Old Rag Mountain, The Most Popular Hike in Virginia

Hiking Old Rag Mountain

Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park is one of the most popular hikes in Virginia for a good reason.  The nine mile hike in Madison County has everything you want in a day hike: decent length, varying landscapes, spacious lunch spots, challenging obstacles, and amazing views. The trail starts at the base of Old Rag Mountain and then runs all the way up to the summit before looping back around the backside of the mountain.  The thing that makes Old Rag such a great hike compared to other Shenandoah hikes is the rock scramble at the summit.

Old Rag, Rocky Trail, Hike
The first section of the trail through the forest
Old Rag View, Valley, Rock Scramble
Looking down on the valley below. Great View!

What this means is that there isn’t a forest growing on top of Old Rag. The top of Old Rag Mountain is covered in massive exposed boulders. This rock scramble at the top is one of the most fun stretches of any trail I’ve hiked on the East Coast. Around three miles into the hike the trail will switch from dirt to hard rock and you’ll be rewarded for that tough incline you just hiked. The trail will be filled with narrow pathways and challenging rock obstacles for the rest of the uphill portion.

Old Rag Summit, Rock Scramble
Looking up through the morning fog at the summit
Old Rag Peak Elevation, Rock Scramble
Getting Close to the Peak

Old Rag is famous throughout the entire state of Virginia so it can get crowded at times. There are several easy ways to beat these crowds. Plan your hike on a weekday, this is the most obvious tip as most people will be working during the weekdays. Arrive early. Arriving early is the easiest way to ensure deserted trails and increased solitude. Aim to be in the parking lot and ready to hike before 8 (though even earlier than that is better) and you should be in for a great day of hiking.

Old Rag Boulder, Rock Scramble
Large Boulder perched at the summit of Old Rag
What is the best time of year to hike Old Rag?

There really isn’t a wrong time of year to hike Old Rag so I’ll do a brief pro/con for each season.

Summer Pros: Warm weather means you can dress light,

Summer Cons: Can reach very high temperatures, bringing extra water is a necessity

 

Fall Pros: Can see the beautiful fall foliage, mild temperatures, good time of year to see wildlife

Fall Cons: Can get very crowded on the trail/parking lot

 

Winter Pros: Smallest crowds of the year, no leaves obstructing the view

Winter Cons: Very cold, ice on the rocks can be dangerous

 

Spring Pros: Can see the beautiful spring flowers blooming, mild temperatures, good time of year to see wildlife

Spring Cons: Can get very crowded on the trail/parking lot

 

For more info check out the Park Service’s site for Old Rag here!

Old Rag Mountain, hiking
Panoramic Shot from the summit

Directions

The parking lot for the Old Rag hiking trail is at 3577 Nethers Road, Etlan VA 22719.  The parking area is along route 600.  Make sure you park in the designated area because parking along the road or on private property is not allowed.  Some people will charge you to park on their property so make sure you get there early to get a spot in the actual parking area.

Fees

Parking in the designated lot at Old Rag is free.  However, because Old Rag is located inside Shenandoah National Park, visitors will need to pay the park entrance fee.  There is a self-pay box located in the Old Rag parking lot.  80% of the entrance fees go to maintaining the trail here so you know the fee is put to good use.  You can check out what the most current entrance rates are Here.

Enjoy the hike and let us know what you think about Old Rag in the comments below!

 

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