The Lower Stein Valley is an incredible trail alongside the Stein River in BC, Canada, that is great for beginner backpackers. The second campground along the trail is Devil’s Staircase Camp. You can read my previous post about the palaver travelling to this remote area, and Loop Camp here.
This trail was closed for several years, but opened in May 2022. We visited on Canada Day weekend (early July) when we were unable to secure reservations to go camping closer to Vancouver. Soon after our visit, the park was closed again due to the Nohomin Creek wildfire. You can check here or here to see if it has re-opened. I hope there was not too much damage and that this spectacular trail will be open again soon.
Lower Stein Valley Map – Devil’s Staircase Camp
Red shows the way to Devil’s Staircase Camp and beyond. Or view my Strava map.
Lower Stein Valley to Devil’s Staircase Camp – the basics
Distance: 8km (we kept going beyond Devil’s staircase, so walked about 16km)
Elevation gain: 237m (851m for the route we took…)
Time: It’s less than 2 hours to Devil’s Staircase camp (one way)
What to bring: If you are backpacking, bring all your camping gear. The 10 Essentials.
Facilities: Loos and gorgeous picnic shelter at the parking lot. The campsite has pit toilets and metal lockers for bear cache. (Loop Camp on the way has those facilities too.)
Dogs: Dogs are allowed on a leash
How hard is it? Moderately easy to Devil’s Staircase Camp. The trail is easy to follow, although has a few spots were you’ll need to clamber over landslides, flooded areas or deadfall. It is a good option for beginner backpackers.
Tree memorials in the Stein Valley
About 1km beyond Loop Camp are some beautiful tree memorials on a ponderosa pine. Each carved memorial contains poems or tributes for members of the Lytton First Nation. Some of these honor people who helped protect this sacred area from logging.
It’s not far between Loop camp and Devil’s Staircase Camp; Just over 2km.
Devil’s Staircase Camp
Devil’s Staircase campground is lovely, but loud! It is just above the Stein River so you will go to sleep to the sound of crashing waters. Devil’s Staircase Camp facilities include bear cache lockers, a pit toilet and 6 spots for tents. The campground has some massive rocks which can work well as tables or chairs when you eat.
You need to climb down to the river if you need water. This is the view of the river close to Devil’s Staircase Camp. In spring or early summer, when the flood waters are surging, it is easier to retrace your steps to collect water from a quiet spot about 500m before the camp.
If you have more energy, you can keep going beyond the campsite. The next part of the trail sounds much harder than it is! Devil’s Staircase refers to some switchbacks above the campground where you’ll gain 150m in elevation.
This is steep, and can feel exhausting in the heat! However it is quite short, and you’ll be rewarded with fab views once you make it up.
Above the Devil’s Staircase, the side of the mountain is covered by a huge landslide. The trail is still obvious, but you need to be careful in some spots where the trail has been washed out.
Once you have made it up, the trail undulates, climbing down to the river, then back up over bumps again and again.
Rock Art in the Lower Stein Valley
As I mentioned in my previous post, Stein Valley is the ancestral and spiritual home of the Nlaka’pamux people. The valley has some traditional power spots that were (and are still) used as the location for spiritual rituals. There are multiple rock-art sites as this watershed has the largest concentration of pictographs in Canada.
If you look carefully, you’ll be able to see rock art along this trail, especially on large rock faces. These were made by mixing ochre with water. Oil from your hands can damage the art, so please don’t touch them if you find some. If you’d like to see better photos – have a peek at this fab post from Kamloops Trails.
At the base of the descent, there is a low bridge over a creek. If you look left up the creek, you can see Christina Falls. It’s partially covered by bushes, but still cool to see. It’s much easier to collect water here than from the main river!
The pathway was move overgrown beyond Christina Falls, so we found ourselves fighting through bushes along the trail. In the end, we decided to turn back around half way to Teepee Camp, where an island in the center of the river created fantastic rapids.
Camping below Devil’s Staircase
We re-traced our steps back to Devil’s Staircase Camp. It is a pretty location, and possibly the loudest campsite I have ever slept in, due to the thundering waters of the Stein.
You are not allowed campfires in the Stein Valley (as recent wildfires have devastated areas near here- it is not worth the risk!) So bring a camping stove if you need a hot dinner. We’ve been experimenting with dehydrating our own camping meals. They all look terrible, but Japanese curry with edamame, carrots and potatoes tasted pretty good.
The hike to Devils Staircase Camp was our first backpacking trip of 2022. It is a great option for beginners (or hikers who have not yet strengthened their summer legs!) It was lovely to be warm (where most trails were still covered in snow.) Stein from the Nlaka’pamux word “stagyn” which means hidden place, seems very appropriate for this spiritual area.
It rained heavily overnight, so the following morning, we re-traced our steps past Loop Camp back to the trailhead, and then had the long drive back to Vancouver.
The Lower Stein Valley is a truly gorgeous area to explore. I would love to return and hike further (and attempt to find more of the pictographs.) I truly appreciate the campaigning from the local Nlaka’pamux people (from the Lytton First Nation) who worked with other first nations and environmentalists until the area was formally made into a Provincial Park. Hopefully this special area will be open for people to enjoy again soon!
Click on the pins below to save this for when the trail reopens.