Blue Ridge Parkway, VA: Sharp Top Mountain

Popular with Blue Ridge Parkway travelers for more than 150 years, this steep, 3.2-mile out-and-back climbs to the rocky summit of one of Virginia's highest peaks.
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Popular with Blue Ridge Parkway travelers for more than 150 years, this steep, 3.2-mile out-and-back climbs to the rocky summit of one of Virginia's highest peaks.

The Washington Monument, completed in 1884, contains an engraved stone block recognizing 3,875-foot Sharp Top Mountain as Virginia's highest peak. Although this was later proved inaccurate by the 5,729-foot Mount Rogers, Sharp Top still reigns supreme when it comes to views. From the summit, peakbaggers enjoy a stunning 360-degree view that sweeps across the farm-dotted eastern lowlands to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the western Shenandoah Valley.
From the Blue Ridge Parkway-based trailhead (across from the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center at MP86), start a moderate climb along the mountain's base. The trail soon crosses a road used by shuttles in summer before ascending more steeply, with dense forest giving way to ever-expanding mountain-and-valley views to the southeast. The easy-to-follow path winds over—and sometimes through—roots, rocks, and felled trees.
As you pass through a boulder field, look ahead for a rocky outcropping known as Buzzard's Roost (whose overlook is reached by a short spur trail 1.3 miles from the trailhead). At the spur trail junction, turn left to continue to Sharp Top's bouldery peak. The trail soon coils steeply to the summit. Pass an old stone building then take the last few steps to the top for the full panorama.
MORE PARK INFO: Blue Ridge Parkway, (828) 271-4779; nps.gov/blri/.
-Mapped by Amy C. Balfour

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 5.2

Waypoints

STP001

Location: 37.4455024, -79.610281

Peaks of Otter Visitor Center: Located at MP86 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Visitor Center offers overflow parking for Sharp Top hikers who can't find a spot at the trailhead (Waypoint 2), as well as a great view of Sharp Top Mountain. To reach the trailhead, cross the Blue Ridge Parkway on a pedestrian sidewalk.

STP002

Location: 37.4429391, -79.6094761

The trailhead is beside the camp store. Consider bringing your walking stick (the trail is very rocky in spots). You may also encounter deep, slippery pockets of mud several days after a rain or snowstorm. The trail is popular with families, and you'll even see the occasional dog (a leash is required).

STP003

Location: 37.4406811, -79.6099055

Continue straight across the shuttle bus route to rejoin the trail. Shuttles run from the parking lot to the top of the peak in summer.

STP004

Location: 37.4367795, -79.6090579

Thick roots and chunky rocks become more prevalent as the trail ascends.

STP005

Location: 37.4362939, -79.6101415

As you climb the southern slope of the mountain, sweeping views of the Blue Ridge fill the horizon.

STP006

Location: 37.4351524, -79.6090794

This no-nonsense trail has little use for switchbacks (there are only a few) as it shoots toward the summit. Steep, stone-cut steps are the efficient (and quad busting) substitute.

STP007

Location: 37.4325881, -79.6077704

The trail passes through a boulder field that looks out of place so high on the mountain. According to a sign near the summit, the boulders formed after diorite rock split apart along weather-weakened seams.

STP008

Location: 37.4305093, -79.6071374

Junction with Buzzard's Roost Spur Trail. Turn left to continue to the summit of Sharp Top. Tattered shreds of old blacktop mark the way as you approach the final ascent. For an optional detour (and overlook), follow the signed spur trail for about 600 feet to Buzzards Roost.

STP009

Location: 37.4329157, -79.605586

Continue straight at this junction to reach the summit. A right turn leads to the shuttle bus shelter.

STP010

Location: 37.4335034, -79.6048728

Sharp Top (3,875 ft.): Pass the empty stone building (a former concession stand), then climb a few steps to the boulder-covered summit. Abbott Lake and Flat Top Mountain (just taller at 4,001 feet) are visible to the north. Look southeast to the farm-dotted community of Bedford and west to the Shenandoah Valley.

Sharp Top Mountain

Location: 37.4454939, -79.610163

View from Peaks of Otter Visitor Center.

Trailhead

Location: 37.442947, -79.6093369

Steps ascend from parking lot and nature center.

Rock-and-Mud-Covered Trail

Location: 37.4367795, -79.6089399

Blue Ridge Mountains

Location: 37.4361491, -79.6098411

Stone-Cut Steps

Location: 37.4350842, -79.6087468

Marker Just Below Summit

Location: 37.4335508, -79.6049488

Peaks of Otter Pond

Location: 37.433457, -79.6047235

Bedford County View

Location: 37.4335082, -79.6047449