Travel Guide: Hike Virginia’s Old Rag Summit Trail
Virginia is for lovers, or so they say, and while we can’t predict whether or not you’ll get lucky during your visit, we can confirm this: It’s definitely for hikers. For impressive views of those rolling blue hills and a fun scramble, pack up for a half-day of hiking on the Old Rag Summit Ridge Trail in Shenandoah National Park.
What: Old Rag Summit Ridge Trail
Where: Shenandoah National Park in Sperryville, Virginia.
The stats: 8.8 miles with an approximately 2270-foot elevation gain. No pets.
What to do: The hike to the summit of Old Rag Mountain is one of the most popular treks in the mid-Atlantic region thanks to some unforgettable scenery, but it’s no mere walk in the park—the loop will take five to six hours to complete and you’ll be tired. First you’ll have to tackle some steep switchbacks through the woods until you break through for your first view of those famous tree-covered hills. After some flat exposure views, you’ll come to a peppering of boulders, where you’ll need to scramble for a good 20 minutes using your hands. You might notice some hikers turning around with bloody knees right about now, but don’t get discouraged—the summit is near and it’s pretty awesome. While moderate hikers will probably find it fun to go back the way they scrambled in, tired folks can take the less strenuous Saddle Trail down the other side of the mountain, which spills you out on to the Weakly Hollow fire road.
How to get there: If you’re coming through Sperryville, take Route 211 to Route 522 south for about 0.8 mile. Turn right on Route 231 and follow for about 8 miles. Turn on Route 601 and drive until you see signs for the parking area. Park and head up the road keeping an eye out for the “You Are Here” trailhead sign, which leads you into the woods. Follow the blue blazes until you’re on the clearly defined trail.
What to bring: Light hiking boots or sneakers, long pants for scrambling and plenty of water and snacks. Dress based on the season and don’t forget your Shenandoah National Park entrance permit.
Do: Get there early, and by early, we mean before 7 a.m. Arrive any later and the 200-car lot will be full and you’ll have to head for the overflow lot two miles away.
Don’t: Plan on sneaking in a make-out session anywhere (despite the state slogan)—this is one of the most popular and crowded hikes in the park.
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