Johnson Farm & Harkening Hill Trail is a 3.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Bedford, VA that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
A nice, often-forgotten or ignored trail at the Peaks of Otter. Not as steep or rocky as the other 2 peaks. Johnson Farm Loop portion is more traveled than the Harkening Hill part. Experienced hikers/trail runners might rate this as moderate; others would probably say it's demanding. Trail starts from the Visitor's Center on the Parkway at the Peaks of Otter, running parallel to the Pkwy for 0.3 mi. Take the second left (which takes you through a long field) to then enter the woods to go up to the Johnson Farm. Continue up from the farm and then turn right at the trail intersection to go up to the summit of Harkening Hill. Shortly before the summit, there will be a short spur to the left to Balance Rock, which is neat to see. There is not much of a view at the summit except when the leaves are off the trees, and even then, it's not as spectacular as Sharp Top or Flat Top, which is why this is often the "forgotten 3rd peak" of the Peaks of Otter. However, the trail is not nearly as rocky as the other peaks and not as steep. It is an excellent trail for trail running. The Johnson Farm Loop portion usually has a lot more visitors than the H.H. portion. The "light usage" rating is for the H.H. part, even during the more popular months. If the Johnson Farm is open, be sure to stop in and see it and sign the guest book.
Great trail, easy to follow, but the views are not all that much! Would rather do this trail in fall!
The trail head is located at MP 86 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We parked at the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center and hiked the Johnson Farm Trail (2.1 mile loop)
nice little hike after lunch, then a little education for the kids about the people who owned the land and built the hotel "the Johnsons". guided tour of the ole' home place on the week ends.
Nice hike with great views a long the way. Trails are well marked and not too rocky. Well worth the effort.
Ran/hiked this trail today on a perfect day! This is the most runnable of the three peaks at the Peaks of Otter. You climb enough to get in a good workout but it is never as steep as Sharp Top or Flat Top, so you can run more of the ascent. Also, it is not nearly as rocky and the descent is much easier to run because of that. We took the side trip to Balance Rock, which is always fun. The girls I went with had never been on this trail before and they said it is going to become one of their favorites from now on. I rated it 4 stars instead of 5 because it really does not have the fantastic view of Sharp or Flat Top. In the fall/winter/early spring you can see a little bit more at the summit because the leaves are off the trees. However, I don't do this run for the view.
If you run it and the Johnson Farm happens to be open, take a moment and go inside because it is very cool to see. They have a guestbook you can sign. The Johnson Farm part of the trail is more well-traveled during tourist season, but there are really not that many people. I have only seen other people on Harkening Hill once during all my runs there, and that happened to be today. You will exit the trail at the amphitheater behind the visitors' center.