Old Rag Trail

#1 of 140 trails in Shenandoah National Park

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Old Rag Trail is an 7 mile round trip trail or 8.9 mile loop trail located near Sperryville, Virginia that features a river and is only recommended for serious hiker. The trail is primarily used for camping, hiking, rock climbing & walking and is accessible year-round.

This hike is strenuous and very busy. 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 but gives you a change in what you are doing. 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.

Take US 522 to SR 231, which is 0.8 mi south of Sperryville, VA and 12.7 mil north of Madison, VA. go south 8.3 mi on SR 231, cross Hughes River, and immediately rutn right (west) onto SR 602. Stary on left side of Hughes River. route number changes to 601, 707, and then 600.

There is parking for about 200 cars.

Park Information: (540) 999-3500

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41 Completed 18 Reviews

Old Rag Trail in VA is by far one of the most entertaining hikes I have ever done. To a great extent it is like one of those playgrounds for kids where they are allowed to hike up and slide down and go through tiny holes and do all those things we wished we were allowed to do ☺. It turns out that we no longer have to whish for it – it is enough to get a few friends together, pick a free weekend and set of for an adventure to the Shenandoah National Park.

Important! I am glad I read other reviews before I took my friends for this hike. The Old Rag trail is a loop and many hikers suggest going first to the left completing the hard part first and coming back down the carriage road. That’s exactly what we did and I have no regrets. At the very beginning we were gaining elevation pretty rapidly, but since the trail consists of many switchbacks we really didn’t feel that exhausted although the heat was hard to deal with. The first overlook gave us an idea of what should we expect going up and believe me we didn’t get disappointed at all. I have to admit that we all had already “a few” serious mountains and trails under our belts and the Old Rag trail was the best form of entertainment with the best views we could ever ask for. But, this is exactly when I should warn some of those who are planning on hiking this trail … UNPREPARED ☺ both physically and mentally ☺

We have hit the trail around 10:00 am and we didn’t come down until about 5:00 or 6:00 pm. We were not slow at all, but we took time to enjoy the views, take millions of pictures and I got extra points for making everyone laugh all the way through ☺ But everyone have to remember, that this trail is really demanding physically at times and requires serious acrobatic skills. There are parts where it is really hard to pull yourself up between two narrow rocks, or lift up you knee as high as your face or jump from one rock to another without a chance to detour because once you are on the rocks … you better keep going forward ☺

Coming down the trail at around 4:00 or 5:00 pm we passed by a couple with their teen son and we were asked by the woman how far it is to the top. Primo: at that time it is too far even for a good hiker. Secundo: none of them had a backpack, which indicated that they set off on this hike without water or food and a headlamp was only a wishful thinking on our part. Tertio: the woman was grasping for air, which suggested that any athletic exercise was not on her agenda in a very long time. So to make the long story short, this trail - although fun and entertaining, which you can see on the attached pictures - is really demanding physically and anyone who sets of for this hike should remember that it is graded 2 black diamonds for a reason. Obviously we all can do anything we set our minds on, but “reckless” should be removed from that equation ☺ But like I said, It is a great hike, the views are breath taking and I would do it again in a heartbeat ☺

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11 Completed 5 Reviews

Old Rag starts with about an hour and a half to two hours of straight walking through the woods, with tons of switchbacks and some modest but noticeable elevation gain. Then things get interesting. The rock scramble is intense and challenging, with lots of difficult boulders to climb and surmount. On a busy day, you will have to wait on lines to get through certain areas (probably the same people who took up all the spots in the jampacked parking lot), but if you don't mind being taken out of a serene environment, the time you spend with all the strangers waiting is strangely satisfying. You feel like you're in something together. When you get to the top, the summit is not obvious, but you can find it if you ask. It is marked with a very small pool atop a boulder, with a brick just sitting in the water. The way down is not nearly as interesting as the way up, and it's hard to head back the way you came on a busy day, because the boulders are challenging enough as it is without adding the element of forcing everyone else to wait while you pass through. But this is not really a major complaint, as the way up was better on almost every hike I've ever taken. I traveled down from PA to VA to do this hike, a trip of 4.5 hours each way. I did there and back in a single day, and I was wiped out for a week, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I'll never forget some of the challenges I had to go through to get to the top. Along with the views, they are etched on my mind.

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16 Completed 9 Reviews

One if my all time favorites! Bring lots of water, some lunch, and your sense of adventure! Take the day and do the entire circuit, up the trail , across and over the boulders, then down the saddle trail to the fire road. The worst part about this trail is the fire road. It's really easy and gradual which is a nice cool down period after getting my heart pumping....but man is it a let down after the great trails and rock scramble you left behind! The only reason I don't suggest going to the summit and then back out the same way is the traffic. This spot gets some serious numbers on weekends etc. waiting for a group to come up a boulder you want to get down would be worse than the fire road! Only change I'll make to my next trip to old rag is a pair of halves as each time I have come I have scraped my hands up a bit...but I can be kinda klutzy!

Be prepared to use upper body strength on the rock scramble, you will use your arms to lift your body weight more than you normally do (ever) on a hike. Have fun!

Note: get there super early and miss the crowds on the weekends. We arrived at 530a last time and didn't see anyone until almost nine, and he was walking the opposite direction.

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8 Completed 2 Reviews

The driving directions were accurate and simple to follow. Arriving at 0730 on a Monday morning, there were only a few other cars in the parking lot. The ascent is challenging and highlighted what others have said about the impact of crowds. The trail looks like a trail in Yosemite with millions of feet passing through. There are multiple spots scrambling over the rocks where backups would occur with crowds. In short, go early or on a weekday. There is no water until you parallel Brokenback Run on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road on the way back to the car. Three liters of water is a good recommendation.

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2 Completed 1 Reviews

This trail kicked my butt! But it was so worth it. Wow, what a view. Plan on spending the whole day doing it, even if you won't use it. Chances are it will take longer than you think.

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1 Completed 1 Reviews

Wow. Absolutely amazing hike with incredible views and rock features. Bring a good camera. Note: Very very busy on weekends! However, any day on this trail is worth it. There were plenty of side tracks off the rock scramble that offered some solitude from the crowds. From the bottom lot it's 0.8 miles to the trail, then about a 2.5 mile hike up through the forest until you reach the rock scramble, from there it's 2 miles of fun where you go over, under, around, and between rocks to the summit. My girlfriend and I are somewhat experienced rock climbers which made some of the technical pinch-points easy. Be prepared to be on all fours through the rocks and a lot of stemming through the boulders, and bring plenty of water; we drained 5 liters between the two of us. Due to the volume of hikers there were a few bottlenecks where we had to wait 5-10 minutes to get through a few of the difficult spots. If you’re hiking the Shenandoah, this trail is a must-do. Plan 6-8 hours depending on your physical ability, how much you stop to soak in the views and explore the various rock outcroppings, and the volume of hikers on the trail. We would do this hike again for sure.

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31 Completed 23 Reviews

Contrary to Scott Kelly , I do this hike 4-5 times a year and after completing the trail 5 times or so I don't bother using the trail anymore . See you at the top! Just a compass and a topo and some good boots . This hike is great the rock scrambles and the overall length of the trail is not only physically demanding but a great introduction To anyone wanting to cover multi-day hikes into the wilderness. The physical strain of this hike is similar to the strain of multi-day, long mile hikes. The scenery at the top is stupendous whether its packed or not . If your looking to an interesting twist on an already amazing hike , try this hike at night with NVG or flashlights . Personally brought my sleeping bag right to the summit and slept under the stars . HOWEVER , there is technically no camping on the summit. Just pack in pack out and clear out before dawn and your golden . What a hike !

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15 Completed 15 Reviews

My favorite hike that I have done in Shenandoah. Although crowds can get tough, during the week or off season is perfect.

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2 Completed 2 Reviews

Old Rag is a fun and beautiful hike that features a very tedious series of switchbacks followed by a rock scramble and lots of spectacular views to the east. The one MAJOR detractor is that this trail is a MOB SCENE on nice weekends despite being located in a federally-designated wilderness area where one might expect to find "opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined" experience. If you want solitude, come during the week, or at dawn on weekends (not 10am). There are also a lot of unprepared hikers on this trail. You should bring AT LEAST three quarts of water, a meal and a half, a trowel, some toilet paper, a first aid kit, a rain jacket, and hiking boots. The ten essentials are a better plan. There is no treated water anywhere nearby (including the trailhead), so either filter the water from the river before you hit the trail or bring it with you. There are a couple seeps on the way up, but they often run dry. A better alternative for those who are looking for solitude or who wish to bring Fido, is the Robertson Mountain hike, which is -right next- to Old Rag, has better views than Old Rag, and is actually five feet higher at the summit. No rock scramble, but otherwise a far superior hike. Finally, if you do hike on Old Rag, PLEASE stay on the trail, even if there's a long line (sometimes it's a two hour wait at one particular point in the rock scramble). Leaving the trail in this area tramples sensitive plant life, puts you in some very unsafe spots, and even if you're extremely careful, sets a poor example for everyone else who might not be as careful as you are. Please Leave No Trace!

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16 Completed 16 Reviews

Great day trip

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