Attraction of the Week: Devil’s Courthouse on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Driving the Pisgah portion (MP 339-469) of the Blue Ridge Parkway is a must do if you are vacationing in or near Asheville. Located an easy daytrip distance from the city, the drive is a great way to explore the beauty of the Blue Ridge mountains. From waterfalls, to state parks, to dramatic overlooks, to summit hikes, there’s something along this spectacular drive for everyone. A hike is the best way to immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring natural surroundings. One of the best hikes is a short, yet steep trek up to Devil’s Courthouse. This simple hike clocks in at under a mile, leading you up to the 5720 foot summit. From here, you will enjoy one of the most spectacular viewpoints on the Parkway.
Devil’s Courthouse is located at an altitude of 5720 feet in the Appalachian mountain range. While not one of the tallest summits in the state of North Carolina, the views from the overlook are quite tremendous. Considering the little effort required to enjoy such a world-class view, hiking this trail is definitely near the top of the list of best bang-for-your-buck experiences on the Parkway.
Conveniently located right along the Parkway at Milepost 422, the summit hike is easily accessible. Many other hikes in the Pisgah National Forest require a tiresome drive down a bumpy Forest Service Road where it can be difficult to find the start of the trailhead. This trail, on the other hand, begins right from the paved parking lot.
The 1/2 mile trail to the overlook is mostly paved, asides from a small portion near the end that requires a relatively easy scramble up rocks. While you are giving your entire lower body a powerful workout, the smell of a fresh fir-spruce forest will keep you invigorated and motivated to finish. The cooler weather up here is quite a refreshing break. Take your time, take breaks if needed, and drink plenty of water. The intensity is definitely moderate/hard as this is a steep trail for the entirety. Luckily, it’s short so after working up a sweat you can kick back and enjoy the fabulous view.
A few views going up the trail
Oddly, this trail is not heavily visited, so you may be lucky enough to enjoy the 360 degree views all to yourself. This is easily one of the best sunset viewing destinations on the Parkway. On a clear day, you can see all the way into South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and even the Smoky Mountains.
Stunning views of the mountains, especially at sunset!
Sunrise is another fabulous time to plan your visit. Check out these views!
And finally, leaf peeping season is also stunning
Take note that at this high of an elevation (about 3000 ft higher than Asheville), the temps can be much cooler. Bring with a sweater or jacket just in case. And as is the case in every hike, good hiking shoes are a must. Stay on the trail and do not climb on the overlook. Rare high altitude plant life such as rock gnome lichen live on the rock and could possibly be remnants from the last glacial period. A popular bird watching oasis, you will want to be on the lookout for winter wren, eagles, warblers, and Peregrine falcons.
Legend of the name
Of course, you are probably wondering why such a magnificent overlook came to have a such a sinister name. First off, the evil look of the rock formation could have contributed to the name. Legend says that the devil held court in a cave beneath the rock. According to Cherokee legends, a slant-eyed giant named Judaculla dances and resides in the cave.
Take the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville to Milepost 422. Plan a little extra time to enjoy the views via the majestic overlooks. Many locals and tourists bring with a picnic to enjoy alongside one of the overlooks. Additionally, there is one picnic table at the Devil’s Courthouse overlook. The overlook itself is quite stunning as it features a grand view of the Courthouse outcropping, plus the surrounding mountains. Parking is free. You will see a small side trail which leads from the lot to the start of the trail in the woods.
What to do nearby
Just a few miles down the road lies Graveyard Fields, one of the Parkway’s more popular destinations. Take the short trail (just a quarter of a mile or so, plus a few staircases) to Second Falls. This gorgeous waterfall looks amazing in fall when surrounded by colorful foliage, yet enchanting all the same anytime of the year. Note: There is also a longer trail to the Upper Falls (about 3 miles) although it is rocky and steep and best suited for avid hikers with a few hours to spare. Hike begins at Milepost 418.8.
Where to eat
Depending on whether you are planning an early morning or sunset hike, there are a number of great options in Asheville. Rated one of the South’s best foodie destinations, Asheville draws in many tourists for the food scene alone. Here are a few options to consider.
Breakfast – Biscuit Head (giant cathead biscuits and gravy flights), All Day Darling (Great coffee and pastries)
Lunch – Apollo Flame Bistro (Tasty Greek food), Chai Pani (Great Indian lunch thalis), Andaaz (upscale Indian buffet)
Dinner – Nine Mile (unique Caribbean inspired pasta dishes), Vinnie’s (authentic old school Italian)