virginia hikes: Compton Peak via AT from Jenkins Gap to Chester Gap, November 9 2019

As the fall colors start to taper, we headed out for a hike at the northern tip of Shenandoah National Park. What we found was the leaves were pretty much gone at higher elevations and the vista views were mostly brown, we did find some nice foliage in the woods at lower elevations where we would have typically been in a tunnel of green during the middle of the year. For weekly reports, you can also check out Virginia.orgVirginia Department of Forestry reports, or Shenandoah National Park.

11_9_Compton_Peak-17.jpg

Read More

virginia hikes: Franklin Cliffs & Hawksbill Mountain loop, October 15 2019

As fall rolls around, it’s time for me to start my foliage watch. My favorite time to hike here in Virginia is during peak foliage, but the past 2 years has seen muted colors in the area. On this day in mid October, I was commuting from D.C. down to southwest Virginia, so a stop in the Shenandoah National Park was a welcome break in the drive. I found the foliage is still in the very early stages of changing. For weekly reports, you can also check out Virginia.orgVirginia Department of Forestry reports, or Shenandoah National Park.

Read More

virginia hikes: Overall Run & Beecher Ridge loop, July 5 2019

We had to change our original plans for July 4th weekend due to injuries preventing us from doing any backpacking or too much hiking. Though we did still want to get outdoors, so we got out to Shenandoah for a Friday hike. Have to get rid of that steak, hotdogs, and beer somehow. #merica

Read More

virginia hikes: Jones Run & Doyles River loop, June 16 2019

Recently, I’ve driven up and down the I-81 corridor too many times. Usually it is during the night so I can avoid the worst traffic on the busy freeway. I was doing the drive this time on a Sunday afternoon, so I thought I’d break it up with a hike in Shenandoah National Park. It was the perfect respite on a hot evening.

Read More

virginia hikes: Old Rag, July 30 2017

Living in Southwest Virginia and around Virginia Tech, majority of the day hikes we can feasibly do are around a 3 hour radius. We don’t get to the trails out in Northern Virginia much, but recent events will have us exploring there more often now.

information

  • Old Rag Mountain (NPS)
  • type: loop
  • distance:  9.5 mi
  • elevation change: 2438 ft ascent and descent
  • time: 3:15 hours moving (4:20 hours with breaks)
  • location: Shenandoah National Park (directions to trailhead)
  • Pet are not allowed on the entirety of Old Rag Mountain loop.

report

On our way back from D.C., we were up for a Sunday hike to break up the drive. Old Rag is one of the most popular loops in the area said to include some fun scrambling. Expect the trail to be heavily trafficked and a busy time at the parking lot on a nice weekend day, especially after a period of hard rain.

*EDIT 2020/6 – The new parking lot is now complete. See this sub-Reddit for descriptions and detail.

2017_7_old_rag-1

There is a National Park fee of $10 each person or $25 a vehicle to be paid at the lower Old Rag parking lot, unlike the National Forests along the I-81 corridor that don’t. I’d recommend picking up the $80 NPS Annual Pass to save money and support the National Parks.

NPSpass-1

There is an alternative trail head you can take up to Old Rag at Berry Hollow parking lot and Whiteoak Canyon parking lot should you suspect the lower Old Rag parking lot to be full. The fee station is located at Whiteoak lot.

The first 0.8 miles of the hike is hiking up to the original Old Rag trail head along Nethers Rd. for about a half mile before turning left. At upper Old Rag parking lot, the typically recommended route is in the clockwise direction, so turn left onto the Ridge Trail. *EDIT 2020/6: The initial portions of the trail was rerouted to directly head up from the parking lot and no longer follow Nethers Rd.

2017_7_old_rag-2

For a little more than 2 miles, the trail is a typical uphills climb among the green tunnels of Virginia with a few switchbacks gaining majority of the elevation for the day. The next section is the a scramble section where no dogs and camping are allowed and

2017_7_old_rag-3

followed by the first vista of the day.

2017_7_old_rag-4

The initial scramble takes on upward slanting rock slabs with views toward the summit, north, and south from the valley that we drove in on.

The scramble continues and was surprisingly different as the drops you into a slot.

2017_7_old_rag-12

The unique scramble continues up not by taking you over rocks but into caves and more slots.

After passing a pretty cool overhanging rock,

2017_7_old_rag-19

there are a couple more difficult sections between more slots.

The next area opens up as you get a look down toward the scramble you’ve come up on.

2017_7_old_rag-26

The large flat surfaced rocks here are a popular stop and lunch place for many folks on the trail.

However, the summit is a little scramble and walk along the ridge further as indicated by a sign about a mile and an hour after the scrambling section began.

2017_7_old_rag-29

The summit consists of a field of large boulders to climb up on.

2017_7_old_rag-30

With 360 degree views of the area.

2017_7_old_rag-31

We definitely had to sit on the high point.

2017_7_old_rag-32

We saw several hikers double back from here because it was shorter distance, but the quicker route is to continue on the loop. Of course if you want more scrambling, but in the downwards direction, doubling back is the way to go.

The Ridge Trail become the Saddle Trail as we continue down the other side of the mountain with a couple more vistas.

2017_7_old_rag-33

Shortly after the summit, we arrive at the Byrd’s Nest Shelter.

2017_7_old_rag-34

We didn’t explore this are much since we thought it was just a shelter, but Hiking Upwards points to his area as an additional scrambling area as you can see the rock formations up the mountain in the picture below.

17_7_old_rag-51

The rest of the Saddle trail switches back among the trees until

2017_7_old_rag-35

the Old Rag Shelter. Both the Old Rag Shelter and Byrd’s nest Shelter are for day use only.

2017_7_old_rag-36

At the Post Office Junction, an intersection of the Weakley Hollow Fire Road, Berry Hollow Fire Road, and Old Rag Fire Road. As mentioned earlier in the post, the Berry Hollow trail head is down the Berry Hollow Fire Road. This junction use to the be town of Old Rag as the poster mark explains. The way back is on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.

The fire road can be a little boring as green tunnel continues. After the intersection of Robertson Mountain Trail and Corbin Hollow Trail, the Brokenback Run crosses and accompanies the fire road until the Saddle Trail intersection. Around the intersection of trails, there seems to be a few camping spots, which can provide a multi-day trek that includes Old Rag Mountain, Robertson Mountain, and even out to the Skyline Dr.

One the road portion back to the parking lot, there was a smoothie stand set up by the locals should you want a refresher for $4.

2017_7_old_rag-44

ratings (1-5; link for detailed breakdown)

  • views:  3. The vistas for this hike are your typical Shenandoah views of farm land and small tree covered mountains. The latter half of the hike is composed of green tunnels of trees and streams typical of Virginia as well. The cool thing on this hike is both the added views the large boulders provide in contrasting the green mountains and the fun they provide in the mile long scramble. The scramble itself isn’t just the same thing throughout, but varies as you go along to keep it engaging. This is one of the my favorite hikes in Virginia and I can see the reason for its popularity.
  • difficulty: 3. There is only one major uphill to get up onto the ridge on the Ridge Trail. However, the scrambling is a workout under the sun and will be way more difficult if it is raining.
  • technical: 2. The technicality would be the scrambling involved on this trail, and it’s not a small section either, around a mile from the start of the Ridge Trail to the summit of Old Rag. If you aren’t familiar scrambling take, do take your time.

2017_7_old_rag-42

2017_7_old_rag-43

back to virginia hikes