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Devils Marbleyard - Natural Bridge, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
8.3 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
5.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,510 ft
11.3 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
6.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,280 ft
Jefferson National Forest
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There is room for 5 cars at the trail head. Do not park with your tires on Petites Gap Rd. or you may be towed. 37.57119, -79.49190

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.

Both Hikes:
From the parking area cross the footbridge over the east fork of Elk Creek on the blue blazed Belfast Trail. Pass the stone pillars of the old Powhatan summer camp, and in 100 yards cross the intersection of the Glenwood Horse Trail (GHT). Continue straight and in 200 yards there is a large camping area among what's left of the Powhatan Camp building foundations.

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.

Both Hikes:
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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Hiker Reviews For The Devil's Marbleyard Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, October 17, 2016
Used this loop as a backpack/overnight trip, 10/17 through 10/18/16. Following route in direction suggested is a good idea, since going down the blue/Belfast trail (especially with a backpack) is not advised due to loose rock & steep step-downs. The campsite at the Gunter/Belfast trails junction is without water at this time of the year, as is the site at the junction of the AT. Both are in saddles. Closest water to first mentioned campsite is 1/2 mi back toward Marbleyard, in ravine south of trail. On the Gunter Ridge trail, we counted 17 switchbacks, not including the slight one at the top. The GLT is marked with standard rectangular orange blazes, except at the "arrow and orange blazes" sign this was our least favorite portion, but at least the forest road was shaded.

By: Martha Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, June 01, 2016
This was definitely the strenuous hike it was advertised to be. The sign is a little misleading as it states 1 mile from where you can park, must be "as the crow flies" but it's more like 1 1/2. I'm turning 59 this year and not in the best of shape so I hit the proverbial "wall" around .85 of a mile up. I managed to tough it out and was rewarded with a spectacular site! This is one memory (one and done) that I will treasure having climbed it with my daughter, Sarah.

If you hike this one, make sure to really absorb your surroundings. It is Mother Nature at her best!

By: Matt E Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 17, 2016
Hiked the 8 mile loop yesterday. Would have preferred the 11 mile version but we were being mindful of an ankle that was already starting to hurt. The trail up to the Marbleyard is a good way to get the blood flowing but not overly challenging. Scaling the boulder field is a lot of fun but we chose not to climb all the way to the top as we had many more miles ahead (at this point still planned to do 11 miles). The Belfast and Gunter Ridge Trail intersection is well signed and the Gunter Ridge trail was easy to pick up. The Gunter Ridge trail is already a bit overgrown, and I definitely recommend pants and tick checks. It was easy to follow, though. The Glenwood Horse Trail was a pleasant finish to the day. Overall it was a great hike but without some care the Gunter Ridge Trail seems like it would be bother mid summer. One plus is that after we passed the Marbleyard, we did not see any other hikers until we returned to the Belfast trail from the GHT.

By: Chris C Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 01, 2015
The Devil's Marbleyard is really quite spectacular. I've seen many rockfalls in hiking in the mid-Atlantic, but never one with boulders of this size and extent. It is a bit treacherous to cross but is just amazing. A helpful hint: if you want to get to the top of the yard there is a rough trail just to the east of the rocks (on the right looking up) where you can make it up without undue risk to life and limb. The view from near the top is worth it. The Gunter Ridge portion of the trail was not quite as presented here. Maybe a few years ago the views were spectacular, but now things have grown back and you only get occasional glimpses of views through the low trees. Maybe in winter things would be better. The trail was lined with ripe huckleberries though. They were abundant and delicious.

By: Wandering Virgnia Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, February 04, 2015
I hiked this loop in February after first doing the Sulphur Springs/A.T. loop. I did not veer off to Devil's Marbleyard, and am commenting because this is the 2nd time I've hiked the Gunter Ridge Trail. The first was in October. Gunter Ridge appears to be a trail that would be seriously overgrown in Summer, but in late Fall and in Winter, it was in fine shape. That said, I think it is my least favorite trail in the JRF Wilderness. Check out all the other accesses first, or use the Gunter Ridge Trail as the back end of a loop.

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Mid May
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