There are two versions of this hike. The first passes the Devil's Marbleyard, a hillside of boulders with some as large as a truck, and continues down the Gunter Ridge Trail. The second version adds a 3.0 mile out and back hike along the Appalachian Trail, which reaches one of the most spectacular 360° panoramas in Virginia.
The Belfast Trail trail veers left here, crossing a creek, then arriving at another junction of the GHT. Stay right following the blue blazed Belfast Trail. From this point there are no further blazes along the Belfast Trail. The trail will become steeper crossing a stream two more times before reaching the bottom tip of Devil's Marbleyard in 1.0 miles.
The trail stays to the right of Devils' Marbleyard, and in 0.1 miles there is access through the scrub to the main boulder field. If you spend some time rock-hopping make sure to rejoin the Belfast Trail at the same point you entered, as there isn't any trail access higher in the boulder field. Continue up the Belfast Trail as it veers away from Devil's Marbleyard through a ravine, then arrives at the top of the ridge and junction of the Gunter Ridge Trail in 0.9 miles.
For The Additional 3.0 Mile Out/Back Along the AT:
Turn right and in 0.5 miles reach the end of the Belfast Trail and intersection of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Stay right along the ridge on the now white blazed AT as it continues down to the right, through a small saddle, and back up before arriving at a 100 yard clear section of the AT. Just before the open area of the trail reenters the tree line turn left uphill through the underbrush, and in 30 yards reach the ridge. This clearing, along the un-maintained Sulphur Spring Trail, is known as the 'Helicopter Pad', and has one of the most spectacular 360° views in the state of Virginia.
To continue, retrace the route 1.5 miles back to the intersection of the Gunter Ridge Trail you passed earlier.
If you are hiking the shorter loop only, turn left on the Gunter Ridge Tail. For the the out/back addition on the AT, now continue straight on the Gunter Ridge Trail.
The Gunter Ridge Trail is not blazed, and is marked on the map here in red. In 0.3 miles pass through a small saddle, then descend along the north side of the mountain before the trail heads back to the ridge line. Once along the ridge there are views in every direction. A fire, caused by lightning, burnt this section of Gunter Ridge in 2002 and almost no large trees remain.
Begin to descend more steeply, and the trail makes 14 switchbacks before leveling out near the valley floor. Pass through a wooden horse gate and follow the trail to the left. Cross Little Hellgate Creek, and in 0.5 miles the Gunter Ridge Trail ends at the Glenwood Horse Trail (GHT). This section of the GHT is an old forestry road.
Turn left on the orange GHT. There aren't any trail markings on the GHT at this point, so don't be concerned if you don't see any. The GHT will wind around the mountain, then in 0.8 miles stay right following the orange diamonds where a side FS road leads uphill. In 0.3 miles pass another FS road that turns back to the left, and 200 yards further make a sharp switchback to the left continuing to follow the orange diamonds. 0.8 miles from here the GHT reaches the intersection of the Belfast Trail you ascended earlier.
Turn right, and in 60 yards stay right again following the orange diamonds. In 240 yards turn left at the arrow and orange diamonds, cross a small stream, and in 300 yards reach the intersection of the Belfast Trail. Turn right on the Belfast Trail for 100 yards re-crossing the east fork of Elk Creek and arrive back at the parking area.
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Reviews For The Devil's Marbleyard Hike (5 Most Recent)
This was my first time back to the Marble Yard since 2009. When I was there in 2009, apparently it was not too long after a fire had ravaged the area at the top of the boulder field. So, this time, the terrain looked different and somewhat unfamiliar. I wanted to take a group there that had never been to the Marble Yard, so the intent of our hike was just to go to the boulder field, up, and come back. One of these days, I would like to do the complete loop.
Getting to the parking area: I definitely suggest taking a route from the west since Petite Gap's Road from the Marble Yard to the BRP is a narrow gravel road. The route coming from the west is a paved road. On a nice weather day in October, I expected the parking area to be full, and it was. There were many cars parked on the north side of the road. I found a relatively safe area to the west of the parking area so I could park my car completely off the road. There were a few cars with their tires on the road, and I told my companions that they might get towed. I don't think they did this time, though.
The hike to the boulder field: there are a few easy creek crossings that might be more difficult during the rainy season, but they were no problem for even those in my group with tennis shoes. The hike steadily increased upwards and got more rocky, but since I knew the base of the Marble Yard "sneaks up" on you, I got to see the reaction to the people in my group that had never seen the boulders. It's quite a priceless look when you see someone see the boulders for the first time, so that's a good time to video someone if you can catch them. The hike to the base took about 45 minutes from the road.
The hike up the boulder field: this is where it gets interesting. There are so many different ways to get up the rocks, many easier than others, and many much more dangerous than others. I scraped my shin on a shifting rock, so that was slightly painful. But just be aware that getting up the rocks will put a lot of stress on your muscles and joints. I remember this being easier four years ago! Be sure to bring sunscreen even during the cooler months because there isn't any shade out there on the rocks. The trip up took around 2 houlrs, I think. I didn't time the hike since we weren't going on distance.
At the top of the boulder field: we brought some lunch and snacks and decided to eat, but it was almost unbearable because of the amount of stink bugs this time of the year. The area at the top was definitely not as enjoyable as I remember. Going when the leaves are off the trees might give a better view.
Getting back: I wanted to boulder back down the rocks, but the rest in my group wanted to take the Belfast trail back, so we ventured south from the top of the boulder field over what appeared to be a trodden path towards the trail. If you want to do this, just keep heading downwards to the valley and you will eventually hit the Belfast trail. From there, it's about 15 minutes to the base of the boulder field and 30-45 minutes back out.
Date of Hike: Friday, September 06, 2013
I hiked up to the Marbleyard then completed the 8.3 mile loop hike back to the old camp Powhatan site and camped there for the night. Overall very enjoyable. I will certainly be going back. I saw one other group at the marbleyard, and a young couple came into camp Powhatan Saturday morning to hunt squirrels, but otherwise I had the place to myself. The Gunter Ridge trail in the area that burned is getting rather over grown with quite a bit of brush growing into the trail. I failed to take precautions and got a very bad of case of chiggers from that area. Also a prime area for ticks, so I was just dumb not to put on repellent. If you plan on filtering water from the creeks as you go: Plenty of trailside water up to the marbleyard, but then none until you come down off the mountain and hit Little Hell Gate Creek. Plenty of water from then on. The sections of trail just before and just after the marbleyard are the hardest spots the rest of the hike is fairly easy. When you get to the intersection of the Belfast and Gunter Ridge trails, there is a small flat area with a fire ring. All of the "gravel" you see on the ground there are flakes of Antietam quartzite left by Native Americans as they worked the stone to make blades and arrowheads. If you watch the trail you will find similar chip piles in places where fine textured quartzite is eroding out of the mountain, again, left by ancient craftsmen working the stone to make tools.
Date of Hike: Friday, April 05, 2013
Me and 4 friends decide to hike the yard on a Friday before a trip to Three Ridges. This (early spring) must be the best time of year to go, we saw none of the overgrowth described in previous reviews. A little leftover snow, but air temperature was high enough we stripped down to t-shirts early on. Parking lot is very small, but our two cars were the only ones there at 9:30 on that Friday (lots of cars there on our return). Didn't see anyone else on the trails. Both the climb to the top of the boulder field, and the view from the top are spectacular!
Three things I didn't like though:
1. Lack of a trail from the top of the boulder field is annoying. We bushwacked from up top due south (downhill) to rejoin the Belfast Trail.
2. Grafitti on the rocks. Mostly, the yard is free from trash and other vandalism, but in a few key spots, some horse's behind decided to express their affections with purple spray paint. Why?
3. Did the out and back on the AT. View is nice, but I wouldn't call it one of the best in Virginia. I'd do it again, but I'm a distance junkie.
Date of Hike: Monday, May 28, 2012
Memorial Day. The Marble Yard is great and by far the best part of the hike. We were the first folks in the parking area at 10:30am but cars started coming in as we got ready to start. When we left the parking area was full and twelve more vehicles lined the road hugging the grass. If predatory towing is the name of the game - it sure wasn't this day. The trail past the Yard is a bit... brutal and be sure you watch your footing climbing the rocks/roots. Once you clear that the "hard" part is over and the rest of the trail is a bit drab. I will return to climb and play in the Yard again - but it will be an out and back to the Yard and back (about 1.2 miles each way). As we left the Yard some families started coming into the Yard area with smaller children (4 - 7ish) and the rocks nor the bit of trail past the Yard are fit for them in my opinion/observation.
Date of Hike: Saturday, May 26, 2012
What more can I say about this hike but IT SUCKED. And for us to say that, it takes a lot. We have been hiking a wide variety of trails in the past year and are definitely not picky when it comes to being outdoors. I really wish the hike was an in and out to Devil's Marbleyard. We hiked the entire hike all the way to the AT then down the unblazed red trail to the 14 switchbacks and down the fire road. So our GPS said we did 12.4 miles in 7 hours with bouldering Devil's Marbleyard. So the good part of the hike was bouldering on Devil's Marbleyard. You could definitely spend all day there if you wanted and definitely suggest that as a great workout. The bad part of the hike was after that&hellipafter you arrive at the junction of the Gunter Ridge Trail in 0.9 miles, you turn right and the half mile to get to the AT is knee high in weeds coving the entire trail. What was stated as the most spectacular 360° views in the state of Virginia is not even close, so needless to say we were disappointed. Maybe a long time ago it was great, now it is covered by trees and weeds. After your return to the Gunter Ridge Trail and the so called no blazed red trail is not maintained and bushwhacking is needed. This is about 5.5 miles of stickers scratching your legs, getting attacked by locusts, and not knowing if a snake is on the trail&hellipdue to not being able to see the trail. Getting on the fire road was a little confusing, after the horse gate passes the creek you get to what looks like a left turn for the fire road just stay strait for about 5 minutes and then you turn to the right. Now let's talk about deer ticks. We pulled about 30 off our all from legs shoes from the over grow plants on the trial. That was with having Permethrin on our clothes and Deet lotion and spray on our bodies. As Sharon stated in a previous review, the cops are out and the parking is very tight. So, if you get to parking lot after 9:00 AM I would say you are risking getting towed. We arrived at 8:45 and only had one other car in parking lot, but before we got our packs on, another car pulled in. At 4:15 when we finished, the lot was packed, people even parked alongside of road (noting they were 100% not on any part of the road, so they wouldn't be towed) and 2 cars were waiting for us to leave. Also, on the way out a car was getting pulled over 3 minutes away from trail head. So if you are up to the challenge to boulder, we suggest only going to the top of Devil's Marbleyard, but if you want a good hike, try to find a better one in the area.