Because of the steep grade the
first two miles of the Little Devils Stairs hike in the Shenandoah
National Park can be tough if the day
is warm. The best time to do this hike is the early spring when water levels are at a peak, making the numerous waterfalls along the run that much nicer. At one point the trail even passes through a small set of falls.
The second half of the hike follows the Keyser Run Fire Road back down past the Bolen Cemetery. This is a pleasant walk through some old growth. If you would like to make this hike longer add the 3 sections of the Piney Branch hike to make the circuit a little over 9.0 miles.
Mile 0.0 –The hike will begin up the right side of the parking area
on the blue blazed Little Devils Stairs Trail. After 0.9 miles
the grade will increase sharply as the trail climbs
the ravine, and starts crisscrossing Keyser Run.
The Little Devils Stairs Trail is
hard to spot in places and you have to look for the blue
blazes on the trees. However, if you believe you've lost the trail it's difficult to go too far off track, as the gorge is very narrow and trail
runs along one side or the other of the stream. As you climb up the gorge there are several spots that require hand over hand climbing.
Near the top of the ravine
The Little Devils Stairs Trail becomes less steep, then makes several switchbacks before leveling
off completely and arriving at the intersection of the Keyser Run Fire Road, and four way junction.
Mile 2.0 - Turn left down the yellow blazed Keyser Run Fire Road and in 2.0 miles enter an old hemlock
forest before arriving at the Bolen Cemetery
of the for the the Hull
Mile 4.4 - Stay left down
the yellow blazed Keyser Run Fire road where it becomes steeper
for the final 1.1 miles back to the parking area.
Mile 5.5 - Arrive back at the parking area.
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Reviews For The Little Devils Stairs Hike (5 Most Recent)
I really liked this hike! Today, everything was shrouded in clouds and fog so there were absolutely no views but the streams were flowing nicely, the temperature was perfect, and I didn't see a single other person hiking in the nearly 5 hours I was in the woods. I think that the character of this hike could be completely different at a different time of year, but today it gave me just what I was looking for. I really enjoyed hiking up Little Devils Stairs. Even though the trail was generally easy to find, there were still times where it felt like I was forging my own path up the canyon, hopping from rock to rock to get across the stream. The trail was steep in spots but wasn't any steeper than the steeper parts of White Oak Canyon (another favorite hike of mine) and I didn't ever need to do any hand over hand climbing.
I did the longer loop as described on this site, except that I started at Skyline Drive and also added a few miles to the total distance. I parked just south of Hogback Overlook (Skyline Drive mile ~21.1). After a quick jaunt north on the Appalachian Trail, I descended the very nice Sugarloaf Trail to the Pole Bridge Link Trail. From there, I descended the Piney Branch Trail, ascended the Hull School Trail, and then descended the Keyser Run Fire Road to the Little Devils Stairs parking area. Next, I ascended Little Devils Stairs, took the Pole Bridge Link Trail to Piney Branch Trail and then ascended the Piney Branch Trail. Then, it was a little over a mile on the AT to get back to the parking area and my car. Total distance of 12.2 miles in just under 5 hours. Admittedly, I hiked quickly and took only a few short breaks, but I had gotten a late start and didn't want to get trapped on Skyline Drive when they closed the gates at 5 pm (I made it with ~30 minutes to spare!).
Date of Hike: Wednesday, November 11, 2015
The water levels were the highest I have seen on this hike. It made for great fun crossing the stream as you hiked up the gorge. I have always taken the fire road down which is quite boring. This time we took piney branch down and it only added a little over 2 miles to the hike. The piney river was rolling strong and there were 2 crossings both of which had convenient logs located downstream. Try to experience this hike after a good rain.
Date of Hike: Monday, September 07, 2015
The conditions for the hike were not perfect. The streams were nearly dried up when I went on the hike, so we did not get wet at all crossing them, and the waterfalls weren't impressive.
We saw a black bear about 20 feet from the trail on the fire road. There were 4 of us and the bear did not bother us, however the encounter did give us a bit of a scare. Other than that, there were no views at the top, just the fire road. The downhill section was tedious and long, with the annoying to hike on rocky path the whole way down. We were up and back down before 4 hours were up, despite taking frequent breaks on the climb and having lunch near the fire road. If not for the streams, I might have given this a 3 star. It was a good reminder to be prepared, however, and I may buy some bear spray.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 25, 2015
I enjoyed this hike very much. I have been in the early Spring, late fall and mid summer(this time). I highly recommend early spring and late fall over summer months. The water flow after the winter snows is beautiful and the fall colors and leaves changing is nice. Summer the problem was the over grown brush on the trail causing the trail to almost be impossible to see at times. I also worried about snakes as i walked through the overgrown brush. I do look forward to hiking it again, just not during the hot, dry summer months.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 04, 2015
I did this as a 4th of July Solo hike. Directions didn't say that the parking lot was at the end of the road, but that is an issue with Google Map, not the hike.
This was a challenging first two miles as it was very slick going over wet rocks and criss crossing Keyser Run. I am large and not in particularly great shape but I am adventurous and not afraid of a challenge. I did get passed by a group of 5 hikers on the uphill portion, but I passed them back on the downhill over the fire road when gravity was on my side. I took some great pictures of the falls/Keyser Run as everything was a lush green.
The Fire Road down was rather boring, although if I had ventured off the road a bit I may have had some good views, this would probably be better in the fall...at least the walk down portion.
There were about a half dozen cars in the lot and I did pass couple doing the hike in reverse (and they parked at the top (alternate parking lot for this hike???) I am not sure where the other hikers were as only one other couple was back at the parking lot when I returned.
All in all, a pleasant way to spend 3 hours (1:50 uphill 2 miles and a little over an hour downhill 3.5 miles-with a quick stop in the cemetery.)