Old Rag Mountain, in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, is one of the most spectacular hikes in the United States. Popular for its challenging rock scramble up to the 3200 foot summit on the Ridge Trail, thousands of people every year enjoy both the journey and the views.
From the lower Old Rag Parking Area (fee charged), hikers continue walking 0.8 miles along State Road 600 to the trailhead. The Ridge Trail, marked by light blue blazes, is 2.7 miles long and gains approximately 2300 feet in elevation on its way to the summit. The last mile is a very challenging rock scramble, requiring hikers to use their hands and arms to navigate through the crevices and up over boulders. Views of mountains and farmland along the way and from the summit are breathtaking. While no special equipment is necessary, the trail should not to be underestimated. Hikers should start early in the day, carry an adequate supply of food and water, and be physically fit enough to hike for five or more hours over steep terrain.
After relaxing at the top of Old Rag, most hikers opt for the longer, but easier, trip back down the mountain via the Saddle Trail, Old Rag Fire Road, and Weakley Hollow Fire Road. This 4.5-mile route is much less technically challenging and is therefore recommended to weary hikers.
In addition to pine trees atop Old Rag, I also noticed a good amount of mountain laurel which should bloom around May through July. Bloodroot were out in April, as were violets (including yellow violets). I also saw a couple of trillium open already at the lower elevations, many more should be blooming in May. A few hawks were gliding near the summit. On the way down, the fire roads present good opportunities for spotting black bear since you can see pretty far ahead; you might get lucky.
Old Rag Mountain is located near Sperryville, Virginia (U.S. Route 211). From Sperryville, take Route 231 South, make a right on Route 601, make another right on Route 602 and continue to the large parking lot on your left.
The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintains hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the Mid-Atlantic region, including the Ridge and Saddle Trails on Old Rag Mountain. The club also publishes maps and guidebooks available online for purchase. The Old Rag Mountain area is shown on their map #10.