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Piney Branch Trail - SNP, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
9.0 mls
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7.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,980 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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Park at the end of VA670/Keyser Run Rd. and parking area for Little Devils Stairs.
38.73060, -78.25827

While this hike may not have the sweeping vistas you often find on other Shenandoah National Park hikes, it features great trails that wind through scenic valleys. For a more scenic route also consider doing the hike counterclockwise and taking the Little Devils Stairs Trail instead of the Keyser Run Fire Rd.

 

  • Mile 0.0 – Start uphill on the Keyser Run Fire road which will take you into the Shenandoah National Park, and ascending for the first 1.2 miles to the junction of the Hull School Trail and the Bolen Cemetery.
  • Mile 1.2 - Veer left on the Hull School Trail for 0.7 miles downhill to the junction of the Piney Branch Trail.
  • Mile 1.9 - Turn right on the Piney Branch Trail and in 200 yards cross Piney River. At 0.4 miles on the Piney Branch Trail the Piney Ridge Trail will come in on your left. Continue straight for another 1.0 miles where you will cross back over Piney River.
  • Mile 3.3 - Ascend the Piney Branch Trail for another 1.3 miles on the right side of the valley until coming to the junction of the Poll Bridge Link Trail on the right. The Piney Branch Trail turns left.
  • Mile 4.6 - Turn right on the Pole Bridge Link Trail and pass the Sugarloaf Trail on the left in 0.4 miles. In another 0.5 miles arrive at the junction of the Keyser Run Fire road.
  • Mile 5.5 - Turn right on the yellow blazed Keyser Run Fire road and begin your descent for the 2.5 miles back to the intersection of the Hull School Trail and the Bolen Cemetery.
  • Mile 6.8 - Turn left down the Keyser Run Fire road for the final 1.2 miles back to the parking lot.
  • Mile 9.0 - Arrive back at the Little Devils Stairs parking area
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Hiker Reviews For The Piney Branch Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Piney Branch hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 08, 2016
I'd done the Little Devils Stairs Hiking Upward loop clockwise last year, doing the ravine on the decline but on this hike, I decided to start going up LDS and complete the circuit from there. Took 4:10 with several stops for photos - this hike should not take you 7 hours unless you are doing A LOT of exploring. Didn't see anyone else all day, despite a few cars in the parking area when we started. Though you won't find views from the elevation on this hike, the scenery is beautiful nonetheless, as is most of SNP! Some of the stream crossings were slower due to higher water, but not difficult as there are plenty of rocks to navigate. Pretty hike.

By: Suzy and Tom Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 02, 2016
Hiked this trail as detailed. Keyser Run Fire Rd/Hull School Tr/ Piney Branch/Poll Bridge Link Tr/Keyser Run Fire Rd.  Total of 9.68 mile with a moving time of 4 hours and stopped time of 1 hr 6 min. (Not sure why the description of the hike says to allow 7 hours).  Piney Branch section nearest the river very scenic but overall the hike was too much on the Fire Rd.  The first 1.2 miles up the Fire Rd is very steep and next time I would put that energy towards climbing Little Devil Stairs and doing the hike in reverse.

By: Ryan Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 19, 2015
This ended up as a great hike even though we were woefully lost barely two miles into it.

Upon arrival in the parking area, you'll walk about a mile up a gravelly path to the graveyard. From there you can descend down a more proper trail, at the end of which you will find yourself at a crossroads. Go right, and you will find yourself on the path described above. Go left - as we did - and you'll eventually hit a dead end as the trail stops at a private property marker/barrier.

Tracking back, we found the Hull School trail and took it up 2-3 miles until we found a sign marker for Piney Ridge Trail. Following that path took us another 2 miles higher up until we reached another split - one way taking us to the AT, the other back to Piney Branch. We elected the former and descended back to the intersection where we took our wrong turn and made our way back up to the graveyard and then down to the car. All told it took us about four hours. The trail isn't much for views but if you're keen on a walk in dense woods, it's great.

Two things should be noted about the alternative route we took, however.

One, the trail is clearly not hiked all that often and is at points overgrown. The trails are all marked but they don't look like they're maintained all that often. We had to climb through, over and around a lot of flora as we walked.

Two, spiders. Perhaps because it is so rarely traveled, spiders have taken to building their webs along and across the trail. We could not walk ten feet without having to disentangle or check ourselves. It got so bad that one of us walked ahead of the group with a large stick, clearing the webs as he saw them. If you're afraid of spiders, this hike might not be for you.

All told though, I'd highly recommend this hike. Occasionally difficult but unique and rewarding.


By: Greenfoot Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 20, 2015
Took LDS to the AT then to Piney Branch, Hull School, and Keyser Fire Road back to the parking area for about 13 miles total. Since it was July, it was a bit swampy along Piney Branch trail. I got started early enough that the LDS were fun and challenging rather than miserable. Great hike for wildlife. Was lucky enough to see a young black bear about 200 feet away on the LDS, and there were a number of Peregrines visible along the AT.

By: Michelle Roberts Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 10, 2014
My son and I did this hike plus the Little Devils Stairs. Instead of coming down the Keyser Run Fire Rd at the 5.5 mile mark, we came down the Little Devils Stairs. The first 1.2 miles up the Keyser Run Fire Rd was a little strenuous, and we ran into a few people here and there. We stopped at the Bolen Cemetery to check it out, and ended up with ticks. A LOT of ticks! Crawling up our legs. From here to the next intersection is actually yellow blazed and not blue. We didn't run into anyone else from this point until we got to the Little Devils Stairs trail. We pulled ticks off our legs the whole time. The waterfalls big and small on this trail make it well worth dealing with the little blood-suckers! It took us about five hours to do the combined trail (about 7.5 miles), and that includes stopping to eat, taking our time to enjoy nature, and time for taking pictures.

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