Miles: 7.2-mile circuit
Time: six hours
Difficulty: very difficult
Elevation change: 2,380 feet
Terrain: rough, large boulders, steep
Trail markings: blue blazed
Access point: Old Rag parking area
Old Rag Mountain, located in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, boasts to having one of the best and most popular hikes in the area. It is a challenging 7.2-mile hike and rock scramble culminating in a 360-degree view of the Shenandoah. You will climb Old Rag via the Ridge Trail, across the summit and descend via the Saddle Trail, Old Rag Fire Road and the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.
Start across the road from the parking area on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road. After an initial, steady climb of three-quarters of a mile, the trail becomes steeper and you will soon find yourself on exposed, granite rocks. In simple, this is a rock scramble to get across. Do look up, though, for the gorgeous views of Shenandoah National Park and rural Virginia.
After another hour, several false summits (the real summit has a concrete marker on it), and legs like jelly, you will reach your destination - the Old Rag Summit and a breathtaking, 360-degree view of the Shenandoah. To the north and west is Shenandoah National Park nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and to the south and east is rural Virginia farmland. While atop, spread out on the large boulders, relax the legs and enjoy a picnic or snack.
It is all downhill from here. You can head back via the way you came on the Ridge Trail, but you will incur an awful climb back over boulders. An easier and safer, but longer route, is the Saddle Trail to the Old Rag Fire Road to Weakley Hollow Fire Road.
-- Laura Fravel
Maps are available by contacting the Shenandoah National Park or by going to one of the visitors centers or information centers throughout the park.
Pets are not allowed on the trail.
Restrooms are at visitors centers.
Overnight hiking is allowed if a back-country permit (free) is obtained from the park service first.
Obtain a map of the area before hiking.
Old Rag gets extremely crowded on nice weekends. Parking is limited and rangers restrict the number of hikers on the trail. Get there early to ensure parking and admittance to the area.