This weekend my husband and I hiked one of our favorite loop trails in Shenandoah National Park: Little Devil Stairs. The loop itself is 6 miles long, but if you include side trips to Mount Marshall Overlook on Skyline Drive as well as Little Hogback Overlook on the AT (as we did), it adds up to about 9 miles. It was our third time hiking this trail.
The day started out cool and fresh, with the first hints of autumn all around us from the foliage starting to change color, to the leaves lightly carpeting the trail, and their scent.
You start out at Little Devils Stairs Trailhead and cross over streams several times along Little Devils Stairs Trail.
With autumn in the air, you can be sure to encounter a variety of Asters during a hike in Shenandoah.
White Wood Aster
White Wood Aster, or Aster divaricatus, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms July to October. Native to eastern North America, it grows in dry open woods.
There seem to be several varieties that can be classified as “White Wood Aster.”
Short’s Aster, or Symphyotrichum shortii, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms September and October. Native to North America, it grows throughout the east and Midwest, but not in New England. It attracts pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Its seeds attract a wide variety of birds: cardinals, finches, sparrows, thrashers, , chickadees, nuthatches, and turkeys.
The White Micrathena spider, or Micrathena mitrata, is a small orb-weaving spider that is typically foundin mixed hardwood forests. They are often seen in summer and fall. They can be found in eastern North America.
We saw this one in action hunting bugs flying into its delicate web.
After a mile and a half or so you reach dramatic cliffs that stand what must be at least 100 feet high next to a river. Unfortunately, this time the river was mostly dry. Along the way, there are several sections of this trail that are strenuous and where you have to climb using your hands as well as your feet. It’s no wonder they named it “Little Devils Stairs.”