Old Rag Mountain Loop Trail

HARD 979 reviews
#1 of 140 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.

hiking
2 days ago

Amazing hiking with good rock climbing

hiking
3 days 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
4 days 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
9 days ago

Had a great time on this trail!

hiking
11 days 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
11 days 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.

11 days ago

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

hiking
12 days 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.

12 days 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.

13 days 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
13 days 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.

18 days 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.

18 days ago

A wonderful, fun hike.

20 days ago

Awesome hike

hiking
21 days ago

This hike is pretty difficult but nothing crazy imo, a little rock scrambling here and there, but to be named the most dangerous hike in VA, now that's crazy! But then again I haven't hiked much in VA and this hike is probably the hardest day hike in the Shenandoah, I'll give it that. It is a great hike with plenty of views of rolling mountains. Parking fills up fast, I went in December which is off season and the parking lot was still full, so as you can imagine this hike gets crowded! So if possible go on a weekday and enjoy the amazing views!

hiking
23 days ago

the majority of the trail is a moderately inclined hike but the bouldering field will be the true test for anyone taking on old rag. Be prepared for a strenuous and long bouldering session after a few miles of good hiking. give yourself an honest evaluation of your physical ability before attempting this trail. not doing so could put you and rescue personnel in harms way.

backpacking
25 days ago

This was a fun hike. The bouldering before Old Rag was fun. We had packs so it was hard in some areas to fit through the rocks, but it would’ve definitely been more enjoyable without a larger pack. The rock scramble took a while, so plan for that. The rest of the hiking is easy. The first 0.8 mile is a road, which kinda stinks especially at the end when your feet hurt.

25 days ago

My first hike. This was amazing. Definitely challenging but well worth every sore muscle and bruised knee.

25 days ago

Incredible trail. Can be done by novice hikers, but be prepared for a very long, tiring walk. Bring plenty of water and snacks. Fantastic views and great sense of accomplishment when you’re finished.

25 days ago

Done this a dozen times. It never gets old.

hiking
25 days ago

There is a good reason why this hike is rated as #1 here - it is great fun and the views are absolutely phenomenal.
You start with a fairly pleasant walk in the woods that gradually transforms into a rock/boulder scramble with great views along the way. You have to squeeze through some narrow gaps and get down on all four every once in a while, but I don't think that the hike is too hard if you're in a reasonable shape. After reaching the summit, the descent and return can get a bit monotonous I guess, although when we visited, the foliage was at its peak, so there was always something to look at. If you're in Shenandoah, this hike is a must. I really can't recommend it highly enough.

hiking
27 days ago

The hike is easy it's just long

30 days ago

Had a great time last weekend even though it was very crowded. Started the hike around 10 AM on a beautiful Saturday. There was one or two parts when we had to wait 15 minutes in line to get through an obstacle. After the summit, the hike is a little boring, but all in all, one of the best day hikes you can do on the east coast. Elderly and unfit people might have some issues with squeezing between rocks and doing some jumps/scrambles, but most people I saw on the trail seemed to do fine. I recommend wearing long pants that at least cover the knees and climbing gloves, or else you will go home with some scratches.

hiking
1 month ago

My girlfriend and I chose this beast as our third hike in Virginia and it was spectacular! We decided to go clockwise and climb up the most strenuous ridge trail first. It was unlike any hike I've ever done and definitely pushes you on the rock scramble and boulder section, but it was manageable and fun for me (6'2", 260lbs) and her (5'2", 110lbs)...so I'd say as long as you have a strong desire to reach the summit and the ability to "get skinny" on some parts, this hike is a good one for beginner hikers that want to push their skills and endurance!

1 month ago

This was my first hike and a solo one at that. It was awesome!!! The rock scramble did not disappoint this first timer. I’m short (4’11”) and was able to this. Some review said it might be difficult and they were but other hikers were there to help if needed. I did this counter clockwise. Went up the fire road first then hit the scramble. That helped I’m sure as I was able to slide down a lot of the boulders. So if you’re in decent shape and want an exciting solo hike.....THIS WAS GREAT.

hiking
1 month ago

This hike has beautiful views at the top with an amazing breeze to cool down after the uphill. The rock scrambles are very fun and can be easy for some or very difficult depending on your physical shape and comfortability with bouldering/climbing. At a certain point the distance of the hike can definitely be mentally taxing and a motivational killer if fatigued lol. Specially if doing the hike the opposite direction with the weakley hollow fire trail first. Very fun and enjoyable workout. Good luck everyone!

hiking
1 month ago

Damn good hike

hiking
1 month ago

1 month ago

Classic Shenandoah must do hike. Spectacular views at the top. Can’t believe this is in Virginia. Definitely more crowded than most others due to its reputation.

hiking
1 month ago

My very first hike and I chose this monster. Had a wonderful time and was not disappointed with the views.

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