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
- Distance: 13.8
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.
Location: 38.572609, -78.295845
From the Weakley Hollow Trailhead in the upper parking lot, head out on the blue-blazed Ridge Trail.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 38.555767, -78.302124
Scenic view of Robertson and Corbin Mountains to your right.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 38.56889, -78.320816
Continue straight on the fire road @ 3-way junction. The Robertson Mountain Trail veers off to the northwest.
Location: 38.568314, -78.320007
Continue straight on the fire road @ 3-way junction. The Corbin Hollow trail shoots off to the northwest.
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.
Location: 38.57085, -78.286331
Old Rag lower parking lot
Location: 38.570782, -78.286728
Shenandoah National Park Old Rag Info and Fee Station
Location: 38.572861, -78.295624
Trailhead sign at the Old Rag upper lot.
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
Location: 38.553932, -78.304085
Hikers getting ready to go over and through boulders en route to the Old Rag summit
Location: 38.553013, -78.306168
Hiker navigating a tight boulder crossings on Old Rag
Location: 38.551426, -78.310539
Big boulder near the top of Old Rag
Location: 38.551826, -78.314804
Summit of Old Rag (3,268 ft.)
Location: 38.553654, -78.329849
Old Rag Shelter on the Saddle Trail
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