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Cautionary Note: This trail is challenging, with multiple unimproved stream crossings that require visitors to wade through water and a 1,200-foot elevation change. There are also no facilities (such as drinking water or restrooms) along the trail, so visitors are encouraged to come prepared, wear sturdy footwear, and check the weather beforehand as the area is subject to flash flooding.
The Devil’s Fork Loop Trail provides an impressively beautiful route through an old-growth hemlock and rhododendron forest. Amazing rock formations, waterfalls, swimming holes, and mountain views give you plenty to see and do, but keep one eye on the trail, as the going can be rough—while the trail is maintained regularly, excessive use and its re-mote location have resulted in challenging conditions. The trail follows yellow blazes for its entire 7 miles, but it is often difficult to find the blazes and the path, which in several places scrambles over large rocks or up steep cliff faces.
Heading west from the U.S. Forest Service parking lot, the trail makes its first stream crossing of Devil’s Fork in about 0.25 mile. Be prepared to get your feet wet. This, like many of the trail’s water crossings, has very slippery rocks and seasonally changing water levels. After this, the trail breaks in two directions. The less strenuous route is to the left, following the loop clockwise. This also lets you hit the highlights of the trail much sooner.
A 3-mile portion of the trail lies on an old railbed. The railroad was used to transport logs and coal, and an abandoned coal car sits on the trail about halfway up Little Mountain. The corridor is narrower and its grade much steeper than a standard-gauge railway.
The trail’s main attraction is Devil’s Bathtub (or “the Tub”), located 1.5 miles from the start. The rushing water of Devil’s Fork shoots out of the soft sandstone and swirls quickly through this stone luge, plummeting into a beautiful pool of blue-green water.
Approximately 1 mile of the trail is being rerouted between the first stream crossing and the Tub. Once finished, the rerouting project will eliminate six to eight stream crossings, enhance visitor safety and way-finding, and improve highly degraded trail conditions resulting from overuse. Improvements to the trail surface near the Tub are also being planned.
Another trail highlight, shortly after the Tub, is the 50-foot waterfall at the mouth of Corder Hollow. The trail enters a very different landscape as you leave Devil’s Fork and begin hiking along the ridges of several mountains. The forest has little underbrush, and the path can be easily lost.
Your adventure concludes on an old logging road with about a mile of steep switchbacks heading toward the loop’s end, where you cross Devil’s Fork for the last time. You can continue hiking by taking the 1.8-mile Straight Fork Ridge Trail via the parking lot. The scenery on Straight Fork Ridge is similar to that of the Devil’s Fork Loop Trail, but the latter is considered the more interesting of the two trails.
From US 58 Alternate, take State Route 72 south toward Fort Blackmore. In Dungannon, SR 72 merges with SR 65. Just before they separate in Fort Blackmore, take SR 619 to the right. Alternatively, you can take US 23/58/421 (Daniel Boone Heritage Hwy.) toward Gate City. In Gate City, continue going straight as the road becomes East Jackson Street and, ultimately, SR 71. Head east on SR 71 for a little over a mile. From here, take SR 72 to the left toward Fort Blackmore. Shortly after SR 65 and SR 72 merge, turn left onto SR 619 then follow SR 653 for a short segment; when they break, look for the Devils Fork sign where SR 619 takes a sharp left and becomes Forest Road 619 (there is no street sign).
Travel over the one-lane bridge and turn left just before the abandoned white house. Follow this unmarked dirt road to the end, where you will find parking for the trail. The road to the parking lot is very rutted and may not be accessible by all vehicles. You will pass the trailhead on your right just before you reach the parking lot; there are also stairs up to the trail from the parking lot.
Cautionary note: The access road to the U.S. Forest Service’s dirt/gravel parking lot serving this trail has private property on both sides, and the owner does not permit parking here. Please be courteous and respectful to all adjacent landowners. Do not park on private property or block local access routes for other visitors and emergency vehicles. Vehicles are occasionally towed on busy days because they have blocked entry/exit.
The road to the parking lot is very rutted and may require a high-clearance vehicle. You will pass the trailhead on your right just before you reach the parking lot; there are also stairs up to the trail from the parking lot. The parking lot can comfortably accommodate no more than seven cars. If you get to the trail and find no parking spots available, additional trail parking can be found at Stony Creek Park, adjacent to VA 619, approximately 0.5 mile from the trailhead. Stony Creek Park officially opened in November 2020 and contains a restroom, Wi-Fi, trout stream access, and a lawn area, in addition to overflow parking for the trail.
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