How to Hike Old Rag
February 17, 2023 @ 3:00pm
It’s official: Shenandoah National Park is returning to their ticketing system for Old Rag. The hike is a nine-mile loop to the top of one of the tallest mountains in the Shenandoah range. It’s also one of the most popular hikes, due to its scrambling and uphill climbs; perfect for the adventurous spirit.
Shenandoah tested out the ticketing system last year, which asked visitors to purchase one of 800 tickets available per day in order to hike the famous trail, and found success in improving visitor safety and preservation of the mountain. The hike is a rewarding challenge, and hikers should be extra prepared to take on the trail.
“The rock scrambles are what set it apart,” avid hiker Lani Furbank says. “The few stretches where you are climbing over rocks and through channels are unique because of how lengthy and narrow they are.”
The ticket system asks hikers to plan ahead in more ways than one. A nine-mile hike is no small feat — even without the scrambles and channels — and so hikers should know how to accomplish the climb in the best ways possible. The hike takes roughly five and a half hours if all goes according to plan, so preparedness is key.
“Folks should definitely be comfortable with mountainous trails in Shenandoah National Park before attempting Old Rag,” Furbank says. “Start early in the day to give yourself enough daylight, because it is a long loop. Bring plenty of water and snacks.”
Furbank hiked Old Rag on a Saturday, so there was a high volume of hikers on the same trail.
“This meant we were often waiting at the bottom of a scramble while a bottleneck cleared,” she says. “With so many people clustered together, folks were straying off trail a bit and could be doing damage to the surrounding area.”
This observation is precisely what Shenandoah’s new ticketing system is hoping to avoid; people will be more spread out, the trail less trod, for hiker’s benefit just as much as the surrounding area’s benefit.
“When in a national park, people should always follow trail markers and refrain from forging their own path, even if it’s to find a cool lookout spot or photo op,” Furbank says. “Respect flora and fauna — keep your distance and don’t disturb habitats.”
Old Rag is a bucket-list hike, and now with less people each day, it will feel more taken care of — so we can cross it off our lists while making sure the mountain’s ecosystem is preserved. With all the new exciting changes, it’s sure to be a beautiful, memorable adventure.
The ticketing program runs from March to November, the hike’s busiest season. If interested, you can apply for the first 400 tickets 30 days before your hike, or for the last 400 tickets five days before your hike. Tickets can be purchased here.
Want hikes to beautiful waterfalls in the area? Check out this article.
Looking for other adventurous day trips? Check out this article.
Shenandoah National Park: 540-999-3500; nps.gov/shen // @shenandoahnps
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