Hidden in the thick forests of the western corner of Virginia, lies an aqua-blue, water-filled oasis, known as The Devil’s Bathtub. Just outside the town of Fort Blackmore, there’s a trail that has nearly a dozen river crossings and muddy terrain surrounded by lush greenery as far as the eye can see. While some may think, “Why on Earth would I want to hike through a damn river?”, I’m sure there are some of you that think that sounds epic! Oh and for those adrenaline junkies, there may or may not be a thoughtfully placed rope swing! For the less faint of heart, there’s plenty of room to take a seat and dip your toes into the more shallow areas. Read along to learn about the trail, how to get there, and tips on what to pack.
Distance: 3.9 miles (6.2 km) round trip from trailhead
Distance from Stony Creek Parking lot: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 590 feet
Type: Out and Back
Moderate because of the river crossings. You must pay close attention to the trail markers, which are yellow painted triangles on trees or rocks. It could be easy to get lost if not paying close enough attention.
There is a dirt road that goes to the beginning of the trail where there is a very small parking lot, however we didn’t trust our car with the terrain. We ended up turning around and parking down off of High Knob Road in the Stony Creek Park Parking Lot, which is perpendicular to the dirt road leading to the trailhead. It adds about .8 miles each way. Assuming your vehicle can make it up the dirt road, we were told that the upper-lot fills up quickly, so get there early (as you should anyway).
*bonus* whether or not you park at Stony Creek Park, stop there anyway! If you walk 50 feet to the river, the water is a bright aqua color and there is a rope swing if you swim across. The ladder (a cut up 2x4) that is nailed to the tree, which enables you to grab the rope is a little precarious and we didn’t feel comfortable climbing to the top. So, to each their own!
These are photos of the rope swing at the parking lot, not the swing on the hike.
Tips For Safety:
*MOST IMPORTANT* START EARLY AND CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST!
The area is prone to flash flooding and the storms typically roll in during the afternoons. We were going to head up around 5:00 PM and a local woman whom we spoke to, strongly advised against it. She said many people have gotten lost in the forest and needed a Search and Rescue team. We ended up sleeping in the van and setting alarms for early the next morning. Bottom line: start early in the morning! Also, the water in both the bathtub and the rope swing pool gets EXTREMELY deep very quickly. It’s deceiving because of how crystal clear it is, so don’t be fooled. Keep a close eye on the little ones.
What to Pack:
Pack water shoes or sneakers that you won’t mind getting wet. Kevin wore a pair of old Vans and I wore mesh-like Nike shoes. They both seemed to do just fine and didn’t cause any blisters, which we were pleasantly surprised by.
I wore my bathing suit under my shorts and hoodie and Kevin just wore his swimming trunks as shorts. It seemed to work well as we didn’t need to find a place to discreetly change our clothes. (We were the only ones there but it would be a problem on a busy day.)
Of course you’ll want to dry off if you go for a swim. I packed my thin microfiber towel that I travel with and I absolutely LOVE it. It’s even nice to have something to sit on and a somewhat dry place to put your belongings.
I’m a firm believer in hiking with snacks! I do love to eat but it also just makes me feel better knowing that I have some food to fuel me up if there’s an emergency for whatever reason. And of course, pack water!
DON’T STOP HIKING WHEN YOU SEE THE ROPE SWING!
Know what you’re looking for when you go, because we initially stopped at the pool where the rope swing was at. Luckily Kevin continued up and realized we hadn’t even seen the actual bean-shaped “bathtub” yet.
The first photo below is the first "pool" you'll come across. As I said, we stopped here at first thinking this was it. We hung out for about 15 minutes before Kev realized we needed to continue up. In my personal opinion, this one was better! The rope swing really added to it, too.
The photo below is the actual "Devil's Bathtub". You'll know you found it by the distinct "bean" shape of it.
Now, let’s just clear something up. Calling it “The Devil’s Bathtub” is deceiving. It should be called “The Devil’s Ice-Bath”. It’s quite possible that I’m just a wuss who isn’t accustomed to water of that temperature... but it was SO cold that it took my breath away when I jumped in and my muscles tensed up. We went in June, so perhaps further into the summer on a hot sunny day, the water would be warmer! It was also sprinkling and slightly overcast when we went.
Watch your step! There are the cutest little orange lizards running around the forest floor! They’re probably 2 inches long. I’m not sure if they’re poisonous or not but they sure are cute as hell! While not as quick as the speedy little lizards, there are also cute little snails. I have eagle eyes and can spot things pretty well, so keep those eagle eyes of yours peeled too! Of course always be respectful of the wildlife and do not touch them! Remember, we’re in their habitat, not the other way around.
We also spotted a big huge Owl on our way back to the car. It was beautiful and majestic and the first Owl I’d ever seen! (Other than Headwig from Harry Potter.) It flew around from tree to tree, being as majestic as could be.
Just as vibrant, yet not as mobile, were these massive orange\red mushrooms growing atop of a fallen tree trunk, unlike anything I’d ever seen. Maybe they’re a Virginia thing but definitely uncommon from where I’m from.
The greenery was impeccable. There were more species of plants than I could count, in every shade of green imaginable. It was as beautiful as a painting. For a moment, close your eyes and imagine the sound of the rain drops falling from the morning drizzle, sun rays peeking through the forest’s canopy, and the birds singing good morning to you with their precious songs. Now that wasn’t our imagination, it was real.
LEAVE NO TRACE:
If you’ve spent a lot of time in the outdoors, you’re probably familiar with the term “Leave No Trace” or “LNT”. If you’re not familiar with it, that’s okay too! We all learned at some point and it’s one of the most important bits of knowledge to have if you plan on spending time in the outdoors.
There are 7 Principles of Leave No Trace and the link is attached here:
I’ll spare you the visual of this, but when we were on the trail there was a used feminine hygiene product thrown on the ground. I took a photo of it to show people that this is not okay. I didn’t pick this piece of trash up because of obvious unsanitary reasons. Had it been a food wrapper, plastic water bottle, or anything like that... I would have. It’s simple: carry a zip lock bag with you when hiking and pack out your trash. It’ll make the Earth a happier and cleaner place for everyone to enjoy... and save some of us pain of baby barfing in our mouths.
STOP FOR STRAWBERRIES AFTER YOUR HIKE:
Once you’ve had a morning filled with river crossings and rope swings and wet, sloshy shoes... there’s a farm stand down the road called, “Mann’s Farms” with the best strawberries I’ve ever had! They’ll make the perfect post-hike snack. If strawberries aren’t your jam, there were other other fruits and veggies as well.
Thanks for reading about "The Devil's Bathtub" hike in Virginia! If you have any questions please don't hesitate to reach out or leave a comment below. All in all, it's a wonderful hike and I highly recommend it if you're in West Virginia.