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