piedmont Valley to the east and the summit of Sharp Top just south. Follow the same route back to the trailhead.
MORE PARK INFO: Blue Ridge Parkway, (828) 271-4779; nps.gov/blri/.
-Mapped by Amy C. Balfour

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 8.7

Waypoints

FTM001

Location: 37.4684633, -79.5804709

The trailhead is located just north of milepost 84, on the eastern side of the parkway.

FTM002

Location: 37.4606032, -79.5853257

Pass a wooden bench just before the series of switchbacks that lead up the side of the mountain.

FTM003

Location: 37.4605734, -79.5844674

The trail crosses a cascade of boulders. Look left for a tree-framed glimpse of mountains to the north.

FTM004

Location: 37.4610802, -79.5828474

Hike past a felled tree that partially blocks the trail.

FTM005

Location: 37.4577502, -79.5838344

Trail turns sharply left.

FTM006

Location: 37.4569923, -79.5775795

The short, but very steep, Cross Rock Trail descends to a unique rock formation. Turn right to continue to the Flat Top summit.

FTM007

Location: 37.4521419, -79.5825791

A short spur trail forks left, leading to flat boulders with sweeping views east.

FTM008

Location: 37.4518461, -79.582476

Picnic-ready boulders overlook sweet views of Bedford and the Piedmont Valley to the east and Sharp Top to the south.

FTM009

Location: 37.4520928, -79.5831854

This boulder-topped ridge showcases views of Harkening Hill to the southwest.

FTM010

Location: 37.451996, -79.5827985

Flat Top's summit marker is missing, but the high point is a central boulder pile located between rock outcroppings on the east and west ridges. Follow the same route back to the trailhead.

Views of Sharp Top Mountain

Location: 37.4519417, -79.5827132

Flat Top Mountain Trailhead

Location: 37.4680418, -79.5804387

Boulder Cascade

Location: 37.4605777, -79.5844084

Trailside Deer

Location: 37.4592066, -79.5832551

Boulders and Moss

Location: 37.4570178, -79.5815814

Junction with Cross Rock Trail

Location: 37.4570008, -79.57744

View East from Ridgeline

Location: 37.4564642, -79.5779765

Boulder Grove

Location: 37.4523527, -79.5828581

Views of the Piedmont Valley

Location: 37.4518459, -79.5824423

Harkening Hill

Location: 37.4520928, -79.5831854

The Summit

Location: 37.4519928, -79.5827723

Summit Marker

Location: 37.4518991, -79.5826489

This summit marker is found to the east of the summit.