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)
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!
Date of Hike: Saturday, December 12, 2015
When it is 70 degrees and sunny on a Saturday in mid-December, I am not missing an opportunity to hit the trails. I've done the hike before as part of a larger loop starting and ending at Matthews Arms Campground, going down the Stairs and back out Piney Branch. I'm not sure the mileage on the larger loop, but it was a long day and I was tired afterwards.
Decided to do it as a shorter loop today starting at the Little Devils Stairs parking lot, hiking up, and coming back down the fire road. Showed up at about 11am and the lot was packed including a passenger van. Luckily we were behind the crowds and only ended up passing a few people near the top of the Stairs. With the leaves off the trees you can really see the canyon walls as you climb up. The water was running strong, but the multiple criss-crosses are a non-issue with a few carefully chosen steps. I agree that this hike is reminiscent of slot canyons like those commonly found in Utah. Though not as drastic as many of the western slots, it is still a unique experience to have the vertical rock walls tower over you as you hike upward, along the running water. Once we got to the top we passed the large van group as they were eating lunch at Fourway. The walk down the fire road is gentle and a few views of the mountains ahead and canyon walls can be seen at certain points. The Bolen Cemetery is a nice treat of history towards the end, and a reminder of those that once inhabited these mountains.
Last note, there was lots of bear scat on the trail, maybe a day or two old. I see bears in Shenandoah often and never have a problem with them. However, if anyone is wondering, it would appear that at least one bear has put off hibernation and also decided to enjoy the warm weather.
Date of Hike: Sunday, November 29, 2015
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!).