Old Rag Mountain

Via Ridge Trail and Weakley Hollow Fire Road

  • Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • 8.6 mile Loop (includes some road walking)
  • 2400 ft. Elevation Gain
  • 6-8 hours (maybe more)
  • Strenuous (rock hop borders on extreme)
  • Best done late spring or early fall
  • B.I.T. Rating (****)

IMG_1913

Directions:  From Sperryville VA, Take Route 522 south for about a mile. Turn right onto Route 231 and go 8 miles. Turn right onto Route 601 (A narrow country road) and follow the signs to the parking area (approximately 3 miles). Note that while the road continues on right up to the trail you can NOT park up there. Note that the trailhead is about 40 minutes from the park’s Thornton Gap entrance. It is NOT accessible directly from Skyline Drive (not with this itinerary, anyway.)

There is a FEE for this hike. This is basically a park entrance fee…so if you’ve already paid the entrance fee, or have a seasonal pass, all you need to do is bring that.

*Old Rag is one of BecauseItzThere’s Best Hikes in the Southern Appalachians. In fact, we consider it the NUMBER ONE hike in the region! Be aware of the challenges but if feel up to it, do NOT miss this one!

Brief Description: The best hike in Shenandoah National Park, and (in our opinion) all of Virginia. Notable mostly for the mile long boulder hop in the middle of the trail; apart from that one mile, the rest of the trail is fairly straightforward, even boring. But do not underestimate the challenge of the boulder hop section; while not quite technical rock climbing this is a notch or two above just ‘hiking.’

Why do it?

  • Perhaps the best trail in the Southern United States
  • Exhilarating and challenging boulder hop of over a mile
  • Boulder hop section is scenically stunning from start to finish
  • Views into remote valleys unspoiled by development (rare in Northern Virginia)
  • Ledges, chimneys, precariously balanced rocks…even a cave!
  • More weird and interesting rock formations that we have seen anywhere east of the Rockies
  • HUGE open summit area of Old Rag is a photographers paradise
  • Relatively modest approach and descent trails
  • Though challenging, any reasonably fit person can do this if they exercise caution
  • Shelters make overnight options possible
  • Real chance of seeing a bear (We did! :-))

But first consider…

  • Old Rag mountain is potentially DANGEROUS
  • Mechanical injuries from falls a serious concern here
  • Many serious injuries, deaths on this trail
  • NPS conducts difficult rescue operations every year from this mountain
  • You can’t walk this…requires some hand over hand climbing
  • Be prepared to go up, over and sometimes under boulders of every description
  • Crawling may be necessary in spots
  • Once in the rock scrambles, no easy way to get out
  • Blazes sometimes hard to follow in the rock scramble
  • Risk of serious injury goes sharply up if you stray from the blazes…STAY ON THE TRAIL!!!
  • No water on the upper portions of trail — Bring at least 2 liters, 3 in summer
  • Despite the challenges, Old Rag can be VERY CROWDED
  • Huge NPS parking lot usually fills to capacity on peak weekends
  • Expect delays as struggling would be rock-hoppers queue up at the tougher scrambles
  • Recommended in clockwise direction but both ways are challenging
  • Avoiding summer weekends strongly suggested
  • Avoid in wet, icy conditions
  • Lightning strike danger on exposed ledges
  • Despite the many challenges, much of this is a boring road walk
  • Kids will LOVE this but they will need help in the scrambles
  • Not a good hike for dogs or homos sapiens afraid of heights
  • Real chance of surprising a mother bear with cubs (we did! :-0)

Blog Post

NPS site with a helpful video

Best National Parks Hikes
Miles and miles and no sign of human development from Old Rag’s back side!