Blue Ridge Parkway

Devils Courthouse: hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail to Black Balsam Knob

Hike the Mountains to Sea Trail to stunning vistas at Devil's Courthouse, climbing high above the Blue Ridge Parkway to Black Balsam Knob.

trail info

5.5 miles
(round trip)
moderate
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:on the Blue Ridge Parkway southwest of Asheville, NC (maps & directions)

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and our favorite outdoor apparel

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map

Mile for mile, this five-and-a-half-miler on the Mountains to Sea Trail packs in a staggering amount of scenic beauty along its stretch, traveling to overlook after steep overlook and a generous number of breathtaking views. Starting the adventure on the Devil’s Courthouse Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway, it ascends the sinister-looking mountain before paralleling the Parkway through fragrant balsam forest, catching gorgeous views from multiple overlooks. Dipping elevation, the trail winds through wildflower-covered rock outcrops to the Art Loeb trailhead at Black Balsam Knob, offering an extended hike to the knob’s legendary high-elevation grasslands covered in wildflowers and wild blueberries.

This is one amazing, scenery-packed hike.

Hike the Mountains to Sea Trail to stunning views from Devil's Courthouse and Black Balsam Knob near Asheville, NCAbove: hike the Mountains to Sea Trail from Devil’s Courthouse, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

The hike follows the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) for much of its length, following the trail’s iconic, white circle trail blazes. The Mountains to Sea Trail is a trail of epic length. The trail is still a work in progress, but when finished, the trail will connect from the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the dune-covered shores of North Carolina’s Outer Banks – a staggering distance of 1150 miles. (In comparison, the AT spans 13 states, and spans double the distance of the Mountains to Sea Trail. But the MST’s route is entirely within North Carolina.)

Hike to gorgeous views from the Devil's Courthouse summit and Black Balsam Knob on the Mountains to Sea Trail in Western NC

Gorgeous vistas, beautiful forest, abundant wildflowers: this stretch of the Mountains to Sea Trail is a definite must-hike. If you go, be sure to watch your step: the overlooks on this hike are sheer and drop off suddenly. But the views are absolutely incredible, and the forest is sublimely beautiful.

Devil’s Courthouse to Black Balsam Knob: the hike

The adventure begins at the Devil’s Courthouse overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway (view maps and driving directions), trailing alongside the Parkway on a paved path and then veering right, diving into the forest. The hike begins an abrupt, steep climb through a sunlight-dappled forest filled with fir and fern. At .3 miles, the pavement ends at a trail intersection; a spur trail leads to the left, connecting to the Mountains to Sea Trail. The hike turns right, continuing the climb to Devil’s Courthouse.

The hike summits Devil’s Courthouse at just under a half mile, catching stunning, nearly 360-degree views from the rocky outcrop. On a clear day, views extend into three states. Bronze plaques mark the locations of near and distant summits scattered around the jagged, craggy precipice.

Hike the Mountains to Sea Trail to the view-packed Devil's Courthouse summit, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville

Departing the mountaintop overlook, the hike retraces its outbound steps to the summit, reaching the Mountains to Sea spur trail at .6 mile. The hike follows the spur, leaving the often-busy Devil’s Courthouse Trail behind, and catching some solitude in a shady forest of balsam fir. The spur reaches the white-blazed Mountains to Sea Trail at .7 miles, turning right on the MST to hike northeast, crossing several small streams via wooden bridges and meandering through the mossy, fern-filled balsam forest. The trail climbs elevation steadily, reaching a side trail to the first of several towering overlooks at 1.5 miles. Views stretch far and wide from the overlook, and the Blue Ridge Parkway meanders far below.

 

Hike to exceptional views from Black Balsam Knob and Devil's Courthouse on the Mountains to Sea Trail in North Carolina

The trail dips elevation through a saddle before climbing through a dense canopy of mountain laurel, cresting Silvermine Bald. Side trails near the Silvermine summit lead to additional view-packed overlooks.

The Mountains to Sea Trail reaches a junction with the Art Loeb Trail at 1.9 miles. The hike rolls elevation after veering to the north, dipping through fern-filled balsam forests and stretching across wide, sun-drenched expanses of rock covered in grasses and wildflowers.

Hike to gorgeous views from Black Balsam Knob on the Mountains to Sea Trail south of Asheville, NC

The MST dives into a dense forest of balsam fir, nearing this hike’s end. The hike reaches the paved Black Balsam Knob Road at 2.9 miles, completing this adventure, and turns to follow its outbound route in reverse to return to the Devil’s Courthouse parking area.

Extend the hike on the Art Loeb Trail

Up for more mileage, and more abundant summit views? At this hike’s end, cross the paved road and follow the Art Loeb Trail to the Black Balsam Knob summit to catch some seriously beautiful 360-degree panoramas. The trail rolls over a series of grassy balds before climbing to the gleaming white quartz-capped summit of Shining Rock Mountain and onward to Cold Mountain, the highest peak in the Shining Rock Wilderness.

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Mountains to Sea Trail: Devils Courthouse to Black Balsam Knob Map, Directions & Details

Mountains to Sea Trail: Devils Courthouse to Black Balsam Knob Map
Mountains to Sea Trail: Devils Courthouse to Black Balsam Knob Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free (limited) parking is available at the Devil's Courthouse overlook at MP 422 on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)

GPS Coordinates

35.305100, -82.899417     //     N35 18.306 W82 53.965

Elevation Profile

Devils Courthouse to Black Balsam Knob: Mountains to Sea Trail Elevation Profile
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Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.
 
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