Old Rag Mountain Loop Trail

HARD 606 reviews
#1 of 117 trails in

Old Rag Mountain Loop Trail is a 9 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
9.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2493 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

no dogs

This hike is considered to be THE best in Shenandoah National Park. It is pretty hard climb, but when you make it about 3/4 of the way up, then you 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 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.

hiking
1 day ago

hiking
4 days ago

A friend and I did this hike on Saturday. It was nothing short of awesome. If you're taking the main trail you don't need to know anything prior to arrival. Just get to the lot and follow the signs..and several people.
All the reviews I read say you should get there early, but we arrived at around 9AM and had no issues. The lot was nearly full, but that was fine because the majority of people were already up on the trail. It was $20 for the both of us.
We started at 9:30 and finished in about 5.5 hours WITH 2 breaks. It was a very impressive hike to the summit with many little areas to stop and see the view. The way up may challenge your legs if you haven't hiked in a while. Do it at your own pace and just enjoy the environment.
The rock scramble area was very cool. At times we were literally crawling through cracks and small caves. Granted we took a shortcut...;)
At the summit there are many rock areas where you can sit and see 360 degrees for miles. Truly amazing view. I can't really say that enough. We took a break for pics and stuff at the top and then went down.
The fire road at the end is deceivingly long... There is a medium sized creek towards the end of it. I would highly recommend taking a dip. I had some compression shorts on and I just jumped right in there! Water was chilled and so good after that hike. Chilled out in the creek by a small waterfall for about 30 minutes before the short hike back to the lot.
Overall I truly enjoyed this hike and I can't wait to do it again with the wife (if she actually signs on for a 5.5 hour hike lol).

DO IT.

4 days ago

Did this hike last week. A bit frightening on the rock scramble. Started the hike at 8 A.M. Took 5.5 hours. I only saw 10 people and great wildlife (black bears)!!! Bring lots of water. My friend and I ran out of water at the top of the mountain. Very fun and difficult. Bring hiking boots. You need them for ankle support.

hiking
4 days ago

Great little Family Jaunt! We took one of the lesser known trail legs which I promised one of the local hikers I would keep secret. Saw many Black Bear and be careful, there are rattlesnakes!!!!
Summtted and returned to where we parked in just under 4 hrs. Took lunch with us (double bagged!) and enjoyed a nice little break at the top.
Have a 4year old. So I tethered him to me with a piece of long webbing a littles Swiss-harness-ish configuration. If you don't know ropes don't try it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Best Family Hike Ever

4 days ago

One of Virginia's best for a reason!

4 days ago

old rag is awesome hike ...good views but make sure u go early

hiking
5 days ago

hiking
5 days ago

This is the best hike that I have ever done - great views, great rock scramble, nice/easy fire road for a lot of the way back (which is very runable)...

It is very challenging. Not a good hike for novices. Consider trying White Oak Canyon and Riprap Hollow trails before attempting Old Rag. They are in themselves challenging trails, but a step below Old Rag in terms of difficulty.

For Old Rag, a good pair of hiking boots is recommended... On the rock scramble, user your upper body when possible; it can really make thinks a lot easier... Also, following a more experienced scrambler is a good idea... you can see where they grab and step...

You will need a lot of water for this hike... when it is hot, I bring 2 liters... I have seen more recommended by others... find what works for you, but be conservative... On hot weekend days sometime rangers sit on the backside of the mountain (near the second shelter) with water in case your run out....

hiking
5 days ago

hiking
5 days ago

rock climbing
5 days ago

hiking
5 days ago

Awesome views, amazing hike and rock scramble for majority of top. Can not get much better than this in the Appalachians!

hiking
6 days ago

7 days ago

hiking
10 days ago

hiking
10 days ago

The best day hike in driving range of Washington DC. The 9.2 mile loop stretches to sightly over 10.5 miles including the to and from spur to the trailhead parking lot. The "rock scramble" is actually about 2 miles of some pretty tuff (but non-technical, not really dangerous) rock climbing. I found pack removal was necessary to get thru some narrow places and gardening or mechanics gloves to protect your hands from the rough rocks are a nice but not essential accessory for this hike. Their are no water points along the loop so pack plenty (seriously 3 - 4 liters a person on a hot Virginia summer day). Met lots of people on the trail who skimped on the water they carried and were pretty unhappy by the end of the loop.

hiking
10 days ago

Well worth the climb. The left rail from the old parking lot is tougher lead than the right trail, but after the scrambling that occurs mid way through it is better to take the easy stroll back to your car along the fire road.
There were parts of the scramble that were not as definitively marked, and you may have to search or keep and eye out for, but there was never a moment of a complete dead end.
The marker sign at the top did make me laugh. It marks the summit so you don't stroll past it. People with animals or worried about the scrambling would be better off coming from the fire road side to reach the summit.

11 days ago

Did this hike on Veterans Day last November. It is part of Shenandoah National Park, so unless you go on a free day like we did, you will have to pay to enter. Get here early. We arrived around 8:30 AM and there was already a crowd, albeit tame for the popularity of this hike. I imagine as it crawls closer to noon, the lot reaches capacity. The private property adjacent to the Old Rag parking offers paid parking for overflow visitors, at least as of November 2016. You will walk along the road for a good 10 minutes before reaching the actual Trailhead to Old Rag. The first I'd guess roughly mile and a half is pretty monotonous, but once you break the tree line, you realize why this hike is Virginias most popular hike. You are treated to several sweeping views and incredible rock faces even BEFORE you hit the rock scrambling portion of the hike. The rock scrambling portion is what made the hike for me, and probably does for most people. After climbing steep up hills, I found it to be exhausting, but incredibly fun at the same time. To me, as long as you have someone along to help you, you really don't need to be in great shape to do it, you will just need a boost up in a couple of spots. You will scramble up and down all sorts of rocks, all the while having views on either side. You reach the top when you reach the brown sign signifying you are at the summit to Old Rag, as stated, there are several false summits! 360 degree views await at the top, with plenty of spots to catch a view on the rocks. The fire road trail back down offers views as well, but ends rather quietly as the last couple of miles are along the fire road through the woods. My favorite hike in Virginia bar none.

hiking
11 days ago

Very enjoyable hike mixed with scrambling. We finished the hike in about 4 1/2 hours with about 30 minutes worth of stops. We started at 815 on a Saturday. The parking lot was already 3/4 full when we arrived. There was a ranger directing parking and another ranger that we checked in with to make payment. We hiked the .8 from the parking lot to the trail head. The initial climb was a peaceful but crowded. There was constantly someone within hearing distance during the initial climb. There was a 1-2 minute once we arrived at the rock scramble followed by a couple more short waits at difficult portions of the scramble. The scramble was the must enjoyable portion of as it required more exertion. My wife is about 5'3 and was able to complete all but one portion with assistance. I'm sure she could've completed the portion if I wasn't there though.The scramble was pretty crowded but the views were amazing. The descent was much less crowded and we felt we had the park to ourselves at times. The descent was peaceful but the trail had a significant amount of jagged rocks. I wore a pair of crosstrainers which were great but wish I had a harder outsole. I consumed about 1 1/2 liters of water from my camelback and did not urinate the entire hike. Temperature was about 85 degrees with a nice breeze.
I plan to do the hike in the opposite direction next time as a more experience hiker stated he enjoyed doing the scramble last. The crowd consisted mostly of young adults but we did see a couple of 40-60 year old couples. I think this hike could be great for a very active kid but he would likely need help from an adult during the scramble. If you're not in half way descent shape, I wouldn't recommend this trail.