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 Keiser Run that much nicer. At one point the trail even passes through a small set of falls. Enjoy spectacular views of either side of the gorge as the Little Devis Stairs trail gets closer to the top of the gorge.
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 guess I'm bucking the tide here in giving this hike three stars in the face of all the glowing reviews. Any hike beats sitting on the couch, but some hikes are better than others and I have enjoyed 9 out of the last 10 hikes more than this.
We took the stairs and then added the Piney Branch loop for what this site says is about 9 miles. I think our GPS had it at about 8.5. In any case, it wasn't nearly as long as I thought it would be. I highly suggest that if you're in shape, you avoid the fire road and take the Piney Branch loop. Though it is pleasant as fire roads go, and you cannot avoid the last mile or mile and a half on fire road, fire roads I find intrinsically boring.
All the fun is between mile 0.5 and 1.5 while climbing the canyon. After this, it is just another several miles of long green tunnel and though a pleasant walk, there wasn't a lot of scenery in terms of views. The walk along Piney River was nice enough and we had lunch on a rock in the middle of the creek. River is a fancy name for a creek that might be 8 feet across!
With all the other spectacular hikes in close proximity, not sure that I would re-hike this trail.
Date of Hike: Sunday, July 03, 2016
Great hike! We hiked the stairs up and then took the fire road back down. Took us about 2.5 hours round trip.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, May 25, 2016
This is my new favorite Shenandoah hike. It was in the low eighties but with the ample tree cover and presumably evaporative cooling from Keyser Run, the hike was still pleasant. Middle of the week gave me a nice bit of solitude on the trail. Recent rains provided ample supply to the falls. While the fire trail back to the lot was a little dull as trails go, the wildflowers and birds provided some respite and it was a nice break after the climb up the gorge.
I bumped into a woman doing a lariat off of Marshall Mt. overlook from Skyline Dr. Not sure I'd try that, but perhaps the Piney Branch extended version could provide a change of scenery the next time around. Highly recommend this hike!
Not sure on pacing as I did it in 2 hours and 45 minutes with a 10 minute stop for lunch.
Date of Hike: Monday, January 18, 2016
Great hike! Highly recommend completing the hike counterclockwise. The hike is much more challenging climbing the rock scrambles going uphill. Also much more scenic as you enter the ravine and follow Keyser Run. Bring a set of hiking poles to make the crossings much easier. This time of year the stream crossings are quite icy.
Date of Hike: Saturday, January 02, 2016
Hiked this with 8 of my friends this lovely Saturday. It was in the low 40's and the water from Keyser Run was really flowing with all the rain. The water was up but was not much of a problem. We got to the trailhead at 10 am and the lot was already full. In fact, when we left around 3, there were cars lined up all along the dirt road leading into the little parking lot. We just took our time (did I mention we are all in our 60's and 70's?) and enjoyed the hike. Stopped and had a nice lunch once we got to the top with a view of the upper falls. There were alot of slippery rocks through the crossings and we also saw ice in a few places but for the most part, it was one of the funnest hikes I've done. One of our friends came without hiking poles but did fine. But myself, I would recommend them if only to help one from ending up in the water which was pretty cold. The hike up the rocks in some places was pretty mucky, but we all managed to stay relatively dry. The worst part in my mind is the fire road back down to complete the circuit. It is pretty boring but we did stop at the Bolen Cemetery and read some of the headstones and the plaque with the poem about why the mountains are blue. Quite sad! Highly recommend this hike!