Big Devils Stairs hike is one of the more overlooked scenic gorge hikes in the Shenandoah National Park. With two nice overlooks of the gorge and valley below, this 5.5 mile out and back hike is a nice alternative to the more crowded hikes in the northern section of the SNP.
From the parking area at Gravel Springs Gap, pass the chain gate and follow the wide yellow blazed fire road as it heads downhill. The white blazed Appalachian Trail will follow the fire road on the right for the first 200 yards. The fire road will begin to descend more steeply before making a hairpin turn to the right at the first intersection.
Turn left following the narrower yellow blazed horse trail towards Big Devils Stairs (the fire road will now become blue blazed as it heads towards Gravel Springs Shelter). Follow the yellow blazed horse trail for 0.1 miles to the next intersection. Turn left remaining on the yellow blazed trail (again the blue blazed trail to the right goes to the shelter). In 200 yards the yellow blazed trail arrives at the intersection of the yellow blazed Bluff Trail.
Turn left on the yellow blazed Bluff trail towards Big Devils Stairs, as it heads north around the mountain for 1.4 miles to the intersection of the blue blazed Big Devils Stairs trail.
Continue down the trail for another 120 yards to the second overlook. Be cautions to watch your footing as the trail is narrow and passes close to the ledge in this section. The second overlook is the turn around point. From here the trail continues down to the stream and park boundary. There is no public access from the lower section of the trail.
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Reviews For The Big Devils Stairs Hike (5 Most Recent)
I have frequented SNP many times in the past however, this is a hike my wife and I have never done. We took advantage of the fee free day during National Park week and did this hike. I would say this is a much better hike when the leaves on the trees have not filled in. If they had been filled in, the majority of the hike wouldn't have had much scenery. With the leaves not filled in, you were able to get some views throughout much of the hike. There were several small stream crossings during the "upper" section. As most trails within SNP the trails are well marked and the trail sign posts were all correct and help guide your path. The only part which could be a little confusing is when you approach the gorge. On the Big Devils Stairs trail, it will make a sharp (90 degree) right turn and you head toward the gorge. You don't go very far and you see the gorge. This is where it was a little confusing. This could be confused with the 1st overlook. It is not. When you reach this area it appears as if the trail ends and this is the look out. It is not. There aren't good markings here. Look to your right and the trail will descend down the rock stairs as mentioned in the trail description. Then you arrive at the 1st overlook which is pretty awesome. The second overlook is just a short distance away. If you are hiking and the trail starts to bear to the left and go up hill towards/through the woods away from the gorge, turn back. You have missed/passed the second overlook.
In all a good hike to take advantage of the National Park fee free day.
Date of Hike: Monday, November 09, 2015
Hiked in and out in about 4 1/2 hrs, quiet and not a bunch of people, 4 of us and our dog Ginger..... Mostly downhill going in, trail was easy to follow, beautiful weather
Nice day hike, views are nice and good overlook to the waterfalls, have fun
Date of Hike: Monday, June 01, 2015
A brief review from the wildflower perspective: I've always wanted to do the Big Devil Stair hike when the mountain laurel is in bloom and finally hit it at peak time this year. There are areas where 10-12'mountain laurel lines the trail. I was disappointed to see the blooms were rather sparse (guess I was imagining it would look like mountain laurel growing in someone's well-tended garden). This disappointment was more than offset by the the lush, full mountain laurel in bloom at the first overlook. It was fantastic. For anyone who ever had the fantasy to get married in the park, I would recommend June 1 at Big Devil Stairs first overlook.
Date of Hike: Monday, October 27, 2014
Normally I avoid SNP because of the crowds and head to GWNF instead. However, it was a Monday and I wanted a quick nearby hike, so this was it. And it was very much worth it! It was a beautiful day to be outside, and aside from the bugs making their last rounds, this hike was awesome. The trees were so colorful and sun was shining through them - many nice photo opps. I didn't have time to make it to the boundary, so I would rate this as a very easy, scenic hike and the directions above are perfect. I would like to return to get a workout going to the bottom and back up. The views from the overlooks are absolutely amazing and the best part was that I didn't see another person the entire time. I did spot a beautiful, large black bear just before the Big Devil Stairs Trail turnoff - he or she was drinking water from the stream there, but ran when he saw me and my dog. Looking forward to coming back.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 25, 2014
The two of us hiked the trail to the park boundary and then returned up the canyon. Certainly, the overlook view of the canyon is one of the most spectacular God-given features of SNP. Since our prior hike here in late 2012, we had read reviews (two from HU and a couple of others that we found on the internet) regarding the option of returning from the park boundary up the canyon, in effect making your own way. After lunch at the park boundary by the creek, we began the trek up. We are 30 and 66 years old, respectively, and in good shape. The reviews that we had read prepared us mentally that this would be a very different and difficult hike as we sought our way, step-by-step up and along the creek bed, over and around rocks (often loose and slippery with autumn leaves, water, and/or moss) and large downed trees. It was interesting to see that in a couple of sections, the water disappeared and went underground. We completed the canyon part of our journey in 2 hours, 30 minutes when we rejoined the trail in the mountain laurel section. We had enough left to make it to the Gravel Springs trailhead. Quite a workout, putting it mildly. In returning up the canyon, we would raise the "difficulty", "stream", and "solitude" ratings to "4". For the average hiker including us, we would rate this a strenuous hike, both physically & mentally, physically because the ascension up the canyon is steep at times, and mentally because every ten paces or so the hiker must make a plan and decide what course to take up the canyon due to there being no set path. In retrospect, we particularly think that the Sep 13, 2012 HU review is well-stated. We also note that the map display board at the trailhead is gone - see the November 10, 2012 HU review commenting on what appear to be inconsistencies between its numbers and those of HU.