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Piney Branch Trail - SNP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
8.0 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
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 8.0 - Arrive back at the Little Devils Stairs parking area
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Piney Branch hike:

Hiker Reviews For The Piney Branch Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Piney Branch hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: David Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 2, 2018
Went for a Sunday day hike to escape the mugginess of D.C. Arrived around 10 am and started hiking, following the route Upward's laid out. Nice steady incline on the fire road got the blood flowing, and once entering into the single track area, the greenness of the hike took over.

Hiking along the Piney Branch trail, we got to cross several beautiful streams and take in the view. The best spot was a cascading water fall, where we saw a beer and her two cubs! Even with a full sun out, the shade and stream kept us cool.

Highly recommend this hike to anyone wanting a solid 9+ miles of day hiking. We even saw a rattle snake on the fire road heading back to the parking lot.

Easy trails to follow, and no issues with markings.

By: Sean Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, November 2, 2017
I hiked this as described. I've hiked dozens of trails in this area and have never seen so many downed trees on a hike, but they were no big deal. The Piney Branch Trail portion has nice views of the stream along much of its length. I like fire roads for a change of pace. The Keyser Run Fire Road portion is shared with the Little Devil Stairs hike, also on this site and which I also recommend. While a very nice hike in the woods with not many people there is not much in the way of vistas. Going down the Keyser Run Fire Road from the top, about a half-mile down to the left, is a nice small outcropping with a great view. It's pretty easy to see the outcropping from the road and the short trail leading to it.

Previous reviewers reported hike times much shorter than 7 hours. I took 6 hours using a very leisurely pace, doing some off-trail exploring, taking a few breaks to catch my breath, and spending about a half-hour at the rock outcropping.

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 8, 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 2, 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.

    View all 17 reviews for the Piney Branch hike
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