For students at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) who are looking for a day hike, University Student Commons and Activities (USC&A) marketing assistants, Annie Maddox, Salinna Lor and Jeff Evans visited the summit of Old Rag Mountain for a clear view of almost 200,000 acres of preserved national park. They were joined by Parker Brookfield, senior mechanical engineering major, and Alex Haid, recent VCU graduate.
Old Rag is a level four trail that is part of the Blue Ridge range in the Shenandoah National Park, which is home to Skyline Drive and a large network of trails. It is about a two hour drive from Richmond that has rustic scenery along the way. There is free parking located at 3577 Nethers Rd, Etlan, VA. Old Rag has an entrance fee of $10 per person or $25 for three people which is paid about a mile away from the trailhead.
The hike is a nine mile circuit with the summit close to four miles up a winding trail. Below the ridgeline the hike is a steady climb with full scenery of the local forest. About two miles into the hike it becomes steep and has some boulders to climb over. This area can be strenuous, but past the ridgeline, it’s possible to find spots to stop and admire the mountain range. The summit is over 3000 feet above sea level, and on a day with good weather most of the surrounding area will be visible.
Once reaching the summit, there is a nice, cool breeze, with a good place to rest and eat. It is a central location to meet other hikers and talk about what brought them there. The view was full of the mountains, farms and small towns that stretched to the horizon. It is a great reward after trekking up the mountain.
Some important things to remember when planning this trip is to have six to eight hours set aside, wear good hiking shoes and bring plenty of water. Also, it is important to know the weather ahead of time. The rock scrambles make this hike dangerous for pets or wet conditions. Check their website, nps.gov/shen, for restrictions and more information.
With the variety of wildlife, sites of the Blue Ridge mountain range and rare flora, anyone looking for an adventure in nature will be satisfied at Old Rag. Other places to hike in Shenandoah National Park are Hawksbill Mountain, Dark Hollows Falls and the Lewis Falls trail. Hawksbill Mountain is a beginner level trail that ends at the highest point in the park. Both Dark Hollows and Lewis Falls are difficult trails but have good shade from the foliage. The national park website provides a map and listing of all the trails in the area here.
For more photos from our Day Away, visit our Flickr album.