Fall in Old Rag Mountain

Old Rag is a granite mountain with nice trails and spectacular views of the Shenandoah National Park. There is a 6-mile moderate hike that brings you from the Berry Hollow Parking area to the summit.

View from Birds' Nest - Old Rag Mountain, Virginia


Last weekend we celebrated the beginning of the autumn hiking Old Rag mountain in Shenandoah National Park. The journey involved camping by a creek, hiking to the summit, and exploring rock climbing routes in the area. Old Rag is one of our favorite mountains in this region. 

Admiring fall colors - Old Rag Mountain

Sunset Walls

First day we arrived at 12pm at the Berry Hollow parking area, but it was so crowded that we had to park in a private land nearby, paying a $10 fee to the owner. Our first goal was to hike to a sport climbing crag called Sunset Wall and later look for a flat place to camp (back country).

On our way up we found spectacular mushrooms that resembled small towns, and thousand of falling leaves with a wide variety of green, yellow, orange and red tones. The textures and colors of the forest in fall always impress us.  

Despite following the directions of this climbing book, we got confused at some point and after 40 minutes of bushwhacking we finally arrived to the Sunset Wall climbing area, which was very rewarding. From there you have a great view of several Shenandoah mountains and valleys and even an interesting bird shaped rock. There is also a small cave that after a 4th class climbing brings you to west of Old Rag Rocks. It was warm enough to take out our shirts and sunbath at the rocks. We enjoyed our picnic there.

The place was so chill that we stayed until sunset and had to look for a spot to camp during the night. After checking a couple places we decided to camp close to a small creek, near the Berry Hollow fire road. We used our last energy to cook and eat, and then we slept like a rock.

Second day. Lazy morning. The hike up to Old Rag warmed us up and the view was rewarding. We started our hike upward through the Saddle trail, passing 3 sets of stone steps and eventually arriving at some overlooks.

Birds' Nest

Although it's not as well known as the main overlook, there is a cool secondary spot to enjoy a nice view of the mountains, forests and rock outcrops around. Specially during fall when the set of colors is almost unreal. It's called Bird's nest, which consists of a pile of huge rocks located very close to a cabin in the Saddle trail. 

After enjoying the nest, we continued our way up with other many groups of hikers. There was no solitude at all and having so many people talking loud or shouting around us was sometimes quite disturbing. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to see how wildlife - specially plants and trees - changed aspect along the trail according to the topography, creating various sets of shapes, contours and hues.

Old Rag Summit

When we arrived to the summit we were totally astonished with one of the best views in Shenandoah. The huge rocks at the main overlook provide plenty of space for many groups of hikers to relax and have lunch. Everyone was excited to be in such a great atmosphere after climbing the steep mountain. We adored the fresh air breeze in the sunny afternoon, the endless tones of the forests and the view to the infinite. The granite rock outcrops all over the place were also admirable and very attractive to climbers like us.

On our way down we passed tons of hikers. Maybe we were walking a bit faster because we wanted to pick up our camping gear before sunset. While driving back to Washington DC we found a nice barbecue by the Lee highway 211 with Richmond Road, where we had dinner with good views of the Shenandoah mountains, still with sun light. We also bought delicious local apples and some bottles of cider to enjoy during the week.

We visited this place during summerwinter and spring, and it was lovely too. Impressive how season here are remarkable. Go outdoors to check it!

What we did last weekend? Had fun in nature!

This trip is featured on the book 20 Weekend Trips Close to Washington DC.

How to get there

Print map and directions

1. Park at the Berry Hollow Parking Area (GPS: 38.54984, -78.33693), 2 hours away from Washington DC

2. Hike the Berry Hollow trail for 1 mile to the junction with the Saddle trail. Turn right at the junction.

3. Hike the Saddle trail upward for 2 miles to the summit, passing Old Rag Shelter in 0.5 miles and Byrd's Nest in 1.5 miles.

* Bonus for climbers: To reach the Sunset Walls climbing area, turn left 1.5 miles after the junction of the Berry Hollow trail with the Saddle Trail (turn left just after the first set of rock steps). The log and the cairns are great markers of the beginning of this side trail. The "trail" leads into big boulders. Hike upward the cairned trail close to the slight ridge for 1000 feet. Take a left through a break in the rock to reach the Sunset Walls. More info about the climbing routes at mountainproject.com

More info about this route at virginiatrailguide.com

More info about an alternative longer loop route at hikingupward.com