Washington, D.C.: Old Rag via Berry Hollow

Take the lesser-traveled route up one of Shenandoah National Park's most storied peaks.
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Take the lesser-traveled route up one of Shenandoah National Park's most storied peaks.

When you're in the D.C. area and you've got an old friend coming to town, there's only one place to go—Old Rag. Not only Old Rag, but the lesser-traveled route that gives the same views without the crowds. BY MATT MILLS

The standard route up Shenandoah's Old Rag is an iconic hike in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., and serves almost as a rite of passage for those with a love of the outdoors. The standard route provides a dose of mountaineering that's not always easy to find in this part of the country, with hiking, scrambling and even a little rock climbing mixed in.

This route up Old Rag, via Berry Hollow, doesn't include the scrambling and rock-hopping that the standard route is infamous for, but it does provide the same expansive views at end of the journey. It's also shorter, lesser-traveled and a great alternative for those who don't want to deal with scrambling on rocks in the icy winter months.

Trip stats
Distance: 5.5 miles round-trip
Elevation change: 1,746 feet
Time: 3 hours
Distance from Washington, D.C.: 2 hours
See also: Variation: Old Rag circuit hike
More info: Preparing to hike Old Rag

Prep
1. The parking area at the Berry Hollow trailhead is small, with enough room for only 10 cars or so.
2. Be prepared to pay a per-person fee at the trailhead of either $5 (December-February) or $8 (March-November).

Explore
Mile 0.0: Follow Berry Hollow Road up the junction with Old Fire Rd.
0.75: At the junction, take a hard right and continue upward.
1.10: Reach the Old Rag Shelter. Continue south and then east.
1.80: The trail takes a hard turn south as it begins to wind toward the summit.
2.10: Reach the Byrd's Nest Shelter.
2.75: Switchback your way up some steeper sections to the summit.

Reward
1. The vistas from atop Old Rag are some of the best in the area. Take a well-deserved rest on the summit and enjoy the expansive views.
2. Spend some time checking out the shelters right off the trail, Old Rag Shelter & Byrd's Nest Shelter. There's a lot of history in those structures.
3. Keep an eye out for some occasional pre-summit vistas as you head up the trail. The summit views are great, as mentioned above, but there are others to be had, as well.
4. After a nice break at the summit, head back down to Berry Hollow and watch the crowds head down the standard route.

My Trip
Month: January
Weather: 40 degrees with light rain; Windy & cold at the summit
Food: Water & snacks
Company: Myself & and old friend.

Trail Facts

  • State: DC
  • City: Washington, D.C.
  • Distance: 0.0
  • Land Type: National Park