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Old Rag Mountain - SNP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
8.0 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

5.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,510 ft
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park Old Rag Safety Video Guide
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Old Rag Geology

e.g. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
Park at the 200 car parking area on SR600/Nethers Rd. 38.57036, -78.28705
NOTE: The upper parking area at the trailhead is now closed to all public parking

The Old Rag Mountain hike in the Shenandoah National Park is one of the most popular hikes in the mid-Atlantic region. With many spectacular panoramic views, and one of the most challenging rock scrambles in the park, this circuit hike is a favorite of many hikers. But be prepared for the crowds. This is the only hike we give a star rating for solitude.

On the other hand, it's the only hike we give a star rating to for views. Many hikers also prefer to do this loop counterclockwise, thereby tackling the rock scramble on the Ridge Trail on the downhill. Either way, the rock scramble can be challenging, being both steep, and requiring climbing through cracks in the rock. The best bet to enjoy this great hike is to be at the trail head by 7 a.m. before all the crowds arrive.

From the lower Old Rag parking area walk 0.5 miles up SR600 where it veers left and in another 0.4 miles ends at the Old Rag closed upper parking area. Turn left uphill on the blue blazed Ridge Trail next to the closed gate. The trail will gradually increase in grade and make nine switch backs before reaching the first of many view points in 1.9 miles. From the first vista point to the west, the Ridge Trail will become more rocky before reaching the main easterly vista on the ridge in another 0.2 miles.

From this point to the summit in 0.9 miles, the trail becomes a rock scramble with narrow passages, and several spots requiring hand over hand climbing.

From the easterly vista on the ridge start up the rock scramble, with the first obstacle a 12ft deep small crack in the rock. Climb to the bottom and follow it out to the left. Continue following the blue blazes passing around to the easterly side of the ridge and through another crack where the trail meets a small cliff. From here, the trail will become increasingly steep going through a small cave, before reaching the minor summit where the trail turns left. Be careful to follow the blue blazes, as there are several false trails that lead to overlooks.

After passing around the minor northerly summit, the trail becomes less steep, but still requires rock-hopping for most of the remaining 0.3 miles to the true summit, where there are several points with 360° views.

Continue south along the Ridge Trail now descending for 0.3 miles to the junction of the Saddle Trail and Byrd's Nest Shelter. Turn right descending on the blue blazed Saddle Trail, then in 0.6 miles pass the Old Rag Shelter. Both shelters are available for day use only. From the Old Rag Shelter the trail widens and follows a forestry road for the 0.4 miles to the intersection of the Berry Hollow Fire road (left), Old Rag Fire Road (straight), and Weakley Hollow Fire Road (right).

Turn right downhill on the yellow blazed Weakley Hollow Fire Road. In 1.2 miles pass the Robertson Mountain Trail, and in another 200 yards the Corbin Hollow Trail. Continue along the Weakley Hollow Fire Road the remaining 0.8 miles back to the upper parking area.

Byrd's Nest Area Scrambling:
For some additional rock scrambling, consider a side trip near the Byrd's Nest Shelter to see the Balance Rock that you can see from Old Rag and the Saddle Trail. About 20 yards from the shelter is a series of rocks worth climbing and to get a bearing (about 300 degrees with our compass pegged on North) to the Balance Rock, about 0.2 miles away. This will involve some bushwhacking, follow a visible path for about 50 yards or so beyond the first set of rocks and it will bear to the right near a campsite and take you below a cliff and the Balance Rock will be visible to the North West, mostly bushwhacking from this point to the Rock. We did not see an easy way to climb Balance Rock but with a little bit of effort we were able to get on the rock just below it for some great views. The coordinates for Balance Rock: N38.5505 W78.3236, the coordinates for the Byrd's Nest Shelter: N38.5501 W78.3211
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Hiker Reviews For The Old Rag Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Old Rag Mountain hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Mark Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 17, 2014
My 8 y.o. daughter and I completed the hike in about 5 and half hours. Fitbit said it was almost 11 miles from car door to car door. We did explore the summit a bit after a long lunch, so that may have added to the mileage. We each carried over a liter of water and had plenty left at the end. There were about 20 cars in the lot when we arrived at 9:30. It was almost full when we left around 3:30. There are well-used portable toilets at the parking lot and an outhouse that was clean enough (at the Old Rag shelter about 3/4 through the hike) that my picky kid used it. We were early enough that we had some moments of solitude throughout the hike, though not in the rock scramble. We went clockwise, like most people who reviewed here. I would thinking going against the traffic in the rock scramble would add a lot of time if you are going the other way. There were a few people in student groups who seemed surprised at the challenge of the scramble, but all helped each other through. My young daughter did need a few lifts throughout the scramble. The suggestions to make sure to have your hands free and gloves for the scramble were spot on - made our climb much easier. The last few miles on the fire roads seem to go on forever and proved to be the hardest part for both me and my daughter. To my daughter's chagrin it turned into an opportunity to explain the context of the line "A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" and other fatherly advice. Overall, a lovely day in a beautiful setting we will not soon forget. Next time we will definitely start earlier. Can't wait! P.S. there is a great little brook that runs through the parking lot that feels great on the feet right before the long drive home.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 12, 2014
It was my first hike of the year and I enjoyed every step of the way :)


By: Dylan Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, March 09, 2014
Great hike! Although it was very muddy on the way up. Icy on the way down after the day shelter.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, February 23, 2014
Can't say enough good about hiking the Ridge Trail Boulder Scramble from the first "False Summit" to the last (4th) real summit.  Snow and Ice were a HUGE threat down the back (Saddle Trail) however, until God had mercy on me and put Robert Look (NPS Volunteer) in my path.  It was then that I learned of "Microspikes" (Shoe sized spike-embedded rubber slip-on nettings that brought back memories of putting chains on autotires). Anyway these REI-sold easy to carry life-savers were really all one could use descending in the dark (as we were doing) without giving way to sliding down on one's butt (whether accidentally or on purpose).  And such sliding quickly gives way to torn pants if you're lucky (or worse if you're not)!!!!!  Please also know that it goes without saying that a "Miner's lignt is an absolute must regardless of conditions (REI has these too!).  You will always need to have your light because of the impossibility of knowing when you will actually summit (and it is pitch black up there when the lights go out, believe me:).  Happy Trails.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 18, 2014
Question: Are dogs allowed on this hike? If they are, is a good idea to bring them along? Thanks for the help!

Answer: Dogs are NOT allowed on the Old Rag Ridge Trail. For a full list of trails pets are not allowed on in the SNP visit:

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The Staircase - Ridge Trail - Old Rag

Before and after pictures of 'The Staircase' section on the Ridge Trail of Old Rag. The 2 black and white photos were taken in 1968 prior to the boulder falling and partially blocking the route in the early 1970's, then as it appears today in the picture on the right.

1968 Photos courtesy of Henri Weems

Early January (photos courtesy of Heidi W.)
Mid October
Late December
Mid April (photos courtesy of Jake)
Video - Beginning Of The Rock Scramble Ridge Trail - Early October
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