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Old Rag Mountain - 3rd Annual Fall Hike

  • Old Rag Parking Lot VA United States (map)


To all you Old Rag Hikers! Please thoroughly read the following information concerning our hike. Make sure this hike is for you! Its going to be tough, which also means its going to be awesome!

Entrance fee is $8.

We will meet at 8:30am at the parking lot at Old Rag. Directions are also listed below. This is a very popular hike, so we want to get an early start to ensure there is enough parking and for trail traffic issues. Please be on time. Carpool if you can.  If you are coming from the Charles Town area, I can assist with arranging a carpool. Send an email to

As with every MOSS event there will be a time of Withdrawal, where we take the opportunity to disconnect and re-engage with our Creator.  This is done through a self-lead devotional time in the example of Jesus who, "Often withdrew to the wilderness to pray."  We will part company from the rest of our group temporarily and find a quiet place to consider the provided readings and prayers.  It is recommended that participants bring a journal and pen to write what comes to mind as they experience God through the discipline of solitude and silence in this natural setting.  Once this period of time is complete there will be a short discussion for those who wish to participate before the hike is continued.  

Bring water and food! 

Info from NPS:

Preparing to Hike Old Rag Mountain

Planning Your Visit
The most important step to a great hiking experience in Shenandoah National Park is good planning. Many of the points below are applicable to any hike, but there are a few special considerations for Old Rag. 
Be sure that you are physically able to complete this hike. The circuit hike is about 9 miles. There is a significant elevation change and a strenuous rock scramble that requires good upper body strength. Often, children and shorter adults need assistance navigating the scramble. 
Take at least 2 quarts of water per person. Dehydration is one of the most prevalent issues. 
Wear sturdy shoes that will support your ankles and allow you to to get a foothold without slipping. 
Allow 7 or 8 hours. Yes, people do it in less time but, like all types of travel, you may experience unanticipated delays. It's always a good idea to have a headlamp in case you don't complete your hike before dark. 
Be sure you know the forecast and never attempt this hike in wet or icy conditions. 
Stay with your group and stay on the trail. Do not allow children to run ahead. 
Although you need to be sure you have plenty of water and food, it is a good idea to pack as lightly as possible. Most hikers prefer fanny packs to backpacks which can be difficult to maneuver through the rock scramble. 
Planning your hike on a weekday will enhance your experience. Old Rag can become very crowded on weekends. At times, the parking lot will be full and there will be long lines and substantial waits at some of the narrow passages. For current conditions follow us on Twitter: ShenandoahNPS. 
Pets are strictly forbidden on Old Rag for their own and hikers' safety.

Although Old Rag Mountain is within the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park, most people approach it from the park's eastern boundary. Follow these directions to get to the trailhead: 
From Sperryville, Route 211: Take Route 522 south for .8 mile. Turn right onto Route 231 and go 8 miles. Turn right onto Route 601 and follow the signs to the parking area (approximately 3 miles). 
From Madison, Route 29 Business: TakeRoute 231 for 12.8 miles. Turn left onto Route 602 and follow the signs to the parking area (approximately 3 miles).

Especially during busy weekends, parking can be another challenge. All Old Rag hikers must use the large parking area at the Old Rag Fee Station. The small parking area at the Old Rag Trailhead is NOT open to the public.

In an effort to make the Old Rag experience safer, we have increased patrols so the trailhead lot will be reserved for Old Rag staff including Search and Rescue personnel, park staff, trail overseers, and Old Rag Mountain Stewards. The parking lot is about a .8 mile walk along the road to the trailhead

Parking is prohibited along the road shoulders. Please use the lot to avoid being towed.

Visitors hiking Old Rag must have a valid Shenandoah National Park entrance permit. You can purchase permits and yearly passes from Rangers when present, or via self-pay at the Old Rag Fee Station. 

Hiking Old Rag

Hikers navigate a narrow passage.

Holly Mills, NPS

Now that you know how to fully prepare yourself for a day on Old Rag, you are ready to begin the adventure! Once you have arrived at the parking area and paid your fee you will walk the .8 mile along the road to the trailhead.

At the trailhead there is additional information and a map. Take the time to read the information posted there. Old Rag is host to many rare and endangered plants that live in the harsh rocky environment of the granite boulders. These plants are particularly susceptible to trampling. They are pictured here so take a moment to familiarize yourself with these special plants so you can be on the lookout for them.

There are several ways to hike Old Rag, but the most popular is a circuit that takes you up the Ridge Trail, across the rock scramble to the summit, than down the Saddle Trail to the Weakley Hollow Fire Road and back to where you began. The first 2 miles will be an increasingly steeper climb along a beautiful wooded trail. You are likely to see deer and other wildlife, as well as a steady profusion of wildflowers during the spring, summer, and fall. Watch for changes in vegetation as you gain altitude.

About 2 miles into the hike you will come out of the woods onto the ridgetop. Here's where the fun begins. For the next mile and a half you will climb, slide, shimmy, and crawl your way across and around giant granite boulders. Follow the blue blazes to stay on track. If you see a double blaze, that means the trail will take a sharp turn or switchback.

You will also notice numbers beneath the blazes. These are reference numbers for Search and Rescue personnel. Take note of the numbers as you pass them. If you need to report an incident, being able to give the staff the number will help them in their response.

As you make your way to the summit you can pause at several fabulous viewpoints, but don't stop there-eventually you will make it to an unmatched 360 degree view. As you navigate the boulders notice the geology of Old Rag. You'll see quartz and feldspar and a great example of columnar jointing that forms a natural staircase. Notice, too the change in vegetation.

From the summit, you can look across much of the nearly 200,000 protected acres of Shenandoah National Park, a portion of which is federally designated wilderness. Take time to appreciate this relatively unspoiled example of forest and mountain.

You are about 4 miles from your starting point. Some hikers return via the rock scramble, but most prefer to continue on the Saddle Trail. Especially on busy weekends, attempting the rock scramble in reverse feels a lot like swimming upstream! As you travel down the Saddle Trail you will encounter two shelters, first Byrd's Nest, and then the Old Rag Shelter. Both are day-use only. There is an outdoor privy at the Old Rag Shelter (a little over a mile from the summit). If "nature calls" please use it instead of the outdoors. If you cannot make it to the privy, be sure to use Leave No Trace principles (cathole method).

About .4 mile from Old Rag Shelter you will arrive at a junction known as Post Office Junction. Before Shenandoah National Park was established this was the site of the village of Old Rag and its Post Office was nearby. There were homes and a school and church. At the junction there is additional information about the people who once called Old Rag home.

Turn right onto the Weakley Hollow Fire Road and complete your hike with another 3.4 miles through the woods and along a stream to the parking lot.