The Johnson Farm Trail is a 2.1-mile loop hiking trail that guides visitors to historic Johnson Farm, which was built in 1854.
This hike begins to the right of the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center in Bedford, Virginia. The trailhead is steps off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 85.6.
The farm was occupied by Johnson family members until the early-1940s. It was restored in 1974. You’ll see a farmhouse, weaving shed and apple house.
Costumed living history demonstrations take place at Johnson Farm on a seasonal basis, typically in warm weather months.
|Elevation Gain||301 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly dirt & gravel trails|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
Johnson Farm Trail
From the east end of the parking area, follow an easy 0.3-mile walking path until you see signs for the Johnson Farm Loop Trail.
There are two paths that lead up to the farm. I opted for the second path for a counter-clockwise hike to Johnson Farm. Since it’s a loop, either way is fine.
You’ll shortly reach a clearing that was once the site of the Hotel Mons, a popular mountain resort that dates to 1857.
By the 1920s, the resort complex expanded to include two lodge buildings, several cottages and a smattering of outbuildings.
An educational placard displays photos of the property from 1930. The resort closed in the late-1930s. It was later torn down by the National Park Service.
A concrete marker points the way and you’ll soon be back in the forest. You’ll pass a wooden bench, then reach a gravel road at the 0.9-mile mark.
Turn left for a mild ascent to Johnson Farm. You’ll see another bench, then a square post with a message written from the perspective of the land.
The message reads:
“I am an old-time country land. For many years cows clattered back and forth over me, wagons rumbled up and down, children raced and farmers plowed-wearing me deeper and deeper into the earth. Now I am empty and silent, unused, unwanted, forgotten. Ah, but what stories I could tell!”
At the 1.1-mile mark, you’ll reach Johnson Farm. Take a walk around to check out the various restored buildings and signage.
In the center is a white four-room log cabin. A placard features floor plans, as well as photos of the original rooms and a map of the farm property.
Once you’ve finished visiting Johnson Farm, continue on, up a small hill to re-connect with the Johnson Farm Trail. You’ll see another placard about the farm.
From here, it’s a mostly forested downhill walk to close the loop at the 1.8-mile mark. Then, turn right to proceed to the visitor center.
If you’re up for it, there is the option to hike to Harkening Hill. At 3,372 feet tall, this is the smallest and most underrated of the Peaks of Otter.
To reach Harkening Hill, turn right onto a side trail at the 1.4-mile mark. This route leads to Harkening Hill and Balance Rock.
If you were to continue past Harkening Hill, you would continue looping and end at the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center. This is a 4.2-mile loop hike.
From the visitor center, this loop hike to explore Johnson Farm took me less than one hour, including time spent reading placards and walking the property.
In late fall and winter, you can enjoy great views through leafless trees, including views of Sharp Top and Flat Top.
On my visit to hike the Johnson Farm Trail, everything was closed up for the season, including the Peaks of Otter Lodge and the Sharp Top Store.
However, you can still leave your car and explore more of the area. The trailhead for the 3.3-mile Sharp Top hike is across the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Alternatively, you can walk a paved 1.0-mile trail around Abbott Lake. This is also across the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center.