Overlooking Old Rag Mountain, the Robertson Mountain hike has one of the steepest trails in the central section of the Shenandoah National Park, with an elevation gain on the Robertson Mountain Trail of 1,700 feet in just over 1.5 miles.
From the parking area, pass the closed gate hiking up the yellow blazed Berry Hollow Fire Road for 0.8 miles. Here you reach the intersection of the Old Rag Fire Road on the left, the Saddle Trail on the right, and Weakley Hollow Fire Road that continues straight.
Continue straight on the yellow blazed Weakley Hollow Fire Road (concrete post points towards Old Rag Parking Area) for 1.2 miles and arrive at the Robertson Mountain Trail.
Lovely challenging day when done with Old Rag. Have now done it three ways, but up old rag and down to the start of the steep ascent on Robertson, and descent of Corbin Hollow is probably the best. Up Robertson and then Old Rag puts you on the Old Rag Ridge a bit exhausted, with long waits at the bottlenecks - at least on Sundays!
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 15, 2015
My partner and I used this as a training hike to prepare for an up-coming adventure. We've hiked Old Rag a couple of times and we were looking for an alternative rigorous and slightly longer trail. We began from the lower Old Rag parking lot on Nethers Rd, climbed up Weakley Hollow Fire Road to Robertson Mountain Trail to the Old Rag Fire Road to Corbin Mountain Trail to Nicholson Hollow Trail back to the parking lot. Overall distance was 11-12 miles and took 7 hours, including about 30 minutes for breaks and time at the summit of Robertson. The route we took was perfect for us--the ascent of Robertson was intense (great!), but once we reached the summit (about 2.5 hours from start) the rest of the trek was mostly flat or downhill (the Old Rag Fire Road section was uphill but quite moderate).
Likes: NOBODY on the trail! We met a solo hiker and one party of three on Robertson, no one on Corbin Mountain! Great view from the summit of Robertson lovely trail on Corbin (we passed through a section we dubbed "the shire"), and Nicholson follows the Hughes River (beautiful)
Dislikes: With no one on Corbin we encountered spider webs every few feet (a bit frustrating). Please, go hike this trail! We plan to go again a couple more times this fall, so keep the spiders off!
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 01, 2015
Being generally familiar with this area and how crowded the fire roads can get in the summer near Old Rag, we did a variation of this hike. From the Old Rag parking area, we hit the Weakley Hollow Fire Road to Robertson Mountain Trail to Old Rag Fire Road to Corbin Mountain Trail to Nicholson Hollow Trail and then back to the parking area. GPS indicated it was 8.61 miles, though it did have some connection data point/connection issues in two deeper forest canopy zones, so I'd estimate a bit over 9 miles would be more accurate. It took us 6hrs, which included about an hour's worth of combined scenery/wildlife photography stops along the way. We hit the trail at 0730.
The fire roads are both gradual to moderate inclines, but easy trekking in the shade of the woods. Robertson Mountain Trail does not require any all-fours scrambling, but it is a very steep trail all of the way to the summit (the summit overlooking being a very short side trail that branches to the left at the top). If you have kids along and/or you're not in reasonably good shape, avoid it. Otherwise, go totally worth it! The summit is much smaller and limited in view in the summer compared to Old Rag (which you can catch a glimpse off to the far left from the overlook), but it's worth the haul to see! The hike down the other side to Old Rag Fire Road is not nearly as steep as how you got up there, and no portion of the circuit ahead will come anywhere close in difficulty level. Corbin Mountain Trail varies nicely with a variety of forest surroundings/densities, though it was a little grassy in areas. Once you hit the junction with Nicholson Hollow Trail you've got the Hughes River to accompany you all of the way back to the parking lot, which makes for some nice scenery and a soundtrack (if you like the sound of running water, of course).
We encountered ZERO ticks, three white-tailed deer, one timber rattlesnake (on the trail watch your step), and a ton of different butterflies, moths, arachnids, beetles, caterpillars, and other interesting arthropods along the way. No harm caused by any of them. The ascent to Robertson summit and the first half of Corbin Mountain Trails did have a fair abundance of spider/webs across the trail, but carrying a small stick made moving them easy enough.
We saw 6 people on Weakley Hollow Fire Road after passing the Ridge Trail to Old Rag, and had the misfortune of a group of about 15 hikers that caught up to us while we were enjoying the view on top of Robertson Mountain. Fortunately, they were speed hikers and moved on ahead in a hurry and were never seen by us, again. The only other people encountered were on the final half of Corbin Mountain Trail all 3 of them were lost, having thought they were heading along the Ridge Trail to Old Rag. We donated a map to one and taught the others how to read their map and the trail head/intersection markers if you're not familiar with the area, the trails are well marked on the concrete pillars with the metal bands around the top. The park maps are also pretty helpful and are free at the ranger stations.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 25, 2015
I decided to do a different variation of this hike, starting at the Old Rag parking lot at the end of 600 in Nethers because I wanted to do most of the hiking off of fire roads. We went from 600 to Weakley Hollow Fire Road, then up Robertson Mt., down Old Rag Fire Road, across Corbin Mt. trail, before coming back down Nicholson Hollow trail. Total distance 11.1 miles, with about 3400 feet of elevation gain. Arrived at the parking lot by 830, and already it was filling up! I couldn't believe that some people were hiking without even a pack. Left most of the crowds behind on the Robertson Mt. trail, and didn't really see anyone the rest of the day besides a couple on the summit. I've hiked a lot of 4k footers in NH, and let me tell you that the hike up Robertson was not easy! Well worth the view and the solitude though. Corbin Mt. trail was gorgeous and relatively easy (a nice reprieve), although because it isn't hiked too often there were lots of spiderwebs to run into (like every ten feet, it was crazy). Didn't see anyone on that trail at all, except for one bear cub (!) towards the beginning. Overall, a great hike that I will do in the fall/winter again. One of my favorites in the area so far.
Date of Hike: Thursday, April 30, 2015
First hike of the season for us seniors so we chose this for the relative ease of fire road walking and a decent climb to a magnificent view. We opted to avoid the steepest part and went counter clockwise to the top and then retraced our steps for the return. The mileage was about the same. Beautiful day and a few wild flowers, large trees and an occasional squirrel and only one other couple of hikers. Climbing the backside of the mountain is a challenge but not heart stopping. We will be back!