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)
Nice hike, especially the first part up the gorge. We easily did it in three hours, even with a bunch of teenagers. What is missing is vistas and nice lunch spots.
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 16, 2014
This is an amazing hike for a 5+ mile, 2-1/2 hour loop. The hike up the waterfall is amazingly beautiful and fun. We hike all over the US and central Italy, and for its size, this is one of our favorites. We went on a Saturday - quite a few hikers out. No bear nor tick sightings. As experienced hikers, we found this a strenuous hike (tho' we took only one or two short water breaks on the way up). it's 1500' of net elevation - in about 2 miles. We took the Keyser Fire trail road back - no views this time of year. The cemetery is a nice historical touch. We wished we had gone the extra mile up to Skyline Drive. I honesty don't know how anyone could call it average, or not strenuous. We did take tick precautions (long sleeves and pants, pants tucked in, etc.), tho' no one else on the trail seemed to do so.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 26, 2014
I had a similar experience to Eightythree83's review from above. As I was finishing the hike (on the rock scramble side) -- I was hiking alone -- about 0.25 miles from the parking area I turned a corner where I was no more than 10 feet from a large female black bear and two cubs. They were obviously surprised and the two cubs quickly ran up trees. The mother approached me and did the typical "defensive encounter" actions you read about. I moved slowly then quickly. She followed for a bit up the trail but eventually left me alone. Be careful out there, folks. I didn't come across many other hiking parties on this particular day, so I can understand how the bears could have not known people were around.
Other than that the hike was nice. I was using Little Devils Stairs as a training climb so did the rock scramble section to the top a few times. The scenery was nice and I particularly enjoyed crossing over the streams a few times.
Date of Hike: Sunday, July 13, 2014
Today was my second attempt at Little Devils Stairs. I hiked it this past October and liked it very very much. I tried again today, and unfortunately, did not get very far.
About a quarter of a mile from the parking area, before even reaching the rock scramble, there was a huge rustle ahead to my right and THREE black bears hopped off of a fallen tree about 30-40 feet away, where they stopped to stare at me. It looked to be a grown adult and two cubs. I was by myself and was sufficiently spooked to hightail it back to my car. Thankfully, they didn't give chase. So it was a really short hike for me, but plenty exciting/terrifying, both I feel are good adjectives to describe it. Please be careful!
Date of Hike: Friday, July 04, 2014
This was actually our second attempt to get this hike under our belt. On out first attempt, our GPS took us to the wrong trail-head off Rt. 600, and after realizing our mistake too late, we opted for an unremarkable 6 mile jaunt down the Piney Branch trail.
Finding the correct parking this time, we had an initial debate as to which way to take the stairs, deciding that the prescribed route of climbing up was preferable to climbing down. The stairs were entertaining, and a good workout on the quads, but if you are expecting a little bit of a rock scramble like we were they were a disappointment. Little Devils Stairs is exactly what the name implies, essentially a long staircase up a ravine. The waterfalls and stream crossings were entertaining and pretty, but not the showers we expected. In fact, we made the whole trek reaping only one wet sock at the very end from moment's inattention at the last stream crossing.
That's not to say that the scenery wasn't great. There are some terrific rock walls and cliffs to see. In fact, the main reason it took us so long the get up the ravine was we keep stopping to gawk at the massive rocks that line the route. These are truly the wonders of this hike. I give major kudos to the trail creators who made this path and maintainers who keep it up. It took a great deal of imagination and skill to conceive and create a trail here.
The walk down the fire road was surprisingly pleasant. An exceedingly gradual grade most of the way, coupled with soft gravel made it an excellent jaunt through the woods. We even saw a doe causally cross the trail in front of us. That, coupled with an unseasonably cooler summer day and light breeze made this a very wonderful walk in the woods.
Maybe it was the weather, but I think the time and on this hike is a little off. My GPS showed us going 5.5 miles, completing the hike in just over 2 1/2 hours. In retrospect, the hike could me extended a couple of miles by turning right at the top of the stairs and venturing to Skyline Drive and the overlooks there (1 mile according to the marker). A difficultly rating of 3 is about right I think. We saw probably 10 people total on the hike, so I would guess that solitude are is 3 or less. This would be a great day hike for a family with smaller children.