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“Go very early to avoid the crowds; can be extended to a full day”

Old Rag Mountain Hike
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Bethesda, Maryland
Level 6 Contributor
108 reviews
34 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 49 helpful votes
“Go very early to avoid the crowds; can be extended to a full day”
Reviewed 9 February 2014

In a region of small rounded hills, this outing has almost "Alpine" character (especially with some snow and ice - when it becomes a full-on mountaineering experience). That, and a good trail system has made this hike extremely popular and crowded in the warmer months. Best done mid-week, but on a weekend, an early morning start (hit the road from the parking lot by headlamp, so as to start on the trail proper before dawn) will give you some peace. This will also give you sunrise as you climb out of the trees onto the long, rocky crest of the mountain (assuming you are climbing the Ridge Trail and going clockwise). The warm shades of pink painted onto the giant granite boulders by the rising sun will be memorable. For those seeking a more vertical gain, the Ridge Trail can be easily enchained with the Robertson Mountain Trail. Exiting by the Corbin Hollow Trail after tagging the second summit gets you back to Weakly Hollow Fire Road, and thence to Old Rag Parking. An even longer variation is to climb Robertson Mountain after Old Rag, and then exit using the Corbin Mountain and Nicholson Hollow Trails. This last is a daytrip only for the very fast. Or make it a backpack. (see sketch map available at the NP website). Although not unheard of, none of these hikes are for small children. Don't bring your quadruped pet, unless it's a monkey or a mountain goat. Dogs will have a (literally) hair-raising time on the third-class terrain on the ridge. Lastly, for rock climbers, Old Rag offers the best granite anywhere near Washington, D.C. It's better to approach using the Berry Hollow parking and hiking the Saddle Trail to get to the summit area of Old Rag going counter-clockwise if you are burdened with a couple of ropes and a stash of pro (the climbing is all trad).

Visited February 2014
Thank Adrian F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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274 reviews from our community

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Alexandria, Virginia
Level 4 Contributor
32 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Strenuous hike, but worth it”
Reviewed 2 January 2014

Better to come here in the Spring or Fall when it is cool. You will have to crawl up and down some "rock scrambles" at some point, so wear sturdy clothes that you don't mind getting dirty or worn, and don't try it if you have bad knees.

Visited November 2013
1 Thank Randy G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Spotsylvania, Virginia
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Great Hike”
Reviewed 28 December 2013

My army son and I did the hike today. It was a perfect day today with bright sunshine and a cool breeze. We did the loop trail in 3 and 1/2 hours. We only saw a hand-full of people the entire time.

Visited December 2013
Thank repps
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Ashburn, VA
Level 4 Contributor
38 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“Best Hike period!”
Reviewed 27 December 2013

If you like to spend a day outdoors and be challenged by a great hike, there is no better place to do it if you in the Shenandoah mountains. All the reviews that precede mine are right on. The only thing I can add, having enjoyed this hike over a 25 year span (have done it more than 50 times) is that you will always discover something new. It never gets boring and you will always feel challenged. Do it at different times during the year to enjoy the seasons!

Visited October 2013
1 Thank JRfromDC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Level 4 Contributor
36 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 47 helpful votes
“What an experience!!”
Reviewed 8 November 2013

This hike was well worth it for the sense of accomplishment it gives you. Here’s what you should expect: Doing a strenuous loop hike (we recommend loop vs. up and back) that will take you at least 6 to 7 hours if you are in decent shape (it’s around 8 miles). Plan on maybe 7 or 8 hours if you want to enjoy the view at the tip top. You’ll really bust your butt to get there, so why not enjoy? Neither of us would recommend this hike for kinds much younger than say 13. It’s way too easy to get hurt on the rock scramble. You can take the younger kids up to the rock scramble for some great views, but beyond that, I wouldn’t allow them to go through it, but that’s just us. No doubt others will disagree with that statement, but it’s just our 2 cents. Everyone’s risk tolerance is different.

OK, the nitty-gritty: We started out on the Eastern side of the mountain (Nether’s road I believe) around 10:30 in the morning. We are both in decent shape physically and enjoy taking longer hikes. If you get winded walking up a steeper hill or if you huff and puff walking a mile, don’t even bother with this hike. IT IS A REAL WORKOUT!! You'll need either a park pass or buy a permit, which is available via self service in the parking area. The parking area is a large grassy area (port a john's here) and is maybe ½ mile from the actual trail head. Then it’s about an hour or more of climbing a steep trail up, with many repeated switchbacks. Don’t just expect a walk in the park. Bring plenty, and I repeat, plenty of water with you as you will be needing to rehydrate. We each took 1 standard water bottle and 1 smaller Gator Aid bottle. That wasn’t really near enough. We’d definitely suggest you take some kind of sports drink for each hiker and bring along something to eat for extra energy, like Granola bars, fruit, nuts, etc. You’ll enjoy that at the very top. And good over the ankle hiking boots should be seriously considered. We saw people with tennis shoes and blue jeans on.....seriously???

We actually thought the first vista was great (little over an hour up), but little did we know…..THE ROCK SCRAMBLE--which stood between us and the actual summit. Let me describe what a rock scramble actually requires: Sliding down, jumping down, crawling up, hoisting up, squeezing through and a number of “holy crap” (sorry folks) comments which will likely be uttered to reach the summit. What a great workout. But, what a blast!! I felt like a big kid up there. You aren’t just hopping rocks here folks, some of these are as big as a house. This was real work and we were soaked, as was the fitness instructor and her friend that caught up to us for the final sprint to the top…..OK, there was really no sprinting left in either of us, so just give me a little literary license with that comment. What a rush it was to beat or rather meet the challenge of this mountain hike. You follow blue blazes through the massive boulder field and sometimes you need to look for where the route really is. Shorter folks may need an occasional boost or assist up/down from a less vertically challenged buddy. Trust us, once you make it through the rock scramble, you won’t want to turn around and retrace your steps back. That’s why we recommend the loop method. You’ll be tired once you climbed up, and tired can mean you are more apt to have an accident, so treat yourself to an easier return to the car, and you’ll enjoy different scenery too.

Well, you are wondering about the view from the top, right? Well, it was worth it!!! What a tremendous view you are rewarded with. Quite a trophy for your efforts. Outstanding views in all directions with the sound of the wind blowing and an occasional turkey vulture cruising past……they aren’t there waiting for you to die, though you may feel that’s the case. : ) The views should be savored for a while. We were there about 20 to 25 minutes before heading back down, but I’d wish we had taken some sandwiches up and enjoyed lunch hour on top of the world. The trip down was on a reasonable trail with some minor rocks and steps finally ending with your last few miles back to the parking lot being logging roads. We appreciated that, because it was a nice way to wind down from the great workout.

In summary, what a great hike, with great views and a great sense of accomplishment upon completion. We were both glad we did it!!!

Visited August 2013
3 Thank HBandSP
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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