Updated on May 9, 2023 by Julie McCool
The Big Devils Stairs hike is a moderate 5.5-mile out and back trip to a beautiful viewpoint at the edge of a gorge, in the North District of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The hike follows wooded trails until it ends on an exposed ridge at the edge of a steep gorge. The vista is both beautiful and the rocks make a nice spot for a break or a picnic before the return trip.
Big Devils Stairs Hike Route
The Big Devils Stairs hike makes a slow, then steep descent through wooded trails until it reaches a rocky gorge. The steep exposed cliffside has two viewpoints with views across the gorge and out to distant mountains.
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For most of the hike, you'll be following dirt trails through the woods, so the view only comes at the end. The trail is not difficult, though there are some steep sections. The cliIf is very exposed at the viewpoint, so use caution and keep a close watch on any children in your group.
Begin the Big Devils Stairs hike at the Gravel Springs Gap parking area. You'll find it on Skyline Drive between mile 17 and 18, in the northern section of the park. It's a good-sized lot and this is a less popular hike so it's a good option when the rest of the park is busy.
Go past the chain and follow the fire road which is marked with white blazes. You may notice the Appalachian Trail following a parallel route on your right
At the first trail marker, turn left onto the narrower yellow blazed trail. Follow the yellow blazed Bluff Trail left again at the next marker. The intersections are well marked so you can check that you are following the Big Devils Stairs route.
The wooded trail doesn't offer any viewpoints, but we enjoyed the random large boulders and pretty moss at wet areas along the trail.
After 1.4 miles on the Bluff Trail you reach a right turn onto the blue blazed Big Devils Stairs Trail. The trail passes through a big stand of mountain laurel that must be beautiful when it blooms.
Next, the Big Devils Stairs hike gets steep as you descend to the edge of the gorge and the viewpoints.
Bill Devils Stairs Hike Viewpoint
You've reached the edge of the gorge and the viewpoints that are the payoff for your efforts. The first overlook is a great spot to check out the view across the gorge and of the mountains in the distance.
The trail continues steeply down along the exposed ridge. Use caution as you descend to the next viewpoint.
The second overlook offers a beautiful vista with blue-tinged mountains in the distance. Closer in, you'll see an exposed and rounded hill covered with plowed fields. Even with the bare branches of winter we really enjoyed the viewpoint. In summer, the view is lush with green, and dotted with yellows in oranges in the fall.
Once you've had your fill of the view, turn and make your way back following the same trails.
Dogs are welcome on the Big Devils Stairs hike as long as they are on a leash.
More Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park
There are many more wonderful hikes, overlooks, and places to visit in Shenandoah National Park after your hike. If you're heading north, stop for the gorgeous view at the Range View Overlook. If you're driving south, stop at the first overlook on the left for a picture of the gnarly tree known affectionately on Instagram as #thatShenandoahtree.
Check out these related articles for suggestions and tips on more things to do and see in the park:
If you plan to visit more than once a year, we highly recommend the annual National Park Pass, which covers admission to all national park sites throughout the county.
The Big Devils Stair's hike is not one of the popular trails in the park, so it is likely to be quiet even during the busy season. We love the moderate challenge, the shady trail, and the excellent view from the overlook. If you try the hike please share your feedback and tips in the comments below. Happy hiking!