We had a rare treat starting off the day: our shuttle back to the trail was scheduled for 9 am, so we were essentially required to sleep in a bit and have a slower start to the morning. Breakfast was a welcome change from the usual, with pancakes and a lox bagel on the menu.

Hogwarts at Glen Coe

The day was also a short one of only 8 miles, but with the dreaded “Devil’s Staircase” (note: not actual stairs, just a trail up a hill). This section of the hike had been a hot topic of conversation in the walker’s bars along the way. People were VERY CONCERNED about how hard it would be and if they’d be able to make it.

dreary, but also beautiful

Despite all the teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling, we weren’t that worried. It was only an 8-mile day, so even if it was gnarly, we had lots of time to make it up and over. It would be fine.

And then we looked at the elevation chart in our guidebook. 815 feet over 1 mile. Yes, it’s a climb, but honestly, not a bad one. And we only had EIGHT miles to do that day. In fact, the following day we had a similar climb at the start of a 15-mile day. No reason to freak out.


trail or maybe stream

The trail started off flat but wet along the side of the highway, requiring a good deal of rock-hopping to keep our feet dry. As we turned away from the road, the trail began to climb, following the path of a fast stream that tumbled down the hillside.

Glen Coe Munros...and fog

The great views started immediately, every time we turned to look back over our shoulders: The Devil’s Staircase sits opposite the mountains of Glen Coe, which disappeared and reappeared as the mist shifted throughout the morning.

It was a tiring ascent with frequent stops, but the trail was good, the views were better, and we made it to the top in good time. As usual, going down was much harder on the body.

conquering the devil's staircase

Our destination for the day was the town of Kinlochleven, situated near the outlet of Loch Leven where it flowed into the reservoir below. The trail down into Kinlochleven was a steep gravel road mostly used by the hydro company in managing the dam, the reservoir, and the massive water pipes that ran between them. The descent was tough and a surprisingly steep grade for a road, but the town, when we got down to it, was a cute and cozy hamlet straddling a small river.

wet but accomplished