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

georgia hiking trails: 4-6 miles 5.5 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderaterelatively
moderate
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:on the Blue Ridge Parkway southwest of Asheville, NC

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map

RATED: 4.6/5 (5 reviews)

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.

Mountains to Sea Trail at Devils Courthouse

The hike follows the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) for much of its length, following the trail’s iconic, white circle trail blazes. The MST 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 MST. But the MST’s route is entirely within North Carolina.)

Gorgeous vistas, beautiful forest, abundant wildflowers: this stretch of the MST 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.

Hike the Mountains to Sea Trail to stunning vistas at Devil's Courthouse, climbing high above the Blue Ridge Parkway to Black Balsam Knob. #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

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.

Devils 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.

Departing the mountaintop overlook, the hike retraces its outbound steps to the summit, reaching the MST 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 MST 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.

Mountains to Sea Trail at Devils Courthouse

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 hike 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.

Mountains to Sea Trail at Devils Courthouse

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.


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

Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Trail Rating

RATED: 4.6/5 (5 reviews)

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of The Pisgah Conservancy. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Updates

Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

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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Eric Champlin
Author

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.