Old Rag is situated in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. At 3,291 feet, she protrudes over a valley of billion year old rock formations. The hike up the Blue Ridge Trail (BRT) provides stunning views, challenging rock scrambles, and an opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful terrain in the country.
It’s a little more than a 2 hour drive to the base NPS parking lot from Columbia and it’s notorious for filling up quickly… With a STUNNING forecast and the Memorial Day holiday weekend, we left around 5am to get there asap.
After nearly a mile walk from the parking lot, we reached the BRT trailhead and set out on our adventure! The first almost 2 miles were filled with dense trees, rocky trails but very well maintained and not too technical. Enough that you did need to keep an eye on where you were stepping… The average person would probably find this challenging – but to give you a “fitness background” on myself and the ladies I was hiking with, we each maintain pretty active lifestyles including recent training for half marathons, full marathons and weekly running or trail running. This base-fitness level made the hike a lot more enjoyable and less strenuous (in my opinion!).
We reached our first false summit, and the views did not disappoint!
Following that, we made our way through a series of rock scrambles. I can’t express how grateful I am that I lift weights like and man, and have been regularly challenging myself with Power Train classes twice a week… I honestly felt like I could have breezed right through this section! It was so much fun squeezing through, climbing up AND down rocks, and scrambling around these ridges…This is probably the most technical part of the trail and the reason inexperienced people are warned about the “strenuousness” of the hike. Again, I can’t compliment the fitness level of the women I was hiking with enough, as we made it through with relative ease and it made it more enjoyable as well.
We stopped for lunch after the rock scrambles and then continued on our way – stopping for a few pictures throughout the hike. Hey, if you can’t laugh, smile and enjoy the journey…it’s not worth it!
After a little more than 3 hours, we reached the peak and explored the near 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range…
The National Park Service website states of this point in our hike: “From the summit, you can look across much of the nearly 200,000 protected acres of Shenandoah National Park, a portion of which is federally designated wilderness. Take time to appreciate this relatively unspoiled example of forest and mountain.” (NPS)
The hike down Saddle Trail was far less strenuous and far fewer people, but equally enjoyable. Round trip, we took around 5.5 hours and that includes various photo ops, and a pit-stop for lunch. I would hesitate to say that is an average round-trip time frame… NPS suggests planning on 7-8 hours.
When reading about Old Rag hiking afterward, I found a lot of comments regarding the preparedness of hikers that come to tackle this trail. Again, the five of us are in pretty fit-condition and run or train several times per week. We all carried hydration packs and food…I also included eye drops, sunscreen, ibuprofen, benadryl, electrolyte tabs and compostable baby wipes, most of which we never needed. I can definitely see how unpreparedness leads to dangerous situations on this hike.
We all made it up, and back down with sweat-soaked, sun-drenched smiles on our faces and plans to check out other amazing adventures throughout the rest of summer as well!
Next on my wish list? Hawksbill loop, which boasts Shenandoah’s (and Virginia’s) highest peak!
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the next adventures coming up: the Baltimore 10-miler next weekend, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth Minnesota on June 18th, and then tackling the 4-state challenge on the Appalachian Trail with my hubby over the 4th of July weekend! Never.Stop.Adventuring!