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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 VA614/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: Tom and Katie Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Note error on parking directions: Keyser Run Road is VA 614, not VA 670.

From HikingUpward: The road number has been updated. Thank you.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 3, 2019
We added Little Devil Stairs to end of our hike to make this about 13.2 miles (about 2 miles of this was due to backtracking). It took us about 5:15 hrs with :45 minutes for lunch and a quick swim. Our elevation change was about 1700ft up then down.

We started up keyser road, stopped at the Bolan cemetery. We then went down Hull School Trail and unfortunately, we thought we had gone too far and missed the trail for Piney Branch trail so we backtracked to the cemetery to start from scratch. Headed back down only to find out we were about .2 miles from the intersection with Piney Branch Trail. This trail was lightly trafficked and we fought our way through some spiderwebs that were strung up by their owners hoping to catch an insect meal. I've dealt with much much worse spider infestations but it still annoying.

On the righthand side, about 5.5 miles in (or probably 3.5/4.0 miles in had we not backtracked) there was a cascade of small falls and swimming holes. We stopped here, cooled off from the 90 degree heat, and ate lunch. This was our favorite from the hike. Following the trail up river, we saw several large piles of bear scat but not bears.

We finished by taking LDS down. I had never done this before but my lord was it tough - and this was with very low water levels. My knees are barking a bit a day later.

Very quiet hike. Only saw a few people on Keyser, a young couple posted up on a nice campsite on Piney Branch, and then a small group heading up LDS. If this hike had any views built into it at all, it would be a top 3 hike for me. Great nonetheless.

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.

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