Points of Interest
PEAKS OF OTTER
The Peaks of Otter are three mountain peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains, overlooking the town of Bedford, Virginia, nine miles (14 km) to the southeast along State Route 43. While the Blue Ridge Parkway is known for being America’s Favorite Drive, it’s also one of the country’s best hiking destinations. With over 360 miles of trails along the Parkway that wind through historical sites, picturesque views, and cascading waterfalls, there are hikes for all age levels and interests. There’s no better way to explore the beautiful wilderness of the Appalachians up close.
The Peaks of Otter have some of the most popular hiking trails, not only on the Parkway, but also in Virginia:
- Sharp Top Trail – A strenuous 1.5-mile hike to the summit of Sharp Top that rewards hikers with a spectacular 360-degree view of the Peaks of Otter area.
- Flat Top Trail – A strenuous 4.4-mile hike to the summit of Flat Top peak. In the spring, the thickets of mountain laurel on the mountain make this an especially beautiful hike.
- Harkening Hill Trail – A moderate 3.3 mile trail that leads to an elevation of 3,375 feet. Trail head begins at Peaks Visitor Center.
- Johnson Farm Trail – A moderate 2.1-mile trail that leads to the Johnson Farm, which has been restored to represent regional life in the 1930s. Living history demonstrations are done seasonally.
- Abbott Lake Trail – An easy 1-mile trail through woodland forests and an open field, looping around beautiful Abbott Lake.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE
Smith Mountain Lake is a large reservoir in the Roanoke Region of Virginia, located southeast of the City of Roanoke and southwest of Lynchburg. The lake was created in 1963 by the Smith Mountain Dam impounding the Roanoke River. The majority of the south shore of the lake lies in Franklin County while a small portion, including access to the dam, lies in Pittsylvania County. Bedford County makes up the northern half of the lake with the Roanoke River as the dividing line. The lake has become a popular recreation spot and has also experienced significant development in the last decade. It is the largest lake contained entirely within the Commonwealth of Virginia. The area lies in a broad valley nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural south-central Virginia. Before the lake’s creation, farming and logging were the primary industries. Communities around the lake include Moneta, Huddleston, Union Hall, White House, Penhook and Goodview. There is no post office with a Smith Mountain Lake mailing address. The Booker T. Washington National Monument is near the west end of the lake.
The level of the lake normally varies by one to two feet during the day and night, as water flows through (and is pumped back through) the dam. The normal maximum level of the lake (also known as “Full Pond”) is regulated to 795 feet (242.32 meters) above sea level. The normal observed level (also known as “normal pond”) is 794.20 feet (242.07 meters). The level can be significantly lower during periods of extended drought. Lake levels were about six feet below normal from time to time, during the years 2001 to 2003, after five years of below-average rainfall.
Smith Mountain Lake has become a popular recreational area. Boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, riding personal watercraft, and sailing are common activities as is fishing, especially for striped bass. The lake has hosted several professional fishing tournaments. Smith Mountain Lake State Park opened in 1983 and provided a beach and a section for swimming. Golf at one of the four nearby courses is a popular landside activity.
The majority of access to the lake is through private residential property. About a dozen private marinas provide various public access opportunities, which may be fee-based or free (through some have been recently converted to private, residential developments due to economic and regulatory pressure.) The fee-based Smith Mountain Lake State Park (located on the Bedford County side of the lake off of Smith Mountain Parkway Route 626), the free Smith Mountain Community Park (located on the Franklin County side of Smith Mountain Lake) and six government-managed boat launching ramps also provide public access.
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON NATIONAL PARK
12130 Booker T. Washington Highway, Hardy, VA (540) 721-2094
On April 5, 1856, Booker T. Washington was born a slave on the 207-acre farm of James Burroughs. After the Civil War, Washington became the first principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School. Later as an adviser, author and orator, his past would influence his philosophies as the most influential African American of his era. Come explore his birthplace.
National D-Day Memorial
The National D-Day Memorial is a war memorial located in Bedford, Virginia. It serves as the national memorial for American D-Day veterans. However, its scope is international in that it states, “In Tribute to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944” and commends all Allied Armed Forces during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 during World War II. The memorial, bordering the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia, is an area of over 50 acres (200,000 m2) that overlooks the town of Bedford. It officially opened on June 6, 2001 with 15,000 people present, one of whom was then-President George W. Bush. About 60,000 people have visited the memorial each year. Of those, more than half are from outside of Virginia.
1542 Bateman Bridge Road, Forest, VA (434) 525-1806
More than 200 years after its founding, America has precious well-kept secrets. This is one of them. A National Landmark and U.S. candidate for nomination as a World Heritage Site, Poplar Forest tells the story of one of the most important figures in American History.
This was Thomas Jefferson’s home and plantation in what is now Forest, Bedford County, Virginia, near Lynchburg. He designed it and treated it as a private retreat, working on it from 1806 until his death 20 years later.
Central Virginia offers a wide variety of things to do and places to see.
You may wish to check out the following web-sites while planning your itinerary:
2. Avoca Museum