Old Rag Mountain is special event for northern Virginia hikers like me - you really get an unprecedented rock climbing trip with some beautiful, unobstructed views from the top part of the climb.
When you are planning a hiking trip it is important to remember a few things:
1. This is a nearly 3000 foot climb which includes a fair amount of scrambling over rocks (I will post pictures). Don't trivialize the work compared to other local AT hikes. The Hiking Upward site includes a good altitude profile.
2. I always end up twisting an ankle or cutting up my shins somewhere on the rocky part of the trail. So take your time & be careful. I am a big proponent of using hiking poles, but on the rock part of the trip they can be a big inconvenience - you want to have both hands free.
3. Old Rag is very busy. I recommend getting to the climb 8 AM or earlier to avoid waiting in line at some of the rock obstacles.
There were approximately 20 cars in the lot when I arrived at 7:45 Saturday morning. By the time I left the lot looked like this. (Click on any picture to enlarge)
The first part of the trip is an almost mile long road hike from the parking lot to the trail head. For people who remember the old small lot - it is closed. So we all do an 8.8 mile hike instead of the previous 7.1 mile trek from the smaller top lot.
The first portion of the trail is a pretty ascent through wooded areas with some exposed rocks. Late May has a lot of beautiful flowering plants as well. After a climbing for a while you start to see peeks of the green mountains that surround you:
On most local hikes you find yourself dealing with 200-1000 foot climbs and descents. This one is closer to 3,000 feet, so be sure to pace yourself. It's ALL climb for the first half.
After a sign warning no camping past this spot the path takes a steep climb up into the rocks:
After this climb you start into the really stunning and challenging rocky portion of the trail.