Sharp Top Trail
Length: 1.5 miles, one way
The Sharp Top Trail, despite its ascent of 1,400 feet in only 1.5 miles, has been one of most popular recreation trails in the country since the nineteenth century. Thousands of people continue to make this pilgrimage every year.
The sweat and strain of the ascent is compensated by mountain laurel, azaleas, chipmunks, and, especially, the views from the bare-rocked summit. The Piedmont lies to the east, while the Allegheny Mountains rise to the west. Most impressive, however, are the long views to the north and south of the BRP snaking its way along the backbone of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
You may want to take this walk in early spring or late fall in order to avoid the hordes of people making use of the trail during the usual tourist season. (During the season a tourist bus is operated that will deliver you to within a few feet of the summit, allowing you to be lazy if you wish to get the view without really putting forth any effort. However, you miss the exercise and joy of reaching the mountaintop under your own power. Check at the camp store, visitor center, or Peaks of Otter Lodge for rates, times, and dates of the bus.)
.0 Begin at the Sharp Top parking lot, close to the camp store. Climb steps and begin the ascent.
.1 The trail becomes paved for a short distance.
.2 Cross the bus road.
.3 Walk through the first mountain laurel on this trail.
.5 Cross a rock field in a draw. In a few hundred feet ascend steeply on rock steps.
.75 Ascend steps set in a rock facing and switch back to the left. There is a good view to the southwest.
1.2 Come onto the ridge line and reach a trail intersection. (A side trail to the right leads, in about .4 mile, to Buzzard's Roost for a grandstand view to the east, south, and west.) To continue to Sharp Top, turn left and ascend.
1.3 Climb steps so steep that the Park Service has provided handrails.
1.45 Cross side trails to the bus loading area.
1.5 Attain the summit of Sharp Top with its superb 360 degree view! To the east is the Piedmont and the town of Bedford; to the west is Harkening Hill and Harveys Knob, with the James River Valley just beyond. Wheat's Valley, Flat Top Mountain, and Thunder Ridge are to the north, the rocks of Buzzard's Roost to the south, and beautiful Abbot Lake is shimmering almost 1,600 feet directly below.