Little Devils Stairs 20 Miler

Climbing a picturesque gorge, Little Devils Stairs is a popular loop day hike in Shenandoah National Park. This runs extends that hike with a second loop down Piney Branch and up Piney Ridge, and then a third loop incorporating the Appalachian Trail.

  • 20.5 miles
Running time
  • 3.5–6 hours
Total ascent/descent
  • 4,500 feet
    220 feet/mile
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From the trailhead, take the Little Devils Stairs Trail for 2.1 miles to Fourway and the intersection with the Keyser Run Fire Road (you will end the run on this road). Continue straight and pick up the Pole Bridge Link Trail. Stay straight as you pass by the Sugarloaf Trail and, after 1 mile, make a left onto the Piney Branch Trail and begin the descent along Piney Branch.

At mile 5.5, pass the Piney Ridge Trail.1 Stay straight for another half mile down to the Hull School Trail. Make a succession of two quick right turns to stay on Hull School.

At mile 6.6, turn right onto the Fork Mountain Trail and climb for 1.2 miles. Intersect with the Piney Ridge Trail and bear left, continuing to climb.

At the top fo the climb, reach the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (AT) at mile 10. Take a left and follow the AT (south) to Elkwallow Wayside, with snacks and drink in season (mile 10.75).

From Elkwallow, take the Elkwallow Trail to Mathews Arm Campground (mile 12.5). Pick up the Traces Trail and follow it for 0.5 miles. At the Tuscarora/Overall Run Trail, take a right and climb 0.7 miles up to the AT. Take a left onto the AT northbound towards Hogback Mountain. You will cross Skyline Drive twice in the next mile, with excellent views to the Massanutten Mountains to the west.

The view from Hogback Mountain from Skyline Drive
The view from Hogback Mountain from Skyline Drive.

At 16 miles, make a sharp right onto Keyser Run Fire Road, cross over to the east of Skyline Drive, and descend on the fire road for 3.3 miles, passing through a Fourway intersection and continuing down to a cemetery. Pass the cemetery and take a left, descending to the Little Devils Stairs Trailhead.

  1. Save yourself a mile and 100 feet of ascent/descent by taking a right on the Piney Ridge Trail here. 

Last updated June 25, 2021

What you do is up to you, but you shouldn't rely on these directions alone; they are often not specific enough to navigate by, and may be incorrect or out of date. Review a map beforehand and carry it with you. Tell a friend where you are going and when you plan to return. Do not count on having cell phone service while on the run. The VHTRC is not responsible for your welfare on any of these runs. If you go on one of these runs and get lost, run out of water, get injured, mauled by a bear, or die, or if anything else goes wrong, it's your fault; not ours. You assume all risks here and the VHTRC assumes none at all. Legal issues aside, some of these runs are more remote than others and the VHTRC is not suggesting that you do any of these runs, unless you are prepared to accept full responsibility for yourself.