Devilís Marbleyard Belfast, Gunter Ridge, Glenwood Horse Trail Circuit 8.3 miles, strenuous terrain

35 miles from Roanoke, $4.00 carpool fee

Directions from I-81:

1. Take exit 180A and follow US11 East.

2. In 3.6 miles bear LEFT VA-130 (Natural Bridge).

3. In 3.1 miles turn RIGHT Arnold Valley Rd (VA-759). sign [Cave Mt Lake].

4. In 2.9 miles turn LEFT Petite Gap Road (VA-781).

5. In 1.5 miles arrive at parking area for the Belfast trailhead and footbridge on the left.

From the Belfast trailhead immediately cross a footbridge, pass between two columns, follow the blue blazes and cross the orange blazed Glenwood Horse Trail. In a few yards come to the junction with an old woods road and a campsite straight ahead. Turn left onto the woods road and pass the old foundations of some camp buildings on the left. Soon cross Belfast Creek. The Glenwood Horse Trail will come in sharply from the left for a few yards before turning left at a sign. straight on the Belfast Trail and soon enter the James Face Wilderness. AT 1.3 miles from the trailhead you can access the Devil's Marbleyard but rejoining the Belfast Trail gets harder higher up the boulder field. In another mile turn left onto the Gunter Ridge Trail and descend through 14 switchbacks to a horse fence and then a James River Face Wilderness sign. After this sign the trail makes a sharp left turn and soon crosses Little Hellgate Creek. In 3 miles turn left on a wide gravel road, the Glenwood Horse Trail. In a mile the road splits. Follow the double yellow blazes to the right. In another 0.3 miles continue straight past a road from the left. At 0.36 miles from the last blaze make a sharp left onto another road. The direction is marked with a diamond blaze containing an arrow. At 0.73 miles from the last turn arrive at the junction with the Belfast Trail. Turn right. In a few yards take the left fork, the Belfast trail back to your car.

Located a few miles beyond Natural Bridge Station, this hike will ascend the steep Gunter Ridge Trail to itís intersection with the Belfast Trail in the Jefferson National Forest. The hike will then descend on the belfast trail passing the Devilís Marbleyard. This is an eight-acre field of quartzite boulders which affords endless scrambling opportunities (watch out for snakes!) and great views.

We will use the Belfast, Gunter Ridge and Glenwood Horse trails to form an 8.3 mile loop. The climb up Belfast Trail is extremely steep and rocky at times but a visit to the Devil's Marbleyard will make it memorable. The trek along Gunter Ridge is mostly flat until you descend along 14 switchbacks to join the Glenwood Horse Trail, which you'll follow in and out of short coves and up and over slight hills back to the starting point. To mix things up I am thinking of starting near Hellgate Creek rather than the Belfast trail.