Old Rag Mountain Loop Trail

HARD 1,186 reviews
#1 of 148 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
2,417 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.

2 days ago

A little crowded on the rock sections yesterday but overall great views and weather. Would suggest some caution given all the rain recently through the rock sections, finding alternative areas to grip may present additional challenges but overall still a great hike.

hiking
2 days ago

Did it today, definitely a couple parts that are challenging. Ensure you have a good set of shoes or boots with some grip for the areas of the boulders that are slippery. Awesome views, would love to get some pictures during the fall when the leaves start changing!

3 days ago

I’ve done this hike once before and I’m excited to do it again tomorrow! Very fun and gorgeous views!

3 days ago

Love climbing the rocks

3 days ago

Challenging and long! Beautiful views.

hiking
5 days ago

went yesterday and was amazing. my phone died so my recording all got half but it was beautiful ontop. everytime you think you made it, you didn't. the best 360 degree view is a little before you reach the summit. it wasn't too hard but it did take awhile because I stopped a million times to take alot of pictures. I really think if you try hard, anyone can do this hike. my husband isnt into hiking like I am. .so he is a little out of shape...but he did fine with me helping. I also saw kids doing it. the trail is pretty easy to follow. you have no service up top but all trails always works no matter service or not

hiking
8 days ago

What can i say that hasn’t been already said. Must do if you’re in Shenandoah!!!

backpacking
8 days ago

Always a must.

- start out as early as possible, 10am the lot is packed
- show ranger your NPS ticket so you don't get ticketed
- porter potties at the start, but there are two
outhouses near the top.
- lots of water, at least 1 liter per person
- brings snacks to munch on at the top while enjoying the views
- definitely suggest boots for ankle support
- you can get easily lost chasing the blue paint marks but it kind of makes it fun
- the natural jungle gym is incredible, yes challenging physically and mentally, but after completed I wish I would've enjoyed it more instead of stressing over my next footing or body odor
- creatures seen: Turkey vultures, bald eagle, crows, smaller birds, raccoon, bunches of insects larger beetles to moths, and a juvenile black bear!

-only negative is the amount of people, hence arrive early or camp overnight.

8 days ago

Challenging but super fun. Started at 8.30am on Sunday and did not see anyone, maybe because there was forecast for heavy rain but that stayed off until we were making our descent. Lucky because the rock scramble would have been so much more difficult in the rain. Took us 4.5 hours. I went with a friend who was strong and able to pull me up two times when boulders didn’t have foot holds. No way could I have done this trail without his help!

8 days ago

Awesome hike

hiking
10 days ago

Great hike! completed in 5 hr. Definitely need some upper body strength if solo hiking.

10 days ago

Nice hike. I did this hike with my 5 year old

hiking
14 days ago

Awesome hike! Very challenging. Difficult for shorter people or those without upper arm strength. If bribing a bag, make it a small one as some of the rock passes are very narrow. Went in late March and had to pay for overflow parking as it was so crowded.

hiking
18 days ago

Amazing view at the top! The climb through the rocks remains the highlight of the hike.

hiking
19 days ago

This hike is a beast but a beautiful and rewarding beast. Go early and prepare for it to be an all day excursion, especially since it does get backed up with this hike being so popular. Wear the right shoes, bring plenty of water and snacks. The beginning is uneventful switch backs that feel like they never end. Then you will have a few moments where you think WOW I've finally made it! But be patient, because you in fact have not. Don't lose hope because the view at the top is OUTSTANDING and worth the struggle. Love love love the challenging rock scrambles, so much fun! This is definitely an accomplishment and one for the books!

19 days ago

Who hasn’t hike this mountains. Strenuous it is the switchbacks in the beginning can be boring but once you get to the scrambles the fun starts. Fantastic views at the summit. Just when you think you reached the summit you realize it’s a false summit.

19 days ago

Start early or be patient! Extremely popular hike where trail jams start to happen as the crowds line up to get through the rock scramble. Fun hike and one of "old" time favorites. I've done this a bunch of times, but it's almost too crowded these days. Popular hike for a reason! Best time to go is in the fall.

hiking
20 days ago

I did this hike for the first time a few weeks ago. It is an outstanding challenge that rewards the effort with fantastic views. It can be crowded so I would recommend going early or if your schedule allows on a weekday.

hiking
25 days ago

This trail is difficult mostly because of the time it takes. The time would be reduced were it. It for the number of ppl on the trail who are obviously unprepared.

It’s a good hike that gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Mentally, be prepared for false summits. You’ll swear that you’re at the summit five times before you get there.

Hiking alone may be problematic in a couple of places unless you’re taller or agile on the rocks.

hiking
27 days ago

Fantastic. Scaling those rocks though was terrifying. I made the mistake of taking this trip alone and got stuck between 2 rocks. Luckily another person also doing it solo came my way from the other direction. I told him since it was raining and so late in the afternoon there’s no way he’d make it all the way through before night fall and it definitely wasn’t safe. So we went back his way and it was super easy on the way down. So of coarse the obvious is don’t do this hike by yourself and be super carful. I would like to say you do get some cell service up there if you need to call for help. The views are so worth the hard work on this hike!

hiking
28 days ago

Did this hike with my wife and really enjoyed it. We did the clockwise loop and wouldn’t do it any other way. The more difficult part first. Bonus was seeing a Black Bear and her cub foraging, only 10 yards away. She was clearly use to seeing visitors and was not bothered. We didn’t take pictures, just moved along minding our business.

29 days ago

I've hiked this trail numerous times. It's sort of a central Virginian prerequisite. The trail is well maintained and is not super trafficked- as long as you go on a weekday. There are some serious rock scrambles towards the top that are a lot of fun but would be nearly impossible for dogs or small children. Pack a backpack with some snacks and a lunch for the awesome view on top!

hiking
30 days ago

I really enjoyed this. Much of the hike is moderate and uneventful, but the lengthy boulder scrambling makes it amazing. I drove from Philly and stayed in a hotel the night before so that I could make a 6am start. I would not recommend doing it any other way, and Ill explain why. Mountain time is the time for me to flush life's anxieties out of my head. I did it solely for this reason knowing that the crowds get ridiculous here on a weekend. And I was by myself for 90% of the trip. And the unexpected and most wonderful part of this, was that the rock scramble is fairly technical. With the crowds in a constant bottleneck through the obstacles, you would just be following the masses through a predetermined route. Doing it alone, made me have to identify, often by trial and error, what was the best/only way to get to the next step. As someone who is working to overcome a fear of heights, it was so much more satisfying to overcome each challenge by myself without following, having advice, or even having help available. Views are amazing and plentiful. Bugs were nonexistent this day, and the weather is perfect this time of year. Only recommendation I give is definitely have boots with great grip, as there is often no stable footing and grip is all you have; and lightweight gloves with some grip in the palms were very helpful as well with the scramble. I promise you won't be disappointed with this climb.

1 month ago

This is by far my favorite trail! great views, challenging, and fun!

hiking
1 month ago

Love this trail! We did it backwards this time, in the cold and rain! Great views from the top. I do suggest doing it the correct way during the rain or you will face coming down a slippery rock scramble on the backside.

hiking
1 month ago

Scattering was a blast

hiking
1 month ago

Great views and rewarding hike. But if you’re looking for seclusion you will not find it here.

hiking
1 month ago

Parking lot is easy to find via directions through the app. There is plenty of parking, but can fill up as the day goes on. When we got there at 8am, it was pretty empty, but by the time we left 1:30, it was pretty full. There are multiple portajohns, which is nice to have at the end/beginning of your hike.

We did the loop starting with the ridge trail, which starts about a .5 mile up the road from the parking lot. The first quarter of the hike was moderate, rocky but not too steep and quite lovely. The rock scramble was our first real experience with a real rock scramble and although a few places were a bit difficult to navigate, it was doable and kind of fun! There are a few spots where you really have to become intimate with the rocks around you. That said, there were a few spots along the way with some spectacular views!

I believe it was a little under 4 miles to get to the summit and man is the climb worth it!

After a much more moderate descent down the saddle trail, there is a shelter with a bathroom, but no water. Past that, you walk on the fire road back to the parking lot with not much to see except the river in some spots. However, it is a nice, easy descent after all that hard climbing.

It is worth noting that there is no cell service at the parking lot or any area around it, so have an idea of how to get back!

hiking
1 month ago

I’ve hiked Old Rag many times. Today I saw 5 bears. Two on the actual path. I was nervous to walk by, so just waited until he moved.

hiking
1 month ago

One of the bests hikes we have been on, the scrambles were a lot fun. The walk back down the fire road a little boring, but not a big deal.

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