Rock scrambling in Old Rag mountain

Park in Old Rag Mountain Parking Lot (GPS: 385706,-782866)
Main attraction: Hike, spectacular views
Hike length: 7 miles out and back
Map and Directions
Difficulty: Strenuous

Rock formation at Old Rag Mountain, Virginia


Last weekend we celebrated the coming of spring in Old Rag Mountain, a popular hiking destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In contrast with other mountains nearby, Old Rag has a rocky summit with a wonderful 360-degree panoramic view. The top of the mountain is accesible via different ways, and this time we chose the Ridge trail, with features a fun but difficult rock scramble.

Trees springing at Old Rag Mountain trailhead

Demanding Ascent

We, a group of 4 folks, went on a cold sunny day to enjoy the early spring colors, the rock scramble and the views.

We arrived to the Old Rag parking area, paid the $20 fee and started to hike upward.

With an elevation gain of 2,400 feet (730m), the hike can be strenuous if you carry a heavy back pack - which fortunately was not the case.

The trail can also be slippery because of the ice.

We found needle ice formations on the trail, which grow when the temperature of the soil is above freezing, and the temperature of the air is below freezing, so water flowing below the soil's surface is drawn up and freezes, and ice is formed in needle-like columns.

Spring Vegetation

During our ascent we found several plants springing along the trail, including yellow dandelion wildflowers, unfurling green fiddle heads, purple baby pine cones, red maple blossoms, and thousands of other small green leaves and sprouts. We also found rainbow mushrooms growing on logs.

Spring colors are amazing. We found specially interesting how vegetation springs earlier at the lower and warmer hills, and slowly flows to the upper parts of the mountain, transitioning from green to brown in a beautiful gradient. Life just follows the edges of the rivers, from bottom to up. The mix of light green small leaves with old dead trees created a magic purple atmosphere.

Passing through a narrow cave formed by piles of resistant granite rocks.

Ocean of Rock

There are fantastic views from the endless boulders along the upper part of the trail. It's like walking over an ocean of rock, passing through numerous passages of resistant granite, narrow caves, and numerous spots requiring hand over hand climbing. A delight for rock lovers!

The purple quartz in the granite formations was bright and vibrant, and combined very well with the green lichens around.

After 2 hours of hiking upward we finally reached the impressive summit, had lunch and enjoyed the mountains around with the transitioning colors of spring.

A big con was that there were a lot of people, both in the trail and in the summit, so we were not able to feel the solitude we usually look for in the nature. 

After lunch we decided to retrace our steps and hike the same trail back down. It's shorter than the loop-trail that most people do while hiking Old Rag, and therefore also less crowded, but we still had to be very careful to not twist our ankles or harm our knees while rock scrambling down.

Summiting Old Rag Mountain

We arrived at the parking area with big smiles and raring to come back to the mountains soon.

What we did last weekend? We had fun in nature!