Old Rag Mountain Loop Trail

HARD 1,029 reviews
#1 of 144 trails in

Old Rag Mountain Loop Trail is a 8.6 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Syria, Virginia that features a river and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

DISTANCE
8.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2417 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

snow

no dogs

This hike is one of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah National Park. It is a challenging hike, but when you make it about 3/4 of the way up, you will then have some rock scrambling that makes your pace a little slower. There are alot of switchbacks, so you will not be going straight up, but the trails are still at a steep grade. The descent, which is a longer distance than the ascent, is a much more gradual grade, ending on a fire trail. This hike begins with a one-mile walk up the road to the original Old Rag parking area (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. When hiking Old Rag Mountain, each time you think you’ve reached the summit – you haven’t! This mountain has several false summits. You’ll know that you’ve reached the Old Rag Summit when you see the Old Rag Mountain brown elevation sign. Find a lovely rock with a fabulous 360 degree 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.

3 minutes ago

Awesome Hike, one of the best in Shenandoah. Try to arrive before 7:30am to avoid a crowd and backups at the pinch points.

First hour or so is a steady incline to the top, moderately difficult. A few nice outlooks.

You hit a false summit with a great view and a good place to stop for a break. Then it’s up, down, around and over rocks to the true summit. None of the scramble is too exposed, so if you have a fear of heights it’s not bad at all.

There’s a second false summit with prayer flags, this was my favorite spot to get on top of the rocks for a 360 degree view and less people than the actual summit a little further.

Walk back down is easy, fire road is a nice walk through the woods but unremarkable.

Even though it’s not on skyline drive, it’s still $15/person or $30/car to hike this trail. Annual pass is worth it because you get access to all of Shenandoah.

Definitely recommend.

3 days ago

Done this trail a few times now. Last 2 times I went up the rock scramble and back down the rock scramble. Hands down its a much better hike than taking the fire road back.

Going back down the rock scramble is much harder than going up. I highly suggest it. You def have to have good upper body strength to go back down over the rocks. But it is worth it.

Took me around 4 hours with a 20-30 min break at the top for lunch.

I highly recommend this trail.

Admission is $30 a car load but you can get an annual pass for $55. Get the annual pass.

hiking
4 days ago

The ascent in the beginning was a continuous uphill anticipation of the rock scramble. And we saw very few bugs. The rock scramble was physically difficult and challenging but I’m so glad I did it. Strength, momentum and good hiking shoes all really help. I’m 56 and in decent shape but I needed a little help twice. It was more learning how to maneuver the boulders than not being able to do it. However there is a fabulous sense of completion and exhilaration when you get to the top. Bring lots of water and start out hydrated. Smaller backpacks work much better through some of the crevices.

6 days ago

We did it today in a little over 5 hours but we stopped for lunch and multiple water breaks. The 2.5 mile fire road was a bit disappointing but the trail and rock scrambling were great!!

6 days ago

Explored Old Rag this past weekend. Such a great hike. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t too hard either. I would hike it again but definitely during a week day. The trail was so crowded and we had to wait a lot during the rock scramble.

With the crowds, I found it really hard to soak it all in. The views were incredible. I really hope to go back and experience it in a different season.

6 days ago

Love this hike! It’s challenging and gives you a great workout. The rock scrambling is fun and helps me learn to have more confidence in my body - especially my feet. The views are amazing. The maintenance road on the end of the loop is a bit annoying - 2.5 miles in the woods is pretty but when combined with the final 0.8 miles to the parking lot on pavement, it’s a haul! We saw two black bears about 0.5 miles near the summit very close to the trail.

backpacking
6 days ago

This is a very challenging hike but worth the effort! Saw a black bear and many deer! The Rock scramble portion is really fun and challenging!

7 days ago

Beautiful trail with amazing views on the way. Be prepared to scramble and hop.

12 days ago

We did this loop clockwise. The rock scramble was all it is said to be. Callenging and spectacular.The views are some of the best in the state. I carried 2 liters of water in my pack bladder and another liter bottle for backup. I used all my water and was ready to filter some at the lower streams. We saw many hikers that did not have adequate water so be warned. Fantastic views from the summit.

hiking
15 days ago

Wow! What an amazing hike. It was incredibly difficult in the sense it was long, the Boulder section was kinda scary at times, and my whole body aged after. So worth it though for that view and the excitement of such a fun hike! If you can do it with someone who already knows the best places to get up the boulders that is helpful, but not necessary. Busy day when we went, on a Friday morning so there were lots of other folks on the trail to help us out

16 days ago

Do this trail at least once a year. It is challenging at the top but with friends helping each other scramble over the rocks the teamwork pays off with a beautiful view! Wear pants that cover your knees, sturdy hiking shoes, gloves, and take water and snacks.

hiking
18 days ago

After a mile or so of walking on the road, the Old Rag trail finally heads up the mountainside. The switchbacks become rocker with each step, until finally, boulders create a scrambling playground. You must navigate up and over nearly insurmountable objects and laugh in the face of fear. Just when you think that the fun is over, the trail levels out a bit as you traverse the mountain saddle. After a brief respite, scramble (part two) begins. After another half-hour of learning how to make your body move in unnatural directions, you reach Old Rag's true summit. Take a moment to enjoy the view, you've earned it! The descent begins, but it is gentile and completely non-technical. Eventually you will reach the fire road where you can enjoy two miles of easy walking beside several raging streams. This trail is really, really fun - and well worth the effort.

18 days ago

Awesome ! Not for the out of shape.

19 days ago

challenging and the top was so worth it! definitely prepare yourself

hiking
23 days ago

Wonderful!

25 days ago

This trail is one of the best in the Northern Virginia area. Granted I went in the rain when it was slippery but this trail is very difficult. Lots of rock scrambling at certain parts of the trail. Many outlooks and views along the way. Trail is kept and marked very well. A must do if you are looking for a little challenge.

hiking
26 days ago

A really fun hike!
The parking lot had a good amount of space when we arrived(~11am) but I can see how it can get filled quickly especially on good weather days. Lots of port-a-pottys. Day pass for the park was $25 and is good for a week.
There is a 0.8 mile hike up to the old parking lot where the trail really beings. Great hike up, found myself out of breath at a few points. As others have mentioned, the trail has a few false summits. The rock scrambles are awesome and a ton of fun to figure out. Don't panic if the rock climbs look intimidating. We found really good hand and foot holds for each climb but you need to look for them.
The second we got to the top, it started to pour rain. It was slippery up there with the rain so I would take pause in doing this hike if you are a novice and the forecast isn't great. We took the fire trail down due to the rain. Hung out at the shelters for a bit during the downpours. Completed this hike in 5 hours. Will absolutely be back ;)

hiking
27 days ago

My buddies always bragged about this hike and I shrugged it off... I’m glad I finally listened to them. The only park I hate is the hike up the road from the parking lot to the trailhead,walking on aka ed road is annoying.

The first part of the hike is a somewhat steady incline through the woods. I did not find this incline to be that difficult, but the trail is nice.

When you start reaching rocks, don’t assume you’ve reached the top. The last 1/4 of the ascent is all rock scrambling, keep going. The scrambling is fun, and difficult in areas. It will force you to find the best route up the rocks based on your strength, height, and weight. I work low hiking shoes and never rolled my ankle. They were preferred for squeezing my feet in rock crevices and for grip.

The view is worth the effort! It was foggy with little to no visibility on the hike up, which was starting to depress me, but the fog started to break up at the summit making for mostly clear view, but the fog rolling over the mountains made for an amazing view.

You can either hike back down the way you came up, meaning climbing down the rocks, or take the fire road down which is a longer distance down. I took the fire road and regret it. It’s a constant t downhill walk with the last half being in gravel. I suggest going back down the rock scramble.

On the fire road you’re likely to see deer and I ran across a copperhead in the middle of the path so be vigilant.

I highly suggest this hike.

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing hiking with good rock climbing

hiking
1 month ago

This hike was just fantastic. I’m pooped.

Pro tip - show up early or go on a weekday. I was stopped a couple times by crowds at narrow passthrough sections. Definitely worth taking the day off for this one

hiking
1 month ago

Absolutely loved this challenging hike! Did after it 5 days of rain thank gosh that sun was shining and were able to grip boulders to climb. Not gonna lie landed on my tail once. Overall amazing workout, views and enjoyment!! Not for novices.

hiking
1 month ago

Had a great time on this trail!

hiking
1 month ago

Intense hike that will have you scaling boulders.... and crawling on hands and knees at times. The view at the top was pretty magnificent though...

hiking
1 month ago

Fantastic hike, this is not a hike if you are not somewhat fit - the rock scrambling can be difficult, lifting your body weight and sliding between rocks. I suggest bringing gloves for the rock scramble, as the granite can eventually start to hurt your palms. Views are worth the climb! IF you are unsure about doing the rock scramble, you can always take the fire road up to the top, it's a lot easier than the switchbacks and rock scramble.

1 month ago

This is an absolutely amazing, challenging hike! Not for the weak in heart!

hiking
1 month ago

So far the hardest trail I’ve hiked, but so worth it! The views are incredible!
It was a bit muddy and wet; but teamwork got my family and I through.

1 month ago

This was my first real hike! Before, it had pretty much been all flat trails or minimal elevations and definitely not as long. Needless to say, this one kicked my tail. I've since been back and faired a lot better and as of now Old Rag is by far my favorite hike.

The trail is listed at 9 miles but you can probably add another mile on each end since you have to walk to the trailhead from the parking lot. I also recommend heading up clockwise and doing the scramble on the way up as opposed to doing the opposite. The first half of the climb is mainly elevations, obviously, and switchbacks. Just when it gets pretty exhausting, you come up on the rock scramble and for the most part switch from using your legs to a mixture of upper body which gives you a nice break from exhausted legs. The summit is beautiful and well worth waiting for to take your lunch break and enjoy the views. The hike down can be a bit rocky and fast-paced. Eventually you'll get to a long flat road that makes up a majority of your walk back to the parking lot if not more than half. I think right many people actually take this way up and back to avoid the rock scramble. Personally, I think it's worth doing the scramble so you can get the most out of Old Rag. It's definitely a challenge and well worth the hard rating.

Recommendations:
- 3 of 4 liters of water.
- Snack food and/or lunch.
- Hiking boots with ankle protection as opposed to low tops, mainly due to the quick pace of the hike downhill and the rocky terrain. Waterproofing isn't much of a need on this hike.
- I also suggest leaving your "paid for" walking stick and maybe just taking up a makeshift stick for your initial climb. Once you get to the rock scramble it's kind of in your way and annoying, so you could throw it away at that point.

1 month ago

This was probably the best ones I’ve been to in awhile. It is taxing on you so be prepared to take breaks as you go. A few downed trees were in our path due to a storm we had had there recently, but it wasn’t a big deal as we went through it.

hiking
1 month ago

3/5 stars for the terrible crowds if you go on a weekend.

10/5 stars if you hike up in the dark and watch the sunrise. We've hiked up Old Rag a few times at night to watch meteor showers and catch epic sunrises. The trail up to the ridge is easy to follow with a headlamp. If you aren't comfortable scrambling in the dark, the first overlook is easy to get to. Nothing beats an Old Rag sunrise in the fall!

One caution: if you hike up in the dark during the summer, you WILL see snakes. They are only active at night when it's cool, and you will see a lot of them.

1 month ago

this trail is not for the faint of heart. but this trail also has the most amazing views of the gorgeous Shenandoah. prepare for some bouldering near the top of the trail.

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