Hiking Old Rag in Autumn
Old Rag is by far one of the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park. The view from the summit is certainly the best summit view you will find in the park, although Hawksbill and Mary’s Rock give it a good run for its money. Because it is such a great hike with spectacular vistas, it is almost always busy. If you can go during the week instead of the weekend you are likely to get a bit more solitude.
There is a parking lot where, if you don’t have a National Parks pass, you need to pay for entry. Read this page about parking / fees.
Starting the Hike
The 9.1-mile loop hike is tough, but well worth it. From the parking lot you walk 0.8 miles to the head of the trail. This roadside area along the way is usually filled with all sorts of wildflowers in the earlier months, but we visited near the end of October and there were very few left.
Wildflowers on the Trail
White Campion, or Silene latifolia, is a member of the Carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) and blooms July to October. It grows throughout North America, except in the southern most areas. This flower favors fields and roadsides.
Heavenly Blue Morning Glory
Heavenly Blue Morning Glory, or Ipomea tricolor, is a member of the Morning Glory family (Convolvulaceae). Morning Glory flowers open with the morning sun and close when it sets and each flower only lasts for one day.
It’s possible this one came from someone’s garden nearby.
We also passed some Asters, which remain abundant throughout autumn.
Turn left onto the Ridge Trail. There is a nice big sign at the entrance with a map of the trails in the area. The climb is 3.1 miles to the summit, the last mile of which is a “scramble” over, through, and around large rocks.
Old Rag Views
On the way up to the top there are several views of the Shenandoah Blue Ridge Mountains.
If you’re going to Old Rag summit across the Scramble, I would recommend carrying a small and light pack if possible. We were carrying our large backbacks, cameras, and lots of water, and it was quite difficult at times to maneuver on the rocks and balance properly with such heavy and big packs. Sometimes I had to hand my pack to my husband so I could climb a boulder.
The rocks are very impressive.
And this isn’t even the summit yet!
This is the view from the summit.
And this is a panorama from the summit.
After the summit, you take Saddle Trail down to Weakly Hollow Trail.
Weakly Hollow Trail
Weakly Hollow Trail is a relatively easy and flat trail to walk down with beautiful forest views.
The trees are uniform in areas, making for great forest photos.
Recommended as a Strenuous Hike
Old Rag is a classic Shenandoah National Park hike. It can be challenging for beginner hikers, but the effort put in is well worth it. The views are unparalleled in the park and any hike there is bound to be a memorable one.