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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
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3D View of Route
Old Rag Geology
From:

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.
Hiker Reviews For The Old Rag Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Old Rag Mountain hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, October 8, 2019
In response to the Old Rag parking situation post. The National Park Service and PATC are building a new parking lot for Old Rag to accommodate overflow cars- https://www.nps.gov/shen/learn/news/shenandoah-national-park-announces-construction-begins-on-a-new-parking-lot-for-old-rag-mountain-area-trails.htm

By: Robert Look Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 28, 2019
I have heard that there is a new owner of the pasture next to the Old Rag NPS parking lot who is not interested in being in the business of offering paid overflow parking services for the NPS Old Rag parking lot.

The existing NPS free parking lot has approximately 250 spaces. In recent years, on busy Fall weekends, it has not been unusual for several hundred cars to park in the paid overflow pasture.

The parking situation at Old Rag will probably be a rapidly changing situation but based on what I heard, you should not assume there will be the option of paying to park in the pasture next to the NPS lot this Fall.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, August 12, 2019
Hiked from Nethers main lot and started at 0900 with my wife and some teenage children aged 11 to 19. We are in good shape but we took a few breaks along the upward trek. Temp was 80's and sunny and we were glad we decided to hike on Monday and with school just coming into session in VA. Rock scramble for novice's is more difficult than some would expect. Encountered a black bear about 20 yards off the trail on way down the road past Shelter #2 but it did seem to mind us. TIP# 1: Change socks at summit. GPS showed 10 miles in distance. Start to finish was about 7 hrs. Good luck.

By: Tubal Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 26, 2019
Arrived around 7 am on a relatively cool Friday in July to a virtually empty parking lot. I ran into no more than two dozen other hikers, mostly at the peak. I have done this hike a few times in recent years, although I'd never go on a weekend as crowds would diminish what has always been a great hike.

A lot more signage warning about bears this time.

A park ranger was at the peak patrolling in relation to bear sightings and noted they were having some bear concerns, one at the peak in particular.

I did not see any bears on 7/26/2019, as I did in early October 2018.

The parking lot was about half full upon my return shortly after noon.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, July 4, 2019
i have been there during 4th July 2019 with 5 friends and one kid. This hiking path was great and challenging mainly the rocky part on the top for almost 3 mile . great 360 degree view . It took almost 6 hours for us. I have uploaded my full experience in youtube to see you can click below link : https://youtu.be/L-t_21mc0Rw

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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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