Johnson Farm & Harkening Hill Trail

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Blue Ridge Parkway

Johnson Farm & Harkening Hill Trail is a 4.3 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Bedford, Virginia that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 4.3 miles Elevation Gain: 905 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

kid friendly


nature trips


bird watching




wild flowers


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.

5 days ago

Pretty easy trail, does not appear to be trafficked very much. Narrow in places, Encountered a rattlesnake. Watch out for snales. Treas were cut at the top so that you have a decent view. Lots of trees across the trail and a lot of dead trees that looked like they were about to fall down.

23 days ago

Good trail without anybody else hiking it. They’ve taken down a good number of trees at the summit so the view - unlike what it says in the description - is superb. Easily 15 miles of visibility. Also, note that for anybody trail running, while it is less rocky than other peaks nearby like sharp top, it’s by no means totally level. Still gotta watch your footing carefully to avoid rolling an ankle

Okay but not as impressive as either Sharp Top or Flat Top. Moderate family hike. There was a tree down towards the descent. Still fun.

3 months ago

3 months ago

Really nice day for a hike. Trail is great condition. Very dry conditions.

off trail
8 months ago

Unfortunately I started this hike from the opposite end (clockwise on the map) and that's because it's easier to find the tail end of the hike than it is to find the bridge to the app's recommended starting spot. The first half (clockwise) is poorly labelled, if labelled at all. No tree markings and very few signs. It's also pretty steep (again, if you take the route I did). However, it is lush and scenic - not just for lookouts. The second clockwise half is a breeze. The farm was gorgeous but had there not been someone there to direct me, I wouldn't have known how to get back on trail after touring the farm. Overall this was a moderate, peaceful and pleasant 4 mile hike.

9 months ago

Great trail for the feint on heart. You can start on the Johnson loop and bail out if the weather gets bad or you just know your limits have been met. Great for dogs on a leash, very friendly shaded trail with water spots.

Mon Jan 07 2019

It was a really great trail. We started at the visitors center and went up the zig zag trail to Harkening Hill. It was a mild January day so the views were amazing. It got super chilly on top of the mountain with the winds. There were boulders everywhere for the kids to climb on and explore. We finally made it to the summit, close to 2 miles. It was beautiful. Probably not much of a view in the summer time though. The trail back down towards Johnson’s Farm was easy going. We missed out on the farm, when the trail came to a T we went right because the sign said the farm was 1600ft left and we assumed that meant you could walk down to the farm and then walk back up (the trail actually goes down to the farm and circles back to the visitors center) oh well, next we will go to the farm. The trail back down the mountain crossed a couple creeks and the kids loved that. There were fallen trees to climb over the creek. We took 7 kids on the hike and everyone did great.

Fri Jul 20 2018

This is a nice, easy trail if you're wearing a toddler on your back! The woods are beautiful, the creek is relaxing, and I always see some sort of wildlife.

Wed Apr 18 2018

Good little hike. Johnson’s Farm was interesting but other than that there is not much to see other than forest for remainder of hike. Views are obstructed by trees and the feeling of being on a hike is sort of lost as you hear mowers and work being done on nearby parkway.

Wed Apr 11 2018

Today we hiked Harkening Hill in Bedford County, Virginia, adjacent to the Peaks of Otter Lodge. Gorgeous spring day, brisk clear weather and no wind (yay). We had hoped to go back to Thunder Ridge but the Parkway access was blocked at the Peaks. So my hiking companion said “surely there are trails here!” And she was right! Harkening Hill is a 3.5 mile single track loop with a 921 foot elevation gain within 1.5 mile climb to the summit. It is located directly across the Parkway from the Peaks of Otter lodge. Lovely creek beds, birds, chipmunks, typical flora and fauna, abound. Some say moderate but we found it rather easy because the trail is well maintained and not a lot of boulders until you reach the summit.... then HUGE ones! However, it is straight UP. Beautiful views which will vanish when the trees leaf.

Sun Dec 31 2017

Great for a relaxing day. The .7 to the summit is legitimate the rest is very easy. Good for first timers and beginners

Mon Dec 25 2017

Moderate trail, great for a relaxing trail walk.

Mon Nov 06 2017

my first hike in years. we started at amphitheater and went up.. backwards from the way this was done. it rained and got pretty cold. trail was easily to follow. loved the big rocks all over. balance rock was cool too! felt accomplished as a beginner.

Sun Nov 05 2017

The trail the woods are well kept

Tue Oct 17 2017

Great hike - markings could use some improvement.

Wed Jul 26 2017

Nice Easy hike. No spectacular view- but it is a convenient loop.

Mon Jul 10 2017

This was a great trail to do with the whole family. We went to Balancing Rock and Harkening Hill and then back down to the Johnson Farm. Can be a little challenging in spots when going up to Harkening Hill if you are not used to the elevation gain changes. Make sure you have plenty of water and an inhaler if you require it, so glad we had my son's with us...he needed it several times. We really enjoyed the trip!

Sun Jul 02 2017

I love this trail because I've been able to carry even my 22 month old grandson along. The Johnson farm trail is perfect for family hiking.

Thu May 18 2017

This was easy enough to carry a toddler and hard enough that it still felt like a workout. I love going to the farm and learn new tidbits everytime

Fri Mar 24 2017

Awesome and great hike any time of year!

Sun Mar 12 2017

Easy hiking! Doesn't have the best Summit, but it's a great loops hike for all ages.

Sun Feb 12 2017

Nice trial. Relatively easy hike for adults and children alike. If you have younger children, be aware that there are some narrow parts of the trail that have steep drop offs. My six year old wanted to hold my hand out of fear on those parts.

Sun Nov 27 2016

I hiked the two mile Johnson Farm Loop, skipping the Harkening Hill section (for now). It is a pretty and well maintained trail, and it gave me a chance to catch my breath after just completing Sharp Top. I enjoyed seeing and reading about the history of the farm.

Mon Sep 12 2016

Solid walk in the woods accessible from Peaks of Otto Lodge. There are many get views, but it's a relatively easy hike. Farm house is an interesting diversion, as is the balancing rocks towards the top of the loop.

Thu Jul 14 2016

Great trail, easy to follow, but the views are not all that much! Would rather do this trail in fall!

Wed Apr 27 2016

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)

Sun Nov 22 2015

meh. Kind of a waste of time. The farmhouse looked OK. The hike was just a walk in the woods. Near peaks of Oteer, though, which is one of my fav places

Thu Jul 10 2014

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.

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