Blue Ridge Parkway | PEAKS OF OTTER PICNIC AREA (MP 85.9)

Table at the Peaks of Otter Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Table at the Peaks of Otter Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

To get to the Peaks of Otter Picnic Area, exit the Blue Ridge Parkway onto Virginia 43, the road directly across from the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center. When the road forks, stay to the left. You will pass the Peaks of Otter Campground entrance on your right. The picnic area is a half mile farther down on your left.

There is a T-intersection shortly after entering the picnic area, and there are picnic tables in either direction. If you turn right, the road is one-way and eventually ends farther down on VA-43. Take a right to return to the Blue Ridge Parkway or to get back to the picnic area entrance. If you head to the left, the road ends at a loop.

Both sides of the Peaks of Otter Picnic Area have a couple dozen tables to choose from. Parking is done in common parking lots located at various spots along the road. You must carry your picnic supplies to the tables. Most single tables or groupings of tables have their own grill. There are no garbage cans at the tables, but there is a dumpster near the entrance.

While being a large picnic area, I don’t recommend this for family reunions or other large gatherings because the tables are fairly spread out. There are no pavilions or facilities other than modern restrooms. Furthermore, all tables are taken on a first come, first served basis, so if you do plan a group outing, arrive early (no permit is required for group picnics).

The right side of the Peaks of Otter Picnic Area is heavily wooded. The road starts off following a creek, and while most of the tables are located along the creek, you must walk down a steep hill to get to them. On top of that, most are at least 50 yards away. Though picturesque, you must really want to have a picnic to choose this location.

Picnic tables along the creek at Peaks of Otter Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picnic tables along the creek at Peaks of Otter Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

As you get nearer to VA-43, the terrain levels out and there are more tables closer to the road. However, there is no creek in this area.

Level terrain at the Blue Ridge Parkway's Peaks of Otter Picnic Area near VA-43.

Level terrain at the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Peaks of Otter Picnic Area near VA-43.

The left side of the Peaks of Otter Picnic Area is much leveler, and one section is on an open field.

Picnicking on the open field at the left half of Peaks of Otter Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picnicking on the open field at the left half of Peaks of Otter Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The rest of the tables are in the forest, and many are along the creek. You still have to go down a hill to get to them, but the hill is not nearly as steep as it is on the right side of the picnic area. Tables not along the creek are closer to the parking lots and on somewhat leveler ground.

Picnic tables along the stream at the left half of Peaks of Otter Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picnic tables along the stream at the left half of Peaks of Otter Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picnic table near a parking space at Peaks of Otter Picnic Area

Picnic table near a parking space at Peaks of Otter Picnic Area

The picnic tables do not extend all the way to the end of the road where the loop is located. Instead, the end of the road is where you will find one of the historical structures along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Poly Wood’s Ordinary. Situated on a small hill, this cabin was built in the early 1800s and was operated as an inn until around 1850. The word ordinary, another term for an inn, is a place that catered to the ordinary needs of travelers. If you’d like to get out and see it, you cannot park along the shoulder of the road next to it. However, there is a parking area for nearly two dozen vehicles just before the start of the loop.

Poly Wood's Ordinary on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Poly Wood’s Ordinary on the Blue Ridge Parkway

In addition to the cabin, Abbott Lake is located on the other side of the hill that the cabin sits on. Fishing is allowed, but unfortunately there are no picnic tables overlooking the lake, which would be nice. You can access the Abbott Lake Trail from here, an easy, wheelchair accessible, 1-mile path around the lake.

Blue Ridge Parkway's Abbott Lake

Blue Ridge Parkway’s Abbott Lake

You can also pick up the Flat Top Mountain Trail from the picnic area. The trailhead is near the T-intersection. For information on all trails in the area, see the Peaks of Otter Hiking Trails web page.

Back to the Top | Peaks of Otter Recreation Area | Picnic Areas


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Last updated on November 30, 2023
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