“A beautiful and challenging trail into canyon scenery like nothing else at Shenandoah National Park.”
— Mike Hensley
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall
Approach: It is recommended that visitors take this trail from the bottom up, and that means parking in the National Park Service lot at the end of Virginia 670 (GPS coordinates: 38.73060, -78.25827). The Little Devils Stairs Trailhead is well marked, making it difficult to miss.
The Trail: The trail is located on the right side of the Keyser Run parking area, marked with blue blazes. The initial mile of the trail is relatively gentle, but don't let it fool you. The grade picks up significantly for the second half of the climb.
Little Devils Stairs follows Keyser Run and makes 11 major crossings of the stream. In the fall, these stream crossings are often made challenging by high water. Trekking poles are recommended for balance.
The final stream crossing will put visitors on the left-hand side of the stream. At this point, the trail switch-backs several times up the slope and flattens out. At the two mile mark, the trail ends at an intersection with Keyser Run Road
. Looping down Keyser Run Road
for 3.5 miles to the parking lot is the recommended return route.
Highlights: Multiple waterfalls along Keyser Run make for nice photo opportunities. The best water is available in the stream during the spring and fall seasons.
Stone walls are visible along the right side of the trail near the beginning. These walls belonged to the original property owners prior to the establishment of the national park and mark property boundaries.
Halfway into the trail, runners will find themselves inside a large gorge with a scree field on the left and a sheer cliff with a water seep on the right. This scenery is unique to Shenandoah whose trails typically traverse a series of hilly spurs and draws. The gorge was created by the erosion of a subterranean geological fault that formed millions of years ago. The basalt columns on the right and the eroded scree on the left are almost 600 million years old and are some of the oldest stones in SNP. The cliff faces on the right occasionally freeze during the winter and provide ice climbing opportunities for well-equipped climbers.
Season: LDS is navigable during all seasons. Fall provides foliage, winter provides views when the leaves are down, spring offers reasonable stream crossings and pleasant temperatures, and summer heat provides the greatest challenge.
Flora & Fauna
Flora and fauna on LDS are typical to Shenandoah. Care should be taken to avoid poison ivy, especially in the spring.