A hiking family standing atop Devil's Courthouse Trail summit
The summit of the Devil’s Courthouse is easy to get to and has fantastic views.

Devil’s Courthouse Trail Is Short And Sweet

Tucked away in the lush landscapes of Balsam Grove, North Carolina, lies a favorite of both outdoor enthusiasts and the once-endangered Peregrine Falcone: the Devil’s Courthouse Trail. This easy and family-friendly hiking trail is right off the Blueridge Parkway (at milepost 422.4). At just under 1 mile out-and-back, and with a good portion of the trail paved, the Devil’s Courthouse Trail will afford you a very accessible way to experience the breathtaking panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond.

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The Peregrines At The Devil’s Courthouse

It’s fortunate that nowadays if you hike the Devil’s Courthouse trail, and if you have a fast enough eye, you’ll likely spot a Peregrine Falcon, as before 1999, they were still included on the endangered species list.

peregrine falcon sign at the Devil's Courthouse Trail

We mention your eye speed because as the world’s fastest creature, soaring at 65 mph (104 kmh) and with the fastest recorded speed of 242 mph (389 kmh) in a divebomb, they really are quite zippy!

The Peregrines return to this area each year to mate with their same mate for life (indeed, they are monogamous), and since humans have done a good job of staying on the hiking trails in this area and not disturbing their habitat, it seems they will continue to return for years to come.

So, to state it explicitly, if you and your family do decide to enjoy this easy yet rewarding trail, don’t go bushwhacking. The Peregrines thank you in advance! And, you’ll potentially avoid a whopping fine and some jail time!

National Park Service closure sign on the Devil’s Courthouse Trail

Trail Information – Fast Facts

Even though the Devil’s Courthouse Trail is short and sweet, before lacing up your hiking boots and setting out, understanding the trail’s dynamics is important.

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.0-mile round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 250 feet
  • Duration: Approximately 1-1.5 hours

Trail Description and Points of Interest

As you embark on the Devil’s Courthouse Trail, you’ll begin by paralleling the Blueridge Parkway on an asphalt pedestrian sidewalk.

two young boys hiking on the beginning of the Devil's Courthouse Trail

Soon, however, the sidewalk turns away from the parkway and uphill into the forest.

woman and her two sons hiking up the Devil's Courthouse Trail

A short while later, the asphalt ends, and you’ll find yourself on a gravel path.

toddler hiking on a gravel path

Next, you’ll find yourself in a short section with some stone steps.

toddler hiking up stone stairs

And then moments later, you’ll reach the summit area.

woman and two boys at the summit area of the Devil's Courthouse Trail

The toposcopes scattered around the summit area are fun to look at.

the toposcope at the summit of Devil's Courthouse Trail

But our favorite part of the summit is the panoramic view.

ForSomethingMore family at the summit of Devil's Courthouse Trail

And again, please don’t wander off the trail as the summit area is a sensitive nesting habitat for the Peregrine Falcons that return annually.

warning sign about the peregrine falcons

The summit of the Devil’s Courthouse holds legends of its own, with Native American lore suggesting it’s the dwelling place of a slumbering giant. Whether or not you believe the tales, the breathtaking vistas will undoubtedly leave you spellbound.

views from the summit of the Devil's Courthouse Trail

The Devil’s Courthouse Trail is a family-friendly introduction to the beauty of the Blue Ridge mountains, and being just southeast of the Middle Prong Wilderness Area, there is plenty of beauty to appreciate! It’s a treat for those who are eager to enjoy some good views but not be out hiking all day long.

Recommended Gear

Embarking on this journey requires a bit of preparation. Our day hike packing guide includes all we bring on a hike like this. However, some of the key items are listed below.

  • Footwear: Opt for sturdy hiking boots with ankle support and a solid grip to navigate the trail’s changing terrain.
  • Clothing: Adaptable layers are the way to go. As the trail offers varying temperatures, ensure you wear moisture-wicking clothes that can be added or removed as needed.
  • Hydration: Carrying 1 liter of water per person should be more than enough for this trail. Consider investing in a hydration pack for kids, making it easier for them to sip on the go.
  • Navigation: While the trail is well-marked, carrying a trail map or a GPS device provides added confidence. (See our downloadable map below.)
  • Sun Protection: The trail offers sections of direct sunlight. Ensure you have sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and a generous application of sunscreen.
  • Emergency Kit: Accidents can happen. Be prepared with a basic first aid kit, a flashlight with spare batteries, and a whistle.

Family Hiking Safety Tips

The Devil’s Courthouse Trail promises a family-friendly experience, but safety should always be at the forefront:

  1. Stay Together: Even though this trail is well-marked, it’s still a good idea.
  2. Regular Hydration: Especially with kids, ensure frequent sips of water to keep dehydration at bay.
  3. Trail Adherence: Stick to the marked paths. Venturing off-track can introduce unnecessary risks and harm the sensitive flora and fauna.
  4. Wildlife Respect: The trail is home to various wildlife. While they’re a marvel to observe, it’s crucial to maintain distance and teach children the importance of non-interference.

Trail Head and Route

Your journey begins at the well-indicated Devil’s Courthouse parking area (the GPS coordinates for the trailhead are +35.305081, -82.899644) situated right at milepost 422.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

two young boys standing in front of the Devil's Courthouse Trail sign

As you progress on your hike, the path, flanked by dense greenery and periodic viewpoints, guides you upwards.

Signposts and markers ensure you’re always on the right track, eventually leading you to the mesmerizing summit.

Route Map

If you’ve read any of our other posts, such as the one on the intense but rewarding Blackrock Mountain Trail, you already know that our top app for offline navigation is GuruMaps.

If you do decide to download GuruMaps, you can then download our annotated route map (just click one of the file format options in the top right-hand corner of the map below – GPX, KML, or GeoJSON), and then you’ll be able to open that file using GuruMaps. Once it opens, you’ll have our annotated trail map in your own hands. It sounds like a lot, but it’ll take 30-seconds max.

The best part of us is…

GuruMaps works without WIFI or cell service. So as long as your phone is charged, you’ll be good to go!

If you prefer a Google Map, however, that’s no biggie. Keep in mind, however, that it might not work when you’re at Devil’s Courthouse, as at the time of publication, the service up there is quite spotty.

Elevation Profile

Here’s the elevation profile for the Devil’s Courthouse Trail, starting and then ending at the parking spot.

elevation profile of the Devil's Courthouse Trail

Nearby Hikes

While the Devil’s Courthouse Trail stands out, Balsam Grove boasts other trails worth your exploration:

  1. Black Balsam Knob: Celebrated for its expansive meadows and sweeping panoramic views.
  2. Sam Knob Trail: A delightful mix of moderate challenges and diverse terrains.
  3. Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower: A vantage point offering a birds-eye view of the surrounding mountains.


Balsam Grove’s Devil’s Courthouse Trail isn’t just about hiking; it’s an adventure, a story, and an experience waiting to be lived. With its lore, natural beauty, and family-friendly approach, it’s an outing that promises memories for years to come.


  1. Is Devil’s Courthouse Trail suitable for all ages?
    Absolutely. Its moderate difficulty ensures that both young children and older adults can comfortably partake.
  2. Are there any facilities for refreshments on the trail?
    No, there aren’t. It’s advised to pack light snacks and sufficient water.
  3. What’s the best time of year to visit?
    Spring and fall offer the most pleasant hiking conditions, with mild temperatures and blooming or autumnal foliage.

Let the Devil’s Courthouse Trail be your next family adventure. Embrace the beauty, the challenge, and the memories. Happy Hiking!

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