We had first heard about Shenandoah’s Old Rag Mountain from friends who heard our description of our Adirondack hikes. “You’ll like it.”
We got to the Old Rag parking area before 7:30 AM on Sunday. The forecast was perfect for hiking (but not for photos!) – clear and 60 degrees. Upon being asked to park “as close as possible” to the car next to us, the humorless Ranger responded to my question about the crowds with “it will be the busiest day of the year.” Good for us, there were only about 10-15 cars in the lot when we set off for Old Rag.
The Ridge Trail starts out with a nice, ultra-maintained forest trail. There were some spots of boulders, but it was mostly soft underfoot. The switchbacks had black plastic fencing preventing cutting them off, which in my view gave a very unnatural feel. Otherwise the approach was very pretty.
About 3 miles from the car, the hike opens on to a series of open slabs with sprawling views of the valley to the east. For the next half mile or so, there is some serious scrambling up and down crevices, around and over (and under!) massive boulders. There were one or two points where we had to do an almost complete pull-up to continue. In other words, it was really cool.
It took us a bit over 2 hours to get to Old Rag’s 3,268-foot summit, about 3.8 miles from the parking area. There were only a half dozen people there when we arrived, so we explored some of the rocks and took a few pictures before heading on.
After a nice lunch on a westward-facing rock slab, we headed back on the Saddle Trail to the Weakley Hollow Fire Road. Descending both routes was much, much easier than the Ridge Trail, and I commented that you could drive a Lamborghini up the fire road. The trees were more colorful on the shady side of the mountain, and we quickly made the 4.4 miles back to the Ridge junction.
This is where we started to see the flood of people heading towards the Ridge Trail. We passed probably 100 people just starting on our last 0.8 miles back to the car – and it was after noon. The parking lot was packed, and cars were waiting on the road to park. It looks like noon is the popular time to head up to Old Rag – so if you are like us, you’ll want to be done by then.
Photos taken on Fuji 800Z with my Pentax ZX-L and S-M-C Takumar lenses: 50/4 Macro and 24/3.5. “Scanned” with my DSLR, so the colors might be off.
Hike details: 9 miles, 2,500 vertical feet, ~5 hours.