Located at milepost 422.4 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Devil's Courthouse has a short but strenuous trail climbing a half mile to its peak with wonderful panoramic mountain views (see photo above). The mostly paved trail starts from the overlook parking area beside the mountain.
A “strenuous trail” it says. A “half mile to its peak” it says. “Mostly paved.”
Strenuous for someone used to hiking mountain trails. Pure insanity for someone used to the flat paved parking lots of Florida.
Sure, it's mostly paved. I would say about two-thirds of the way up is paved, at an incline of 13° (I measured it with an app on my smartphone), which doesn't sound like much, but you try to walk over a quarter mile on a 13° incline. Every ten feet or so is a small bump across the paved path. I suspect it's to stop people when they stumble and start rolling downhill.
The last third or so of the path is gravel and loose rocks at the same 13° incline, making a fun game of “Break the Ankle!” And then, when you think it can't get any worse—stairs!
The day started out beautifully. Not a cloud in the sky, a bit brisk, and a leasurely drive out of Brevard, up US-276 North to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The drive along US-276 was an explosion of colors here and there—we definitely caught the tail end of Peak Leaf Season.
Once on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stopped at the Pisgah Inn for lunch. Bunny ordered the Turkey, Brie and Apple Wrap with a side of pumpkin soup (“It's like slurping a pumpkin pie,” she said) and I ordered the char broiled whole trout, filleted tableside. It was quite delicious.
After lunch (desert—homemade blackberry cobbler), we headed south along the Blue Ridge Parkway towards the Devil's Courthouse. The drive was nerveracking. All I wanted to do was rubberneck at the passing vistas around every curve, but at the same time, I couldn't move my eyes off the road, lest I launch headlong into a cliff or worse, launch headlong off a cliff. Bunny was trying her best not to “Ohh” and “Ahh” too much.
We did stop a few times at some overlooks. At one, we caught two guys tracking a bear with hand-held radio equipment (it became clear that the bear must have been radio tagged) and a serious camera. Bunny and I never did see the bear.
Eventually, we reached our destination, The Devil's Courthouse.
Well, the base of The Devil's Courthouse. We still had that halfmile hike to contend with.
You would think that once at the top, it would be easy going down. The stairs were hard, seeing how they were broken slabs of rough hewn rock. Then the gravel portion was tricky to keep your foot from shooting out from beneath you on loose gravel. But in an ironic twist, walking down that 13° paved incline was just as bad as going up. You have to lean back to keep from tumbling down, so your feet plop down at this extended angle that's tiring. It's a different tiring than trugding up the trail, but it's tiring nonetheless. I actually found it easier to walk backwards down the trail, but as Bunny mentioned, you can't see where you are going.
Did I mention that view?