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If you’re planning a road trip through the Virginia mountains, there’s a popular spot you might have heard of as you’ve researched places to visit: Devil’s Bathtub.
This peaceful swimming hole is secluded from everything and difficult to get to. But it’s worth the effort to take a detour and head to the Fort Blackmore area of southwest Virginia.
Let’s take a closer look at why Devil’s Bathtub needs to be on your itinerary!
About Devil’s Bathtub
Devil’s Bathtub is a popular swimming hole in the southwest Virginia mountains south of the Jefferson National Forest.
The much-photographed swimming hole is simply beautiful and well worth the adventure to reach it, especially on a hot summer day. There are even rope swings beckoning you to make a splash.
A small cascading waterfall adds to the picturesque scenery.
Where Is Devil’s Bathtub?
Located near Fort Blackmore, Va., Devil’s Bathtub is in southwest Virginia. It’s not really close to anything.
From Bristol, Tenn., which sits on the Tennessee-Virginia border, Devil’s Bathtub is about an hour’s drive northwest. From Wytheville, Va., the drive is about two hours west.
Once you arrive, parking for 60 cars is available at 331 High Knob SC, Dungannon, VA 24225. Make sure not to park between the no parking signs or on private property.
A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended after rainy days as the tiny dirt road gets quite muddy.
Why Do They Call it Devil’s Bathtub?
The Scott County, Va., website explains that the waters of Devil’s Bathtub are “cold enough to quench old Lucifer, himself.”
The algae on the bottom create the crystal-clear, aquamarine color and lure hikers in for a quick dip.
But the Cumberland Mountains section of the Appalachian Plateau is home to water temperatures that don’t get above 60 degrees, even on hot summer days.
How Hard Is the Hike to Devil’s Bathtub?
The hike to Devil’s Bathtub is a 3.9-mile out-and-back trail rated as “hard” on AllTrails. Dogs are welcome and are even allowed off-leash in some locations.
The hike is mostly uphill, with a final elevation gain of almost 600 feet. The destination ends at 2,046 feet above sea level. There’s a precarious ledge with a hand rope to help you reach the swimming hole.
There’s another route available as well. After the first creek crossing, you have the option of going right or left. To the right is seven miles round trip with no creek crossings.
To the left is the shorter, more difficult trail mentioned above with 13 creek crossings. This is probably why it’s rated as “hard” on the app.
There are several streams and creeks to cross on your way to Devil’s Bathtub, and the swimming hole is prone to flash flooding, so always pay attention to the weather conditions.
In May 2020, 20 hikers were rescued from Devil’s Bathtub when the area flooded during heavy rains. You certainly want to wear appropriate footwear to cross muddy creeks and step on slippery rocks as you traverse through creek beds.
Keep in Mind: Are you up for the challenge of hiking one of the hardest trails? Here’s what you need to know about Angels Landing Hike Before You Go!
Can You Swim in Devil’s Bathtub Virginia?
Lots of people swim in Devil’s Bathtub. However, if you choose to do so, know that the water is very cold. It’s hard to even get used to it.
The water flows from the Devil’s Fork in Jefferson National Forest. The basin is about 20 feet long and eight feet wide with a depth of around 10 feet or 12 feet, so it’s big enough for a group of people to swim.
Things to Know Before You Go
Anytime you take a hike, go mountain biking, or visit a park with a picnic lunch, there are certain things to remember.
A visit to Devil’s Bathtub is no different. It’s important to remember this is a pack-in, pack-out location with no trash cans along the trails.
Leave No Trace
Because there are no trash cans, it’s essential to pack up your trash and belongings. Don’t leave any litter when you visit this beautiful place. Also, make sure to stay on the marked trail.
Of course, you can jump into the swimming hole and enjoy walking around taking photos but try to leave the area undisturbed so future generations will have Devil’s Bathtub to enjoy.
Choose the Trail Right for You
As mentioned above, there are two trails at the first creek crossing. Choose the trail that is best for you.
If you want a more challenging hike, take the shorter trail with creek bed crossings and ledges to the left.
You’ll get wet hiking in this direction, but if you’d rather stay dry and don’t mind hiking a longer route with fewer challenges, go to the right. Just remember, it’s 7 miles.
Pro Tip: Ready to start planning your Virginia getaway? Take a look at some of the Best Spots for Camping in the Virginia Mountains!
Park in a Designated Parking Area
Parking at the Devil’s Bathtub trailhead can be problematic if you go on a weekend or later in the day.
Try to arrive early because there aren’t many parking spots. This is a very popular area for hikers. Also, pay attention to the signs. There are “no parking” signs everywhere, and violators will get tickets.
Best Time to Visit
Due to its popularity, try to visit early in the morning during the week. It will take at least a couple of hours to hike in, enjoy the scenery at Devil’s Bathtub, and hike back out.
If you plan on swimming, having a picnic, or taking lots of photographs, you could spend half a day here. Plus, the 7-mile trail will take longer. So plan accordingly and arrive early.
Refresh After a Hike to Devil’s Bathtub
The hike to Devil’s Bathtub can be challenging. Lugging through creek beds that may be shin-deep, rock scrambling, and tiptoeing across ledges are all part of the excitement of the adventure.
But the reward is totally worth it. Devil’s Bathtub is breathtaking, offering serenity in a beautiful part of the Virginia mountains.
The only question is, are you brave enough to take a dip in the frigid waters?