Hikers who aren’t afraid to get their feet wet or keep their eyes peeled for yellow-painted tree trunks will be rewarded with the grand beauty of this natural wonder tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains.
As a matter of fact, the sandstone jewel is hidden so well that neither I nor the pair of hikers who came along for the adventure actually saw this cool pool of water. Apparently, we saw what I’ll refer to as "the opening act."
After more than an hour of carefully walking over and around stones and splashing through 12 water crossings, we thought we’d made it to "the main event." Cool water rushing down uneven rolls of slick rocks created a waterslide that led to a shallow pool of water that I assumed was the infamous Devil’s Bathtub. The mossy, slippery rock formation made it a little dangerous to explore, but my attention was suddenly drawn away from the slide and onto a breathtaking swimming hole.
It had to be at least 10 feet deep and beautiful rays of blue and green reflected off the surface. The water was ice cold, clear and unspoiled. The three of us agreed that this was a stellar reward for a 1.5-mile hike, but another herd of oncoming hikers told us we hadn’t really made it to the legendary bottomless pool and encouraged us to travel a little farther.
At the top of a hill, I again thought I had discovered the Devil’s Bathtub, this time with a longer waterfall and more defined tub-shaped pool. It wasn’t until several days later when an Internet search engine produced gorgeous photos unlike mine that I realized we still hadn’t gone far enough. I really think we were almost there. But regardless, I leave it up to you heed this advice and use it to find your way to this natural attraction.
Be prepared and don’t mistake the imitation for the real thing.
The trailhead is a simple wooden staircase marked by no sign, only a splash of yellow paint on a tree trunk. It’s on the hill just above the circular, make-shift parking area. Even though the initial drive to the trail is smooth, I recommend an SUV, truck or something with four-wheel drive to make it on the mile-long rutted and washed out gravel road that leads to the trailhead.
The yellow trail markings are difficult to see at times, but there’s also orange-red ribbon tied around branches from time-to-time to help clarify the route. Again, there’s no way to avoid getting wet, so bring a pair of dry socks and shoes for the ride home and clothes if you plan on jumping in the swimming hole.
I wouldn’t recommend tackling the Devil's Fork Loop Trail right after a heavy rain. Even a few days after, it was muddy in certain spots when we were there. Also, be careful on the water crossings. A layer of moss gives the rocks a slimy texture.
The trailhead is about 35 miles from Kingsport. To get there, take VA-72N to Fort Blackmore. From the intersection of Route 65 and Route 72, follow Route 619 (Big Stony Creek Road) about five miles to the intersection of Route 619 and Route 657. Go left on Route 619 (High Knob SC) over a small bridge; continue on Route 619 for about another 0.4 miles, then turn left onto a narrow gravel road beside an old, abandoned white house. Follow this very rutted gravel road for about another half-mile, keeping right when the road forks. The road dead ends at a circular parking area; from there, take the wooden stairs to your right, out of the parking area and onto the Devil's Fork Loop Trail.