The Blue Ridge Parkway is an iconic roadway through the Appalachian Highlands with 469 miles of winding roadways and stunning vistas. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the Utah Route 12 of the East Coast. We drove Utah Route 12 last year through breath-taking Utah scenery on our cross-country road trip. This year we decided to drive a portion of the East Coast equivalent, the Blue Ridge Parkway. This drive connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
After our visit to Shenandoah National Park during our time in Charlottesville, we loved the scenery on the Skyline Drive so much that we decided to continue the drive along the scenic highway down to our next location – the Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The drive from Charlottesville to the Peaks of Otter Lodge can be done in about an hour and 45 minutes via interstate roads. But, the scenic drive along the parkway adds incredible scenery for just an extra 45 minutes of driving time. Of course, the stopping time to enjoy the magnificent vistas can add a few hours on top of that!
The Peaks of Otter Lodge has a unique history as the area’s first lodging for travelers opening in 1834. After attracting a heap of attention for its beauty along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the current lodge opened its doors at the base of Abbott Lake in 1964. The lodge is rustic but clean and comfortable and exactly what we expected in a beautiful lodge nestled among the gorgeous Appalachian Highlands.
After checking in to the lodge, we decided to get out and see a little bit of the area. We stopped at the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center to see what there was to do in the area and then made our way across the street to the Nature Center. The Nature Center offers hands-on exhibits about local plants and animals and is a great stop for kids! Our kids were really interested in the skulls and the live animals on display.
Hiking Sharp Top
The Nature Center is also in the parking area for the Sharp Top trail. The trail to the summit of Sharp Top is a strenuous 1.5 mile trek through the woods and over boulders. The hike up took us approximately 2 hours to complete with Emelia, who was 4, hiking the entire way on her own! This was Emelia’s first big hike on her own! Slow and steadily we made our way to the 360-degree view from the summit! It was well-worth the work to get there. We were able to see for what seemed like hundreds of miles in the distance!
Emelia was very proud of her accomplishment! We rested at the top while taking in the view, enjoyed a snack and some water and then started the venture back down. In case you want to enjoy this incredible view but aren’t quite sure you can make the hike, there is a seasonal shuttle service that takes you within a quarter-mile of the top!
Once we made it back to the lodge, we rewarded our hard work with a delicious meal at the Lake View Dining Room. As the name suggests, we enjoyed a beautiful view of Abbott Lake from our table with Sharp Top behind it! A perfect way to end our first day at Peaks of Otter!
Natural Bridge, Virginia
We enjoyed spending two nights at the Peaks of Otter Lodge. On our second day in the area, we explored nearby Natural Bridge, Virginia! Only 30 minutes down the mountain from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Natural Bridge offers lots to explore. Visiting Natural Bridge was on my list of things I wanted to see while we were living in Washington, DC, so I insisted we must visit on our way out of the area! We were definitely not disappointed! My next post will be all about Natural Bridge.
Hiking Abbott Lake
On our last morning at Peaks of Otter, we decided to enjoy a relaxing stroll around Abbott Lake. The 1-mile loop around the lake was easy and very scenic. The kids hiked the whole way around on their own. The Abbott Lake trail is also part of the Peaks of Otter TRACK trail. The rest of the TRACK trail continues to Johnson Farm, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit this 1850’s era farm. The TRACK trails are part of the Kids in Parks program. They offer brochures and signs that encourage kids to explore and learn more about the areas they are visiting! Kids can even earn prizes through the Kids in Parks Program by tracking their adventures.
After we completed our hike around Abbott Lake, we loaded up and continued down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway continues all the way to our next stop – Asheville, North Carolina! We decided to leave the exploration of the entire parkway for another trip, so we caught up with the interstate for the 4-hour drive to Asheville.