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Old Rag Mountain - SNP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
9.1 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
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5.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,415 ft
Shenandoah National Park
Printable Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Sperryville Weather Forecast
Garmin (GDB), GPS eXchange (GPX) (What's this?)
3D View of Route
Old Rag Geology
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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 hike gets a star rating for solitude, so the best time to enjoy Old Rag is during the week when there are significantly fewer people.


The circuit hike listed here follows the popular clockwise loop, however many hikers prefer to do this loop counterclockwise, thereby tackling the rock scramble at 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. If hiking on a nice weekend, the best time to arrive is by 7 a.m. before the crowds.

  • Mile 0.0 - From the Old Rag parking area walk 0.4 miles along paved Nethers Rd. at which point the road veers left. In another 0.4 miles Nethers Rd. ends at the closed Old Rag upper parking area.
  • Mile 0.8 - 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. From this first vista to the west, the Ridge Trail will become more rocky then arrive at the main easterly vista on the ridge in another 0.2 miles.
  • Mile 3.0 - From here 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. At the bottom of the crack continue out to the left. Follow the blue blazes passing around 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, then arriving 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 is 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.
  • Mile 4.1 - Descend south along the Ridge Trail for 0.4 miles to the intersection of the Saddle Trail and Byrd's Nest Shelter.

    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

  • Mile 4.5 - Turn right descending on the blue blazed Saddle Trail. 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).
  • Mile 5.9 - Turn right downhill on the yellow blazed Weakley Hollow Fire Road. In 1.2 miles pass the Robertson Mountain Trail, then in another 200 yards the Corbin Hollow Trail. Continue along the Weakley Hollow Fire Road back to the upper parking area.
  • Mile 8.3 - Arrive at the closed upper parking area then continue down the paved Nethers Rd. for 0.8 miles back to the main parking area.
  • Mile 9.1 - Arrive back at the main parking area on Nethers Rd.
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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: Tom Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 11, 2017
Superb solo hike. Plenty of punters up on the route because it was Veterans Day, however this meant Fee-free upon entry to the National Park and Car Park! Set off at 09:35 with temp about 28 degrees on a bright crisp morning. One thermal and fleece meant I️ had to get moving to warm up but after that I️ was the perfect temp the whole way around. Beautiful scenes through the woodland with needle ice everywhere. The scramble sections are brilliant and really get you thinking about body position. I️ would take gloves because the rock is really abrasive and cools your hands down really quickly also. Towards the top there is much scrambling to be explored off the trail which was awesome - watch out for the sudden deep crevices. Had lunch perched on the best seat in the house with phenomenal views. Trial down super quick and easy, just watch out for black ice. Got back to the car park in 3.5 hrs.

By: Taylor R. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 28, 2017
Old Rag was a great hike. Itís about as difficult as itís described by people in other reviews it was pretty strenuous. It took a full 6 hours and we were moving pretty quick, but taking our time with the views. We moved quickly because of the crowds being behind us, clogging up the bottleneck areas we had just completed. Other than the pressure to move, the crowds didnít get annoying. PLAN accordingly for the summit/peak area. This place is crowded but holds many overlooks and views. There is no phone signal. Have a meeting place and time for your group if you get separated, or you will end up like us. We searched for our friend whom was last seen walking close to the edge with a camera.... so we feared the worst. Long story short, he was sleeping in the truck when we got back to the lot. Donít even bother doing the hike if you came at noon or later, you will not finish before dark. In fact, youíre lucky if you find parking around then. Wear shoes with grip, hiking boots or trail running shoes are perfect. Clothes will peel off as you hike upward and go back on at the windy peaks. Bring plenty of water of course, youíre an adult reading a review so I imagine you know how much water youíll need. NOTE this hike is waaaaayyy more dangerous than I imagined. Take your time and do not follow someone because they look like they know what theyíre doing or theyíve been here before. You canít trust people to know your comfort level. There is little to no distinction between the best paths and the precarious ledges or dead ends, so donít get carried away. OVERALL: have fun. Arrive early. Take your time. Eat and drink enough. Plan ahead with the group.

By: Brian Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 07, 2017
Finally got around to doing this hike for sunrise - I highly recommend it! We left the parking area at 2:30, reached the top at 5 and took a quick nap (we overestimated how long it would take, mostly because we only saw one other group instead of the usual bottlenecking at various points). We accidentally planned this on a full moon so at times we didn't even need flashlights. Sunrise was amazing, as expected. It was really great to walk back to the parking lot around 9:30 as it was filling up and a parade of people were getting started. Made it to chick fil a 15 minutes before they stop serving breakfast, got home and took a 2 hour nap, then "started" my Saturday like any other. Leaves were just starting to turn by the way.

By: Alina Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 17, 2017
I've done this hike 4 times now including by myself. It's definitely my favorite no matter the time of year because the views never get old. This last hike was a bit more of a disappointment, not because of the trail but because I brought a friend on a bad day. The peak was SO foggy and there was a swarm of bugs to the point where we couldn't do our lunch on the top of the mountain. Oh well. I'll just have to return in October.

Keep your eyes peeled for the blue blazes. The one that has caught me twice is the blue through the cave that spits you out on another side. The trail makes it seem that you're supposed to go straight but you'll descend quickly and realize you get to hike back up.

Also I keep forgetting to bring GLOVES! Not a must, but it would definitely make the scramble more comfortable.


By: GP Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 16, 2017
I have hiked Old Rag numerous times, and this latest trek did not disappoint. The trail was less crowded than usual, although I ran into slight congestion at the usual spots (rock scramble, overlooks, summit). The trees were just starting to turn, but it will likely be a few more weeks before you can really appreciate the fall foliage.

As a word of caution, there were several snakes on the trail including a large rattlesnake right at the beginning of the rock scramble. The biting flies on the summit were out in force, and I have a number of bite marks on my legs from the ~20 minutes or so that I stopped for lunch. There was also a wasp nest in a tree in the middle of the trail within the first mile or so, but I didn't encounter any thanks to a warning posted at the ranger station and on a tree about 10 yards before the nest. In the 10+ times I've hiked Old Rag, snakes and bugs have never been an issue, so hopefully this was a one off.


    View all 563 reviews for the Old Rag Mountain hike
Video
Old Rag - Saddle Ridge Trail Easterly View
Old Rag - 1st Crack on the Saddle Trail
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

Summit Ridge 360° Panorama
Early January (photos courtesy of Heidi W.)
 
Mid October
Late December
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