We have vowed to hike to the top of this summit many times but because the trail is short, we have passed it by. This time we stopped and were treated to some pretty amazing views of the Parkway’s mountain peaks. Devil’s Courthouse is located at milepost 422.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It’s a short but strenuous trail climbing about a half-mile to a summit that offers beautiful panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail UP starts from the overlook parking area located near the mountain. The first part of the trail is mostly-paved, which I don’t like but understand—to prevent more erosion.
According to the signs at the overlook, the sinister rock’s profile is the source of many legends and folk lore. A cave within the mountain is where, legend claims, the devil holds court. (Not a happy thought) In Cherokee lore, this cave is the private dancing chamber and dwelling place of the slant-eyed giant, Judaculla.
Despite its name and reputation, this trail is home to rare and delicate high-altitude plants. Hikers are asked to stay on the paths to protect these, which include the Rock Gnome Lichen and the Spreading Avens. Some of the bloggers that I have read say these alpine species may be remnants from the last glacial period!
While the hike to the summit is short, it’s challenging and unrelenting. But it’s spectacular as it also passes through a shady, mossy, and sweet-smelling forest of balsam fir. We ran into a couple of very wet flat rock areas, which depending on your hiking shoes can be easy and fun or slippery and treacherous. I didn’t have my trusty Keens on, so I chose to stick to the rooted trail on the right. Honestly, I have seen people try to climb this mountain in flip-flops! That just doesn’t work. Chacos yes; but flip-flops or street shoes—no!
Near the top, the path narrows and is easier to hike as it travels through lots of wild flowers.
Devil’s Courthouse is probably one of the most prominent and recognizable mountains on this part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The mountain’s overlook is a popular Parkway picnic spot, with stunning, scenic views of the surrounding rugged landscape. But the views from the overlook are minimal compared to the views from the mountain’s top — which are easily some of the best along the Parkway.
I never grow tired of these views! But if you plan to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway, do it before late fall or winter because the parkway closes often in colder months due to snow and ice. (I just had to drop this in!) Trust me on this one: I have learned this the hard way.
The panoramic views from the summit of Devil’s Courthouse include four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.
On the day we were there, people were climbing over the short Park Service rock wall, so they could stand on the rocky summit. This time of the year, there are nesting Peregrine Falcons and the NPS asks that people not venture out on rocky ledges along the parkway. Why would anyone want to do that anyway at nearly 6,000 feet?