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Sperryville, VA, USA

Old Rag Mountain Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park 9 mile hike up to the summit of Old Rag Mountain, including a 1-2 mile boulder scramble

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Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 9.0 miles / 14.5 km
Duration: Full day
 
Overview: This is a very challenging 9-mile hike. Do not attempt this hike unless you are fully prepared. Do not attempt this hike if it is icy or rainy and stay within your group.
Shenandoah Park Emergency Number (800-732-0911) In the event of an emergency, please note the closest number on a blue marker to provide to the emergency responders.

Beginning at Old Rag Parking lot, located south of Sperryville, Virginia, this circuit hike ascends Old Rag Mountain to the well-known boulder scramble and leads to spectacular views of the Shenandoah valley from the top of Old Rag. The Ridge Trail begins the ascent, through the strenuous rock scramble to the summit and returns by way of the Saddle Trail passing two shelters and continues on Weakley Hollow Fire Road and return to the Old Rag parking area.

This is an incredible and rewarding strenuous hike. Old Rag takes no prisoners, so make sure you’re well fit before attempting this hike. The Mountain Club of Maryland considers this their highlight hike during the fall so that one can experience all of the fall color glory in Shenandoah National Park. Try to take this hike during the week and cut down on the amount of people on the trail. Take friends as there are parts of the boulder scramble that require teamwork to overcome. Injuries can occur during the scramble, so take your time while traversing this section. Total elevation gain 2674 and equal loss.

This hike, along with many others within Shenandoah National Park provides this area as a wonderful destination for a holiday. Many activities are available within the park, including horse-back riding, wildlife viewing and dining. Luray Caverns in close to Skyline Drive off of VA-211. Sperryville is a charming mountain town worth a visit.


Tips: Bring at least two liters of water per person, food, cell phone, and an emergency kit. Plan on this hike taking at least seven hours to complete. You will be using both upper and lower body strength due to the boulder scramble. A pair of workout gloves is helpful on the boulder scramble section.

DIRECTIONS TO THE HIKE SITE:

From the Baltimore Beltway:

Take I-70 west towards exit 32 (39 miles from I-695.) Go 39 miles to Exit 52 onto US 340-south/west to Front Royal. Go 58 miles and turn left onto US 522 in Front Royal. Go 16 miles and turn right to remain on US-522/US-211. Go 8 miles, and turn left to remain on US-522 in Sperryville. Go 1 mile and turn right onto VA-231. Go 6 miles and turn right onto VA-707 (brown sign to Old Rag). Go 1 mile and turn right onto VA-600, bear left to remain on VA-600. You’ll see large grass National Park parking area to your left. Register your car at the self-service fee station in the lot. You must have a valid Shenandoah National Park pass to enter.

NOTE: This is a very popular hike and during the summer months, this lot gets quickly full. Plan on an early start to get a jump on the crowd.

HIKE DESCRIPTION:

This hike begins with a one-mile walk up the road to the original Old Rag Parking lot (port-a-pots here.) Turn left onto the Ridge Trail and begin your approximate two mile ascent with switchbacks before reaching the boulder scramble section. There are handwritten numbers below the blue trail blazes throughout the trail. You’ll be going up, down, in between, around, and underneath granite boulders throughout the scramble. While going through the boulder scramble, keep your eyes open for the blue blazes, as sometimes they are in the strangest places. If you have a fear of heights, or jumping across crevasses, this will challenge you and encourage you to overcome your fears.

Each time you think you’ve reached the summit – you haven’t ! This mountain likes to play with you and has several false summits. You’ll know that you’ve reached the top when you see the Old Rag Mountain brown elevation sign. Find a lovely rock with a fabulous view for your lunch spot here, before starting your descent on the back of the mountain by way of the Saddle Trail. Rock hopping down, you’ll pass two shelters. First the Byrds Nest Shelter, then the Old Rag Shelter (privy here) before hitting a cross-roads. Stay to your right to continue back on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road for about four miles to return to the parking lot. This section can seem like it’ll last forever. You will pass through beautiful forests and see Brokenback Run that leads into the Hughes River.

Points of Interest

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Old Rag Mountain

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Old Rag Trail Map

Parking Lot location
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Start of Ridge Trail follow Blue Markers uphill from left of parking lot

Make sure you pay/check-in at the self-service parking station. Head up hill on the paved road for one mile, arriving to the upper parking lot. Port-a-pots here.

Pick up Ridge Trail on your left just above the upper parking lot.
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Overlook along Ridge Trail

There are two particular vistas along the switchback trails. Appreciate the granite boulders within the forest.
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Start of Boulder Scramble

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Boulder Scramble

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Granite Staircase

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Summit

When you see this sign, you've arrived ! Stroll through the summit area and find a perfect place for a wonderful overlook of Shenandoah.
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Descent on Saddle Trail

The beginning of the Saddle Trail is near the Old Rag Mountain Summit brown sign. You'll be heading down on the back of the mountain. Views of the Summit are seen during fall/winter months.
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Byrds Nest Shelter

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Old Rag Shelter

Privy here. Daytime use only.
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Weakley Hollow Fire Road

You'll see three roads meet here with a large Old Rag Trail Map sign. Take a sharp right to continue back to parking lot. Markers also indicate direction to head.
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Brokenback Run

You'll cross two bridges along the stream.
Pictures in this guide taken by: BellaRemy

Bella Remy Photography

Old Rag Mountain Shenandoah National Park Trail Map


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About the Author

BellaRemy
BellaRemy
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Avid hiker and member of the Mountain Club of Maryland. A long-standing all-volunteer hiking group for...

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