If you are living in the Washington, DC area and are reading this, I beg you to not make my mistake. I spent 7 years as a resident of Washington, DC and never made the short 2-hour drive to hike this magnificent mountain within Shenandoah National Park. Old Rag Mountain is the perfect day hike with a rock covered peak at 3,284 feet. The 9-mile, roundtrip hike is a phenomenal challenge with stunning views and only 75 miles from the USA’s capital city!

Read on for 2 minutes to learn more about this must-do trek!

woman hugging a tree

The Mountains

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The Shenandoah range is a part of the greater Appalachian Mountains which formed 480 million years ago when North American and Africa collided making it a geological must see!

This sub-range stretches 200 miles and is said to get its name from Native American Chief Shenandoah of the Oneida Tribe, who’s name means “river through the spruces”.

This range is famous for its Skyline Drive, a scenic road that stretches the length of the 80,000 acre Shenandoah National Park. The park contains over 500 miles of hiking and allows backcountry camping if your day trip turns into a weekend excursion.

This region is home to Black bears, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, beavers, otters, foxes, and deer, along with many species of birds, the rare cougar and a variety of fish. Keep your eyes peeled to spot some of this amazing wildlife.

The Old Rag Hiking Trail

woman hiking Old Rag

The Old Rag Trail Loop is 8.6 miles and climbs 2,417 feet with stunning views of Virginia. As referenced from alltrails.com, and my experience there, here is a description of what to expect!

This hike is one of the most popular in Shenandoah National Park. Although it is challenging, with steep grades and a section of hiking where you have to also use your hands called a ‘rock scramble’, there are switchbacks that ensure you aren’t hiking straight up the mountain. The accent is a vigorous two-mile hike which is a nice contrast to the four-mile descent which you can walk easily. This trek begins with a one-mile walk up to the original Old Rag parking area then, take a left onto Ridge Trail and get excited!

You’ll be going up, down, in between, around and underneath granite boulders throughout the ‘scramble’; be sure to keep your eyes open for the blue trail blazes, they can be in the strangest spots. Hiking Old Rag Mountain is a great opportunity to conquer a fear of heights as you will be jumping over crevasses and looking out over gorgeous vistas. When you think you have reached the top, you haven’t! This mountain is known for its false summits making it a scenic trail. Keep going, it’s worth it!

The actual summit is marked by a brown elevation sign and it is the perfect place to stop for lunch, set up on a rock with a 360 view and enjoy! Then it is time for the descent down Saddle Trail, get ready for some rock hopping past Byrds Nest Shelter and Old Rag Shelter; you’ll come to a crossroad, stay to the right and take Weakley Hollow Fire Road. While this four-mile trek back to the parking lot can feel long, it is filled with lush nature and a chance at wild-life sightings. At the end of your hike, you’ll see Brokenback Run that leads into the Hughes River, and you’ll be reminded why it is called Shenandoah, truly a river through the spruces. When you complete this hike you’ll feel invigorated and refreshed, and if you live in Washington D.C., ready to return to city life.

What to take with you: