Devil’s Bathtub: A Wickedly Good Hike to a Magical Swimming Hole & Waterfall

The Devil’s Bathtub near Fort Blackmore, Virginia is well-known, even beyond state lines. Even outside the United States. It’s a very popular swimming hole.

From personal experience, I can tell you that this natural wonder is magical. It’s easily one of most uniquely beautiful destinations in Virginia.A creek crossing on the way to Devil's Bathtub.

However, the popularity of this swimming hole hike has led to over-visitation, even litter control issues, erosion concerns and illegal parking. 

If you go, please stay on trail, park in designated trailhead parking and take care to pack out your trash, if only so others can enjoy Devil’s Bathtub, too. 

Also, be cognizant about rain. If it has rained in the last three or four days, glistening streams can swell up and become more like raging rivers.

Scott County advises visitors to abandon the hike if water levels are above the knees. I wouldn’t attempt this hike if water levels were above my ankles.

Yellow blazed devils bathtub hiking trail

Typically, water levels are manageable. However, it’s wise to bring water shoes and/or neoprene socks for stream and creek crossings on this short hike.

The day I hiked to Devil’s Bathtub, my boots hardly got wet. More on this down the page. But first, let me answer the most-asked questions about Devil’s Bathtub.

Waterfall Upstream from Devil's Bathtub

1. Where is Devil’s Bathtub located?

It’s not close. As in, no matter where you live in Virginia, it’s not close. It’s so not close that Google Maps (for driving directions) gives me the option to fly.

Devil’s Bathtub is in Stony Creek Park in Duffield. That’s in Scott County, in Southwest Virginia. You may also see the town listed as Fort Blackmore.

By car, it’s 6.5 hours from Northern Virginia, 6 hours from Richmond and more than 3 hours from Roanoke. Like I said, it’s not close.

2. How long is the Devil’s Bathtub hike?

It all depends on you, but it took me 2 hours to complete this 4-mile out-and-back hike on a weekday. Your mileage may vary, of course. This is moving time only.

However, I need to put an asterisk on this hike time. The parking lot for the hike is a solid 0.5-mile walk from the trail.

The parking lot for the Devil's Bathtub hike in Duffield, Virginia.

This is to the gravel road that acts like a trail, but is not a trail. Still, I used this as my starting point in calculating the length of the hiking trail.

I did the out-and-back hike, but there is also a loop hike that takes you past Devil’s Bathtub. The Devil’s Fork Trail (a loop hike) is more than 7 miles.

3. Can you swim at Devil’s Bathtub?

Yes, you can swim at Devil’s Bathtub! I did not swim, but I did see a group exiting the cold water when I arrived at the first of two aquamarine basins of water.

When you reach the first swimming hole, you will see a waterfall and a crystal-clear basin that beckons you to come in for a swim. Plus, there are two rope swings!

Rope swings at the swimming hole at Devil's Bathtub

If you end your journey here, you’ll miss Devil’s Bathtub. I literally almost did even though it’s obvious because it’s shaped like a bath tub!

It’s a bit precarious, but if you navigate your way over the rocks and past the waterfall you will reach the actual Devil’s Bathtub. Bring a bathing suit!

4. How deep is Devil’s Bathtub?

I didn’t measure the basin while I was there, but I would guess that Devil’s Bathtub itself is 10 to 12 feet deep.

I read that the bath tub length is roughly 20 feet. For width, I read 8 feet. That sounds right to me.

5. Why is it called Devil’s Bathtub?

That’s a great question. I was curious too. As you would, I Googled for answers, but didn’t get a definitive reason as to why it’s called Devil’s Bathtub.

The actual Devil's Bathtub

I called up Scott County’s tourism division. They said it’s called Devil’s Bathtub because it’s the “only water cold enough to squelch the fires of hell.”

Honestly, the water is really, really cold. As in, only as high as 65 degrees – on the very warmest of days. Now that’s teeth-chattering cold.

Of course, it’s shaped like a large bath tub, too. The basin fills with waters from the Devil’s Fork in Jefferson National Forest. Now let’s get to the hike.

Devil’s Bathtub Hike

Navigate to Stony Creek Park. This idyllic public park is set alongside Stony Creek. There are picnic tables, a sizeable parking lot and a vault toilet.

Restroom at Stony Creek Park in Duffield, Virginia

You’ll see a sign or two indicating that this is the official parking area for Devil’s Bathtub. But where exactly is this popular hiking destination?

From here, walk up High Knob Road, past the parking lot and around the bend. Turn left onto a small road that also appears to be named High Knob Road.

Street signs for Devil's Bathtub Hike

Once you make this left turn, you’ll see a couple of signs for Devil’s Bathtub. After a half-mile of walking, you’ll reach a gravel road.

Turn left when you see signs for Devil’s Bathtub. You may see three or four cars parked parallel along the road, near a one-time parking lot. 

Cars parked on gravel road near Devil's Bathtub hike trailhead

This parking lot is no longer in use because to get there you must navigate a gravel road wrecked by massive potholes. Seriously, massive. 

I did see one vehicle in the back parking lot, a massive four-wheel drive SUV. Only attempt a drive to this back lot if you have a similar vehicle.

I reached the trail map kiosk after a 0.85-mile walk from my car. It stinks to have such a long walk before even stepping one foot on the trail. I totally get you.

Devil’s Fork Trailhead

At the trail kiosk for the Devil’s Fork Trailhead, veer right to access the trail. You’re at a fork with the back parking lot on the left and the gravel trail on the right.

Trail map kiosk for Devil's Bathtub Trail

By this point I had already started my recording of the trail, so I’d already walked more than 0.3-mile up the gravel road. I know, so confusing.

Go around the iron gate. In a few more steps, you’ll reach the first stream crossing. Then a trail sign. Turn left for Devil’s Bathtub.

From here, follow the yellow blazes as the trail turns from all gravel to mostly dirt and rocks. You’ll also need to cross creeks and streams a dozen or more times.

Yellow blazes mark the Devil's Bathtub hiking trail

Beyond water crossings, there are obstacles, like massive downed trees. The day I attempted this beautiful hike, the water levels were just right.

There had not been any heavy rains, the last few days. Actually, there had been no rain, so there were lots of dry stones to skip across.

Near the two-mile mark you will reach narrow ledges. Fortunately, there is also a hand-rope to help keep your balance. 

Stream crossing on hike to Devil's Bathtub

Then, the much-photographed swimming hole. It’s the most beautiful place and the series of small waterfalls are as breathtaking as I had expected.

As you you approach, you’ll note the two rope swings that hang down on the left. These promise a picture-perfect splash into the swimming hole.

I was there on a weekday in fall, so it was quiet. When I arrived, there were not a lot of people. Just two couples were gathering up belongings for the return hike.

I can only imagine how busy this special place must be on warm weekends in summer months.

Just past the swimming hole at Devil's Bathtub there is more to see including a waterfall

But wait, there’s more. Walk up, over and past the waterfall, then over some stacked rocks to the larger waterfall that lies behind this watering hole.

There it is, Devil’s Bathtub. It’s shaped like a bathtub and it’s absolutely unmistakable. The water is as beautiful as the water in the swimming area, too.

Since this is an out-and-back hike, re-trace your steps from the natural swimming hole to return to your vehicle.

Wrap-Up Notes

I did this as a 4.0-mile out-and-back round trip hike, but there is a loop hike with stream crossings on the Devil’s Fork Loop Trail that is 7 miles.

Brown trail sign on the Devil's Fork trail

It took me two hours to hike to Devil’s Bathtub, take lots of photos, then return to my starting point. Then I of course I had another 0.5-mile walk to my car. 

If the water levels are high, it could be a hard hike to these deep pools. The day I did this hike, the water levels were low. My hiking boots hardly got wet.