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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.
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
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).
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.
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.
Weather: 40 degrees with light rain; Windy & cold at the summit
Food: Water & snacks
Company: Myself & and old friend.
- State: DC
- City: Washington, D.C.
- Distance: 0.0
- Land Type: National Park