Shenandoah National Park: Old Rag Mountain

Navigate switchbacks, boulder scrambles, and rock mazes on this 8.6-mile loop that ascends Old Rag Mountain, one of Shenandoah's most famous peaks.
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Navigate switchbacks, boulder scrambles, and rock mazes on this 8.6-mile loop that ascends Old Rag Mountain, one of Shenandoah's most famous peaks.

Weaving around car-size boulders to the summit of 3,268-foot Old Rag Mountain is the quintessential Shenandoah thrill–and its airy precipice is also the best place for 360-degree views (especially for leafpeeping in early November). But unknown it is not, so pack a headlamp and set out on this 8.6-mile circuit three hours before sunset to enjoy a crowd-free summit. Take the Ridge Trail up shady switchbacks to an open ridgeline and two miles of scrambling to the Big Whoa–a sweeping panorama of mountainsides. Descend via the Saddle Trail and Weakley Hollow Fire Road to close the loop.

More Info: Shenandoah National Park, (540) 999-3500; nps.gov/shen

-Mapped by Ivan Levin

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 13.8

Waypoints

SOR001

Location: 38.570816, -78.286758

From the Old Rag lower lot and fee station, follow Weakley Hollow Road about 0.5 mile to the upper lot and trailhead. Note: The upper lot usually fills more quickly than the lower lot.

SOR002

Location: 38.572609, -78.295845

From the Weakley Hollow Trailhead in the upper parking lot, head out on the blue-blazed Ridge Trail.

SOR003

Location: 38.565468, -78.300407

Follow the Ridge Trail as it curves to the right (following blue blazes) in a young hardwood forest of oak, maple, and hickory.

SOR004

Location: 38.56255, -78.304153

The hike's first switchback cuts to the left. Eight more switchbacks remain on the ascent to the summit. The terrain is not extremely steep on this stretch, but there is a persistent incline en route to the top.

SOR005

Location: 38.558819, -78.304649

Look up and to the right for a great view of this hike's highpoint: the rocky Old Rag summit.

SOR006

Location: 38.556084, -78.301827

Take a break from the climb at a crop of boulders on the side of the trail. When you're good and ready, continue on the Ridge Trail as it curves to the left.

SOR007

Location: 38.555767, -78.302124

Scenic view of Robertson and Corbin Mountains to your right.

SOR008

Location: 38.554413, -78.303528

This is where the hike to Old Rag turns into a scramble over mid-sized boulders and through narrow, rocky passages. Several spots may require hand-over-hand climbing: make sure your footing and hand placements are secure as you proceed. There are two rock mazes to navigate in this section: blue blazes and arrows are painted on the boulders.

SOR009

Location: 38.55143, -78.310532

A huge boulder hugs the trail here: this spot is a great photo-op of the Old Rag summit and the valley below.

SOR010

Location: 38.551929, -78.314896

Old Rag Mountain (3,268 ft.). Go past the cement post to get unrivaled panoramic views of Shenandoah. Take a break for a well-deserved lunch, and then pick up the blue-blazed Saddle Trail to begin your descent.

SOR011

Location: 38.550186, -78.320831

Pass Byrd's Nest Shelter. Continue downhill on the Saddle Trail. This side of Old Rag offers a more gentle descent: no scrambling required on the way down.

SOR012

Location: 38.553669, -78.329887

Old Rag Shelter. Continue on the Saddle Trail as it curves to the right. Both Byrd's nest and this shelter are intended for day use only.

SOR013

Location: 38.555962, -78.330368

Just off the right side of the trail is a hidden cemetery dating back to the 1700's. Look closely: At first glance, the headstones look like small rocks coming out of the ground.

SOR014

Location: 38.557156, -78.332321

Turn right @ T-junction onto the Weakley Hollow Fire Road, and follow the road as it curves to the right. The road is marked with yellow blazes as the gradual descent to the parking lot continues.

SOR015

Location: 38.56889, -78.320816

Continue straight on the fire road @ 3-way junction. The Robertson Mountain Trail veers off to the northwest.

SOR016

Location: 38.568314, -78.320007

Continue straight on the fire road @ 3-way junction. The Corbin Hollow trail shoots off to the northwest.

SOR017

Location: 38.570633, -78.302956

Hughes River crossing. The trail veers right toward three footbridges. On a hot summer day, this is a great place to cool off and enjoy the relaxing sound of a running stream. In 0.1 mile, cross a fourth bridge. Ahead: Follow road to Waypoint 2, then retrace steps to your car.

Lower Lot

Location: 38.57085, -78.286331

Old Rag lower parking lot

Fee Station

Location: 38.570782, -78.286728

Shenandoah National Park Old Rag Info and Fee Station

Trailhead Sign

Location: 38.572861, -78.295624

Trailhead sign at the Old Rag upper lot.

Ridge Trail

Location: 38.568493, -78.300896

Hiking up the Ridge Trail

View of the Summit

Location: 38.558857, -78.304497

View of the Old Rag Summit from the Ridge Trail

Bouldering

Location: 38.553932, -78.304085

Hikers getting ready to go over and through boulders en route to the Old Rag summit

Boulder Squeeze

Location: 38.553013, -78.306168

Hiker navigating a tight boulder crossings on Old Rag

Big Boulder

Location: 38.551426, -78.310539

Big boulder near the top of Old Rag

Summit

Location: 38.551826, -78.314804

Summit of Old Rag (3,268 ft.)

Shelter

Location: 38.553654, -78.329849

Old Rag Shelter on the Saddle Trail

Cemetery

Location: 38.555943, -78.330078

An old cemetery dating back to the 1700's

Weakley Hollow Fire Road

Location: 38.562046, -78.327866

Heading downhill on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road

Hughes River Crossing

Location: 38.570572, -78.302971

Bridge crossing over Hughes River