The name “Old Rag Mountain” might not conjure up images of beautiful trails for hiking.
But for those who have been lucky enough to experience a hike on Old Rag Mountain, they would probably agree the name doesn’t give the views justice.
Located in Madison County, Virginia, Old Rag Mountain is actually a part of the Shenandoah National Park. The mountain has an elevation of 3,284 feet and is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
While Old Rag Mountain is a very popular option for hikers, there’s one thing that really sets it apart from other mountains: the exposed rocky summit.
There are numerous granite boulders that are exposed and make for a unique hiking experience.
The rock scramble and boulders may make for a breathtaking experience, but the trek can be quite treacherous for even the experienced hiker.
With that in mind, we’ve put together the best tips on getting the most out of your hike on Old Rag Mountain, whether it’s your first time or tenth.
Hiking Trail Information for Old Rag Mountain
The most common hiking trail for Old Rag is the 9-mile circuit hike. The trail will take you to the summit of the mountain up one way but then you’ll descend via a different route.
The 9 – mile hike starts at the base of the mountain, at the Ridge Trail Trailhead and then takes you to the summit via the Ridge Trail. Once you climb the summit, you will descend down the Saddle Trail, which leads to Weakley Hollow Trail Road. This will bring you back to the parking lot where you started.
Old Rag Mountain is also famously known for its false summits. There are a few points on the Ridge Trail when you think you’ll have reached the top. Only soon you’ll find out that you still have a way to go.
But don’t give up, eventually, you’ll reach the top! The false summits also provide amazing views and photograph opportunities.
You’ll know you’re at the final summit because there’ll be a brown sign clearly marked with information.
Overall, this trail is very rugged and not for the faint of heart, but there are several things you can do to make sure it’s the best hiking experience possible for you.
9 Tips for Hiking Old Rag Mountain
1. Prepare Yourself Physically
A hike on Old Rag Mountain is very physically demanding. You will be sliding in and out of boulders and trying to hike around rocks. Many hikers are surprised at how treacherous the terrain actually is.
There are also times you’re climbing straight uphill. You will be getting a great workout.
But just like with any other types of exercises, you’ll want to be careful not to overdo it if you’re beginning to get into shape.
Many hikers choose to wait until their children are older and more experienced if they decide they want to bring them along.
2. Check the Weather
You’ll want to make sure you plan your adventure on a day that’s as clear as possible. Since the main attraction at the summit is the expansive vistas, you want to get the most out of your challenging hike.
Hiking in the rain will make for an incredibly long day on Old Rag Mountain. With all of the exposed rock and rock scramble on the mountain, the slippery rocks are a disaster waiting to happen.
If you can plan your trip on a sunny day if possible, then definitely go for that option.
3. Only the Best Hiking Boots
Because of the rugged terrain and the exposed rock, you’ll need your best hiking boots for this trek. This isn’t the time to skimp on quality boots. Make sure they lace up over your ankles and provide the sturdy support needed for this terrain.
Also look for boots that are appropriate for day-long hikes since you’ll be spending several hours up and down the mountain.
The last thing you want is to twist your ankle because you don’t have the proper footwear!
4. Factor in Parking
There is only one parking lot for Old Rag Mountain located at the base. It’s actually about 0.9 miles from the trailhead. You may want to factor this in if you are concerned about time or total distance.
5. Get a Trail Map
This isn’t the time to try to venture out on your own. Definitely pick up the detailed trail map for Old Rag. You’ll find important information regarding the hike including parking info and directions for the trail.
Added bonus – the emergency numbers will be right at your fingertips. Keep the map handy at all times so you can quickly grab it and reference the number should you need to grab the information in a hurry.
6. Stay Hydrated and Bring Food
If you’re an experienced hiker, then you probably already understand how important water and fuel is for your hike.
But as a reminder, you will need lots of water. You’ll be sweating profusely because it takes a tremendous amount of energy to hike these trails. Also, once you reach the boulder area, you won’t have access to water. You’ll be glad to have brought your own as you’re trekking uphill.
Not only do you want to bring plenty of water, but definitely pack your snacks and bananas too. Since the average time to hike is anywhere from 5 to 8 hours, you want to make sure you have sustenance for the long haul.
Plan your water and food supplies accordingly and make sure you’re prepared.
With that being said, you’ll want to be careful not to overpack either. Since you are hiking up such steep levels, the lighter your weight is, the better off you’ll feel.
7. Stay on the Trail
Old Rag isn’t the place where you want to get rebellious and wander off. Instead, stay on the trail.
This isn’t just for obvious safety reasons but also to make sure you to pay attention to the change in the vegetation and types of wildlife as you make your way to the summit.
There are actually many unique species of plants to be found as you hike the mountain. If you don’t stay on the trail, then you run the risk of accidentally trampling one of these beautiful plants.
You’ll be glad you stayed on the trail!
8. Pay Attention to the Trail Markers
Shenandoah National Park has provided trail markers along various points of the trail. Each marker is stamped with the mileage info and the direction you are hiking. Take note of the information on these markers as you pass them by – should you have an emergency, you’ll be glad you did.
The emergency responders can use this information to locate you should you need assistance.
9. Leave Your Pets at Home
As much as you love your pets and want them to experience nature the way you do, this hike won’t be allowed for them.
There are a few other trails that are more appropriate for Fido, consult your detailed trail map for further information.
10. Go on a Weekday If You Don’t like Crowds
As mentioned earlier, the Old Rag Mountain Hike is quite popular. The weekends are all but guaranteed to be crowded with many hikers taking advantage of the scenery.
If you prefer the solitude, then the best piece of advice is for you to go during the weekday.
If the weekday isn’t an option for you, then try going earlier in the day. The crowds tend to start getting thick later in the morning.
Old Rag Mountain: Worth the Effort for Virginia’s Finest Hiking Spots
While the Old Rag Mountain Hike is more challenging than other hiking adventures in the area, it’s definitely worth the effort.
The views alone are spectacular and can’t be replicated.
One trip to Old Rag Mountain and you’re going to quickly figure out why this is one of Virginia’s finest hiking spots.