Old Rag Mountain - Shenandoah National Park

Virginia, England

SummaryGetting there

A mostly moderate climb up a beatiful, tree-clad, mountain; but with a challenging section near the top.

Distance:6.6 Miles
Est. Time:3 hrs 50 mins
Difficulty: Challenging 
OS map: Explorer sheet 406
Total Ascent:2228 ft 
Total Descent: 2175 ft 

DescriptionMap View

The RouteSafetyNotes


  • Blue Ridge Mountains seen from Old RagOld Rag Mountain - height 3,291 feet (1,003 m)
  • Blue Ridge Mountains

Situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains within the Shenandoah National Park, this walk gives you a marvellous view over a beautiful and justly popular region.

The Route go to top

rocky section on Old Rag Mountainthe cause of congestion on Old RagFrom the main Old Rag parking area start by walking left (E) following the tarmac road to the Ridge Trail Trailhead. (The trailhead has some parking spaces, but so few that it is not worth trying on this popular walking area).

After the trailhead barrier the well-marked path soon turns left and climbs steadily through deciduous woodland, gradually getting steeper until it enters a series of zig-zags. Evantually, the forest path gives way to a rocky section (and I mean big rocks!) where you may encounter congestion. [When I walked it I had to wait 20 minutes for my turn to clamber up the next section]

The next few yards are what defines the climb as "difficult". Up to this point your walk will have been easy; but clambering up these rocks demands hands, feet, stomach muscles and determination. However, you may also find a Guide stationed there to direct your efforts and, if necessary, help you up. This is rarely a lonely trail.

Old Rag summitThe challenge is to clamber up a narrow "chimney" then over a large rock as tall as yourself (or taller for some!)

After that, the climb becomes easy again and brings you out onto a broad, rocky plateau from which you can get marvellous views of the surrounding mountains and forest.

Go past the Byrds Nest day shelter to pick up the Saddle Trail leading down past the large Old Rag day shelter to the Weakley Hollow Fire Road. This broad, gravelled path takes you gradually and uneventfully back down to the Ridge Trail trailhead and the road back to the parking area.

Safety go to top

Most of this walk is easy, but a short section of climb between and over large rocks turns it into something more difficult. Other than that, the risks are low and the popularity of this walking area make it likely that you will have someone nearby to call on if you get into diffuculties.

Notes go to top

The Blue Ridge Mountains are so called because of their apparently bluish colour when seen from a distance. They are part of the Appalachian chain that runs up much of the eastern United States.

Shenandoah National Park includes part of the "Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia" made famous by the Laurel and Hardy song. But it is no joke; it is a long, narrow national park with many recreational opportunities. It is bounded by the Piedmont hills in the east and the Shenandoah River in the west.

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