Distance: 5 miles out-and-back. Elevation gain: 1500 ft. Amazing summit views. Good day hike. Parking available. Dog friendly.

From the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center, travel north up the Blue Ridge Parkway for about 3 miles, where you will come to small parking area for the Flat Top Trailhead. The parking area is quite tiny, and probably holds around 10 vehicles, but there was only one other car there when I went. It's probably like that most of the time, except maybe the weekends. This is the more popular side of the mountain to hike up as it has more switchbacks and isn't as steep. But if you have two vehicles, you can hike up one side and down the other. Not many people hike Flat Top, so it's pretty peaceful. I only saw three groups of people the whole time I was hiking.

From the parking area, start on the signed trail. It's not too steep, but it is definitely a constant uphill hike. The first quarter mile in isn't bad and the trail is rather smooth, but it starts to get a little rocky from there. By the time you are halfway in it starts to get really rocky at some points, so wear good hiking shoes/boots. There are a few rest benches on the way in you get tired and need a little break. There are also a lot of bugs and gnats in the summer, so some bug spray is definitely advised.

At about 2 miles in you come to sign that shows an optional side trail to Cross Rock. It is only .2 miles down the side of the mountain to these neat rocks, if you choose to do that. It also shows that the Flat Top summit is a half a mile from here. Once you reach the summit, there is no clear indication of which way to go to the overlook. There are a few different trails to follow and you may have to do a little exploring to find which overlook is best. From the overlooks, there are amazing views of the Blue Ridge mountains. It doesn't have the 360 degree views like it's sister mountain Sharp Top, but it is nonetheless incredible. From there, follow the trail back down, unless you drove two vehicles intending to travel down the other side on Spur Trail.

Pack List

  • Water (lots)
  • Snacks
  • Camera & gear
  • Bug spray (at least for Summer)
  • Good hiking shoes (very rocky)
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Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly


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Overall rating: 

Great Views, Quiet Trail

Flat Top is the slightly longer brother to neighboring Sharp Top, but the additional time spent on the trail is well worth it. It's not a terribly difficult hike, though not easy either. There are two trail options, the steeper (shorter) one begins down from the Peaks of Otter Lodge, the longer begins on the other side of the mountain across from the entrance to Fallingwater Cascades trail. Whichever you choose, there will be some great bouldering problems, photo opportunities, & of course great views & scrambling from 2 or 3 different vantage points at the top.


Flat Top may be less crowded than Sharp Top, but is definitely strenuous. The trail is not as rocky and in most places, not as steep as Sharp Top, but the constant upward grade could be tough for inexperienced hikers. That being said, the views are fantastic! When you reach the summit there are two main overlooks, one looks West, the other, just a 2-minute walk to the other side of the summit, looks East. The Views are definitely worth the uphill work. A great hike!

This hike is much less crowded and will offer more solitude than Sharp Top nearby. Can be done either as a shuttle hike or an out and back hike. Views to the east are great, especially at sunrise.

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