For a unique outdoor experience in the Appalachians of Virginia, place Devil's Marbleyard Trail on your hiking bucket list. A geological wonder, the 8-acre field of boulders offers Olympic-scaled, rock scrambling fun.
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Mid Atlantic

Devil's Marbleyard Trail Overview

A short drive from Cave Mountain Lake Campground (20 min), we arrived at the trailhead ready to trek up to the challenging field of gigantic quartzite rocks. We chose to include the Devil's Marbleyard Trail for its unusual features as part of a series of unique activities for our Virginia camping trip (Natural Bridge State Park; Virginia Safari Park).

  • Trailhead:¬†Belfast Trail (blue blaze)
  • Hike length:¬†3 miles RT (3-4 hours, depending on time spent playing in the boulder field)
  • Hike Rating:¬†Strenuous - bring plenty of water and proper hiking shoes
  • Restrictions:¬†group size is limited to no more than 10 people. Dogs are allowed on the trail.

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Devil's Marbleyard Parking

We stuck to our routine for hiking popular trails: arrive early and on a weekday (Avalanche Peak Trail; Beehive Trail). The parking area off Petites Gap Rd is small. (It holds less than 6 cars.) If the lot is full, make sure that you park with all four wheels off the road and not on private property. Towing is actively enforced.

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Devil's Marbleyard Trailhead

From the parking area, look for the Belfast Trailhead sign. From there, follow a foot bridge over East Fork Elk Creek and find another sign for Belfast and follow the blue blazes. At this point, it is little over a mile to the base of the marble yard.

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Devil's Marbleyard Ascent

A bit further in, we passed through the pillars of an old abandoned summer camp. Although the trail was adequately marked, the blue blazes petered out, making me slightly uneasy that we had taken a wrong turn.

Watch your step on the rocky, root-filled path. The trail becomes significantly steeper and has several stream crossings. We took several water breaks to catch our breath. When you arrive at the base of Devil's Marbleyard, the Belfast Trail turns upward to the right of the rocks. This is another place to exercise caution - it is steep, has even more rocks, and is slick with water.

Devil's Marbleyard Boulder Scrambling

The best time to make this hike would be either spring or fall. We were hiking here in mid-November with sapphire skies, crisp air, and colorful leaves. It would be a hard hike in summer months with high humidity, heat, and no relief from the sun out amongst the rocks.

You can't see the trail when you are out scrambling on the boulders, so we marked our entry with a bright pink jacket. The boulders range anywhere from the size of a couch to a school bus. Some are unstable so watch your step.

With the climbing and leaping around, definitely zip up the backpacks and jacket pockets. A mishap occurred when my daughter's pocket knife slipped out, fell between the rocks, and dropped into a pile of leaves.  It turns out the knife was a sentimental heirloom from her grandfather. We were stunned as we stared into the crevice unsure if we could even spot it, much less squeeze through to get it. We were also aware of the possibility of snakes and spiders. Not willing to give up, she bravely lowered herself down to search with her pen flashlight. Lo and behold, she saw it glittering and crawled in between the boulders to retrieve it. Despite the slight risks, it's definitely worth the hike to see this unique location.

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Posted 
Dec 30, 2020
 in 
Mid Atlantic
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