Devil’s Marbleyard

  • Highlights: Amazing rock scramble and great views
  • Distance: 3.8 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 1,150 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate/Strenuous
  • Trailhead Parking: VA 781 (Petites Gap Road) small parking area at Belfast Trailhead, 4.5 miles south of Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Website: US Forest Service
  • Beer Pairings: Great Valley Farm Brewery—IPA & Coffee Stout

The Hike:

This hike is unlike any other in Virginia. The giant boulder field is nearly .25 miles long and over 100 yards wide. It’s a rock scramble lovers dream! Some of the boulders are the size of a small car. The Marbleyard is in direct sun and the parking area is small so either get an early start or come late and watch the sunset. Much of the rock scramble is hand and foot climbing so gloves may be helpful. The rocks can be slippery when wet so be careful out there.

Devil’s Marbleyard is accessed via the Belfast Trail. From the parking area, follow the signs over a footbridge that spans a small creek. The blue-blazed Belfast Trail begins as a wide sandy path as you walk past the stone foundations of Camp Powhatan. Continue to follow the blue blazes as a horse trail briefly joins the Belfast Trail. 

Bear right at a junction as the trail begins to become very rocky and also begins a steady climb. There are several stream crossings and the trail is rather steep at some points. At about 1.5 miles you will reach the base of the boulder field. The Belfast Trail continues sharply uphill to the right of Devil’s Marbleyard. Kathy elected to remain on the Belfast Trail to the summit. However, the fun begins on the unmarked scramble as you climb to the top of the Marbleyard.

From the base of the boulder field, you can only see about 1/3 of the Marbleyard. As you climb you reach a second section and then finally the third section at the top of the Marbleyard. Some of the smaller rocks may move a bit; however, the larger boulders are very stable. We heard reports of snakes on the rocks; however, we didn’t see any during our early morning hike. It’s a good idea to look first before putting your hands or feet on a rock. There is not a recommended path to the top. The climb requires some back and forth climbing as you find the best route up.

The views from the top are well worth the effort. The Marbleyard faces the west and sunsets are amazing here. The rocks take on a golden hue as the sun begins to set. We found climbing up to be easier than climbing back down. Those with younger knees will find the downhill climb to be more fun on the main boulder field. Pete climbed up on the Marbleyard and met Kathy on the Belfast Trail and we both came down on that trail. At the bottom of the boulders, retrace your steps down the Belfast Trail to the parking area and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

About 20 minutes from the trailhead in nearby Natural Bridge, is Great Valley Farm Brewery. This small batch craft-brewery is also a small winery. They have food trucks on weekends and great views of the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains.

Kathy really liked their IPA which is brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops combined with Norwegian Kveik yeast. At 35 IBUs, it isn’t over the top in hoppiness but it was refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. Pete really wanted to try the pilsner but sadly they had just kicked the keg so he opted for the other end of the beer spectrum and had the Coffee Stout. It is brewed with Lexington Coffee Roasters beans and cacao nibs. This stout has some nice chocolate and coffee notes and was easy to drink while sitting in an Adirondack chair enjoying the views.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe and be responsible.