We’ve been fortunate enough to drive the entire 469-mile length of the Blue Ridge Parkway several times over the past two years.
And though the world-famous scenic route boasts plenty of highlights, the Peaks of Otter (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 86) stands out among our favorite BRP attractions.
Located 11 miles north of Bedford VA and 35 miles south of Lexington VA, the area has everything we love about the Blue Ridge: Majestic mountains, waterfalls, a lovely lake, hiking trails, history, a winery, and apple orchards.
At the center of it all is the Peaks of Otter Lodge, one of very few hotels or resorts located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Surrounded by natural beauty, it’s truly a gem for Virginia visitors to discover.
Read on for our in-depth guide to the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Campground, including info on accommodations options, amenities, local history, and our favorite things to do in the area.
READ MORE: 20 Things to Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia
Peaks of Otter Lodge Info
ADDRESS: 85554 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Bedford, VA 24523 (BRP Milepost 86)
FRONT DESK: 540-586-1081
OFFICE HOURS: Open 24 hours a day
ONLINE PEAKS OF OTTER RESERVATIONS
DIRECTIONS FROM BEDFORD VA
From downtown Bedford, head west on E Main St and turn right onto N Bridge St. Go 0.3 miles and turn left into VA-43 North/Peaks St.
Follow that for 10.3 miles, then turn right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. The entrance to the Peaks of Otter Lodge will be about 0.4 miles on your right, just past Abbott Lake.
DIRECTIONS FROM ROANOKE VA
From Downtown Roanoke, take US-460 East/Orange Ave NW and follow it for 15.2 miles, then turn left onto State Route 617.
In 0.6 miles, turn right onto State Route 695 and follow it for 9.2 miles, then continue onto VA-43 North.
Turn right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway ramp, then turn left onto the BRP. In about 4.9 miles, you’ll pass Abbott Lake and see the entrance to the Peaks of Otter Lodge on the right.
READ MORE: The 10 Most Festive Christmas Towns in Virginia to Visit
Peaks of Otter History
The area we now know as the Peaks of Otter was originally Native American territory, with the earliest Scottish immigrants arriving before 1750.
Nobody knows where the name “Peaks of Otter” came from. Some locals suggest it was named for a Scottish mountain or the Cherokee word for high places, while others say it relates to nearby Otter Creek and Otter Lake.
Thomas Wood was the first known settler of the valley, arriving from Pennsylvania in 1766. In 1834, the wife of one of his descendants opened her home to travelers, making it the area’s very first lodge.
As famous folks such as Thomas Jefferson (one of Virginia’s most prominent residents) began singing the Peaks of Otter’s praises, more and more people began to plan weekend getaways to the area.
By the late 1800s, the valley had become home to 20 families, whose remote mountain town included a church, a school, and a resort hotel.
In the mid-1900s, construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway (which was created as part of FDR’s New Deal to get America out of the Great Depression) brought increased attention to the Peaks of Otter area.
Looking to develop new recreation and service areas along the 469-mile scenic route, the National Park Service constructed Abbott Lake and the Peaks of Otter Lodge, which opened in 1964.
Today, it’s one of just a few Blue Ridge Parkway hotels located directly on the scenic route (along with the Switzerland Inn in Little Switzerland NC), and an amazing base for exploring the area’s attractions.
READ MORE: 10 Best Virginia Mountain Towns to Visit
Peaks of Otter Accommodations
Peaks of Otter Lodge
Located 9 miles northwest of Bedford VA, Peaks of Otter is located in a picturesque valley that encompasses approximately 4,200 acres of land.
At its heart is the Peaks of Otter Lodge, which is surrounded by 3 picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains– the 3,372-foot Harkening Hill, 3,875-foot Sharp Top Mountain, and 4,001-foot Flat Top Mountain.
The 63-room lodge is one of the only hotels you’ll find along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and all of its rooms offer exceptional views of Abbott Lake.
The classic National Parks-style lodge offers Preferred Rooms with 2 Double beds (which sleep up to 5 people) and Preferred Rooms with a King-sized bed (which sleep 3 people).
There are also some ADA-accessible rooms designed for people with disabilities, as well as a few pet-friendly rooms with no additional pet fees.
All rooms at the Peaks of Otter Lodge include a flat screen TV, coffee maker, clock radio, hair dryer, AC, and a private bathroom. There is free Wifi, but access is very limited (and slow), and there’s no cell phone access.
But if you’re the sort of person who needs all the modern amenities, this may not be the place for you.
The very basic interior design of the small rooms suggests that you should spend your time outside, where patio chairs offer breathtaking views of the Peaks of Otter lake and the surrounding Virginia mountains.
Those spectacular views are available pretty much anywhere you go on the property, from the Visitor Center bar and restaurants to the historic buildings and hiking trails.
READ MORE: 10 Great Romantic Getaways in Virginia for Couples
Peaks of Otter Campground
For those who don’t mind “roughing it” in nature, the Peaks of Otter Campground offers 139 campsites, including 88 sites for tent camping and 51 sites for RVs.
Only 60 are available for advance reservations, which can be made via the NPS website.
Each of the well-shaded Peaks of Otter camping sites features a fire ring/grill, lantern post, and picnic table, and the campgrounds also have flush toilets, potable water, and a dump station.
There is also one accessible campsite, with a wheelchair-accessible grill and picnic table, which is conveniently located next to an accessible restroom.
Note that there are no water or electric hookups for RVs available in the campgrounds. And while there are restrooms, there are no showers available.
Deer, black bears, and other wildlife are common sights at the campground (we saw a bear running across the road during our visit), and the nearby meadows are filled with Virginia wildflowers.
The seasonal campgrounds are open from Memorial Day weekend through the end of October, but close for winter and early spring.
READ MORE: The 13 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Campgrounds to Visit
Peaks of Otter Lodge Amenities
Abbott Lake (a.k.a. Peaks of Otter Lake)
Despite being one of the smaller lakes in the mountains of Virginia, the 24-acre Abbott Lake (a.k.a. Peaks of Otter Lake) is the center of activity at Peaks of Otter Lodge.
There’s a one-mile paved walking path that circles the lake, with wildflowers, historic buildings, and plenty of places to stop and sit a spell along the way.
Fishing in Abbott Lake is a popular pastime, with smallmouth bass, bluegill, and bullhead catfish among the most common catches.
Note that smallmouth bass are catch-and-release only, and anglers are prohibited from using live bait or boats.
There are also chairs and benches all around the lake, plus a fire pit and corn hole area, making it a great place to gather with friends, read a book, or watch the stunning sunset over the mountains.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Lakes in the Virginia Mountains to Visit
Peaks of Otter Restaurant/Bar
One of the few Blue Ridge Parkway restaurants located along the world-famous route, Peaks of Otter’s Lake View Restaurant offers Appalachian specialties using fresh local ingredients.
They offer full service dining for dinner daily, and for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. There are also myriad “Grab & Go” options available for breakfast 7 days a week, and during lunch hours Monday through Friday.
It’s definitely a cut above the food you typically find at most lodges in national and state parks.
We enjoyed entrees like Pan Fried Trout with garlic lemon herb butter, NY Strip with mashed potatoes and veggies, and Cavatappi Pasta with basil, spinach, mushrooms, red peppers, and tomatoes in a parmesan cream sauce.
The upscale Peaks Bar & Lounge is open Wednesday to Sunday, offering awesome lake views and an array of beer, wines, and specialty cocktails such as the Sharp Top Martini, Flat Top Lightning, and Harkening Hill Mojito.
READ MORE: 30 Fascinating Facts About the Appalachian Mountains for Trivia Buffs
Sharp Top Mountain & Flat Top Mountain
If you’re interested in exploring the best Peaks of Otter hiking trails, the 3,875-foot-tall Sharptop Mountain and 4,004-foot-tall Flat Top Mountain are directly in front of and behind the lodge.
Hardy hikers may enjoy starting from the Sharp Top Mountain trailhead, which ascends 1300 feet over the course of 1.5 miles (3 miles round-trip) and offers spectacular 360º views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
But the lodge offers a Sharp Top Mountain shuttle service, which takes you to within 1,500 feet of the summit. Peaks of Otter guests can purchase round-trip tickets at the discounted rate of $10 at the Sharp Top Store.
You can also hike the less popular Flat Top Mountain Trail, which goes 4.7 miles round-trip from Abbott Lake to the scenic Flat Top Mountain summit.
Note that dogs are allowed on this trail, which offers excellent opportunities to see a variety of beautiful Virginia birds, but they must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Hikes on the Appalachian Trail in VA
Things to Do Nearby
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
Located directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 86, the Peaks of Otter Lodge offers incredible access to the world-renowned scenic route.
Some of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks nearby include the Mill Gap Overlook (MP 91.8), Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook (MP 76.5, the highest elevation on the BRP in Virginia), and the Otter Lake Overlook (MP 63.1), which offers lovely reflections when the fall colors are peaking.
The two best Blue Ridge Parkway hikes in the area, the Flat Top Trail and Sharp Top Trail, are part of the Peaks of Otter Lodge property. Other nearby hikes include the 3.3-mile Harkening Hill Loop Trail (featuring a spur trail to Balance Rock) and the 2-mile Johnson Farm Trail, which includes an 1850s homestead and living history demos.
There aren’t many Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls in this area as you’ll find in North Carolina. But there are lovely hikes to Fallingwater Cascades (MP 83) and Apple Orchard Falls (near MP 78), as well as some nice cascades on the backside of Otter Lake.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hotels & Cabin Rentals in NC & VA
Explore the Town of Bedford VA
Founded in 1890, Bedford VA is one of the lovely little Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in the Shenandoah Valley, about 28 miles east of Roanoke VA.
Bedford is best known for its historic sites, artisan crafts, and Appalachian music, as well as modern industries like graphic design, manufacturing, and textiles.
Downtown Bedford is home to attractions such as the Bedford Boys Tribute Center, Bedford Museum, and the Bower Center for the Arts. The Bedford Area Welcome Center is a great place to learn more about things to do nearby.
Some of the best restaurants in Bedford include The Blue Lady, Bedford Social Club, Bella Italia, and Town Kitchen & Provisions. And don’t miss Liberty Station, which occupies a historic railroad station.
Visit during Christmas to experience the Festival of Trees at the Bedford Welcome Center, the Bedford Christmas Parade, and the annual Christmas in Wartime celebration.
READ MORE: 10 Great Places to Celebrate Christmas in Virginia
Visit Johnson’s Orchards & Peaks of Otter Winery
If you’re looking for kid-friendly attractions in Peaks of Otter, look no further than Johnson’s Orchards. The Virginia Apple Orchard is part of a farm that was owned by the Johnson family long before the Civil War.
The 200+ acre farm has around 7500 apple trees, with almost 200 different varieties planted. So apple picking is a popular thing to do here, and they also grow peaches, nectarines, plums, and pumpkins.
The farm is also home to one of Virginia’s most popular wineries, Peaks of Otter Winery, which produces 35 different fruit wines.
Their farm market offers wine tastings, as well as fresh produce, jams, jellies, apple cider, and much more.
They also have a huge sunflower field, a giant Johnny Appleseed statue, a picnic pavilion, hiking trails, and a log cabin, and host several festivals and other special events throughout the year.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Virginia Wineries to Visit for Wine Tastings & Tours
Visit the National D-Day Memorial
Thirty of the National Guard soldiers who stormed the beach at Normandy on June 6, 1944 were from Bedford, and 23 of those Bedford Boys ultimately lost their lives in France.
The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford was dedicated to those who died in the bloody battle by President George W. Bush in June 2001, and the attraction now draws around 60,000 visitors each year.
As someone whose paternal grandfather served in WWII, I found the monument particularly moving.
There’s a 44-foot tall arch with the word “Overlord” (the code name for the D-Day operation) inscribed on it, which is highlighted by a reflecting pool and surrounded by statues honoring the fallen soldiers.
Other parts of the grounds explain the history of WWII and Bedford’s connection to it, including the politics, major battles, and troops. –by Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted; lead image provided by Destination Bedford Virginia