Name: Old Rag Mountain, Madison County VA
Nearest City: Sperryville, VA
Distance: 8 miles + 2 miles with parking lot
Terrain: steep inclines, rock scrambles, forest, granite face
Difficulty level: Intense
Approximate time: 4-6 hours
Elevation gain: 2510 ft
Hike Type: Loop
What to say about Old Rag? How about it is one of the best and most beautiful hikes in Virginia possibly the east coast. I have never been to a place more beautiful. It is that fantastic of a hike with breathtaking views, it really is that good. Soaring eagles, abundant deer, wonderful rock scrambles, and a nice 10 miles to get your heart rate up. I have hiked Old Rag 5 times in the last 8 years and I plan to hike it many more times god willing. There is something special about being able to look down off the summit and see a blanket of clouds and flying bald eagles. The only negativism I can say for Old Rag is that it really so wonderful the word has gotten out, so you can expect a crowd even on the worst of weather days. With the natural bottlenecks you can spend a lot of time waiting for your turn (still a million times better than sitting in a cube).
The hike is an 8 mile loop with a mile walk each way from the parking lot. Depending on which way you start the loop the hike consist of a series of switchbacks, false summits, rocks scrambles, man made stairs and several miles of fire road. I prefer to hike the switchbacks first, it is the more traditional route, so you are not fighting traffic as much and I like seeing the false summit as I hike along. I have taken about 30 people on this hike over years, so far everyone has made it. Some more miserable and scraped up than others, but no one has ever turned back. Being in at least halfway decent shape will definitely help you enjoy the hike and the few days after the hike. A little climbing is required and there are several drop downs into narrow cracks. It is a long hike so I always pack a lunch and reward myself with a nice meal and break on the summit. Great views and giant haystack boulders make for an excellent place to have a picnic.