Sharp Top, Peaks, VA 24523
Distance: 1.5 miles (3 miles round trip)
Elevation: 3875 feet (1340 elevation change hike)
View: 360-degree Panoramic
Worth it: Yes (5 stars)
Things you should know about this hike: there are a lot of steps, the view is spectacular, I dropped my phone in rock crevices and cracked the screen, it’s extremely populated, there are multiple views and vantage points, it’s is the opposite of a rural hike, and if you don’t want to hike back down, I hear buses could take you.
All in all, I understand why Sharp Top is so immensely popular.
One of my favorite things about exploring with Noah is that he tells stories and explains history while we go. Any random bit of information that I might find interesting, he offers. Things like this:
“That’s Butt Top!”*
Noah pointed at Sharp Top (the left mountain featured above) and Flat Top (or Butt Top, the right mountain featured above) and explained the Peaks of Otter with its two mountains and their spectacular views, one much more popular then the other. Sharp top is about 3 miles round trip with a 1340′ elevation gain while Flat Top is about 5 miles round trip and a 1500′ elevation gain. That makes Sharp Top a much steeper hike (once thought to be the highest peak in Virginia) and Flat Top longer but more leisurely (I’ll explain Flat Top’s sad nickname later).
The beginning of the hike offers steps, well-made and maintained, and the remainder of the hike provides similar circumstances. Sharp Top is a well-traveled and well-populated–one of the most popular trails in the central Virginia area, so the entire hike is made up of steps, woodsy walks, partially paved portions, and handrails. While there is little rural about it and you don’t really feel as though you’re entirely nestled yourself into nature, it is a beautiful climb with an amazing summit.
I would not recommend it if you’re looking for nature and solitude, but if you’d like a quick, reasonably challenging hike with a magnificent payoff (and you don’t mind strangers sharing your experience or bombing your photos) definitely give Sharp Top a go. (Our hike took us about 2 hours from start to finish. That includes the hike there and back, as well as a full exploration of the summit [and a trip to Buzzards Roost–though, we didn’t have time for the airplane]. Add on driving time, and it’s easily fitted for an afternoon hike.)
As you can see, Noah and I went when it was cold. January offers plenty of snow to a mountain and we trudged through a bit of it on our way to the top (there were snowball fights had and forced snow-angels made, of course).
You’ll see this sign when you reach what is almost the top. We went to see Buzzard’s Roost first, because 600 feet sounded better then another 1900.** But afterwards, we scaled another bazillion steps in a climb towards Sharp Top’s summit.
As I mentioned before, Sharp Top is highly personalized with steps, railings, and structures. There’s a rock cabin at the top and platforms built for viewing the outstanding displays of mountains and valleys. I highly recommend climbing to the very peak and getting that panoramic view, but be sure you don’t stop there. While you don’t have to be Noah and climb the cabin roof, and you don’t have to be me and drop your phone in rock crevices, you certainly can explore and find your own perch from which to view the beautiful landscapes.
Again, as mentioned before, Sharp Top is pop.you.lerr. You may have to wait a while for other visitors to vacate your desired spot.
But it is worth it.
*The reason for Flat Top’s unfortunate alter-ego is thanks to the humps on it’s summit–“cheeks,” as Noah pointed out. Going from one hump to another is miles-worth of hiking, but from a view along the roads approaching the Peaks of Otter, it appears to be a simple jump. (I’m not sure if this nickname is well-known to anyone but my group of friends, to be honest. But now you know about it too! Stay tuned for when we visit this less-popular mountain. I’ll give you a full review.)
**Buzzard’s Roost will be featured in another post.