Trail description for Old Rag Mnt., VirginaTrail description for Old Rag Mnt., Virgina
Duration: Entire Trail: 8-14 hours
Half the trail and back: 4-6 hours
Difficulty- easy to very strenuous
Pro’s- not having to walk the whole trail to enjoy the best views, relatively short and not punishing if you are walking half the trail and back. Option of taking shortcuts in the first part of the trail.
Cons’s- unimpressive views, very difficult to hike in some areas, extremely boring if you decide to walk the entire trail. Long lines when there is lots of hikers, you may be standing leaning against a sun hot rock for well into an hour. Steep trail and pointless curves (to get you walking more) in the beginning.
Recommended supplies: Backpack, light and small to medium size. 4 water bottles, 2 cans of coke, to give you energy, 1 red bull or two coffee, four sandwiches, and mints.
Old Rag starts out like every other Appalachian trail, in the woods, going through oak trees and lots of rocks. In the beginning, the path is very flat, there are numerous turns as you slowly gain elevation by walking back and forth on the same mountain. This part of the hike involves very little gain in election and many hikers quietly consider shortcuts, several which are evident and extremely ease you journey upward.
After about a mile and a half, the trail comes to a point where it no longer runs curving through the woods but begins going straight along the ridge. Once you start going here, the trail will become more difficult and steep. Some of the rocks, you have to take big steps so you should not attempt hiking to this point if it is rainy or if there is snow. As you follow the trail upwards, it begins to open up and there are small views of the surrounding countryside.
After about a mile, you will get to a point where you step on a large rock and there will be a big open space with a nice view on the left. Most hikers stop here and many turn around as it gives you a complete taste of what the entire trail looks like. From this point on, the trail becomes very difficult and it is a long way up if you decide to follow the entire trail.
As soon as you pass the first stop, you will need to go down a crevasse and then make a right, near a cliff. Most hikers will go through the crevasse as it appears safer and easier however the experienced hiker will follow rocks on the right of the craves as they are much less straining to go through, by this also avoiding a 20 minute line on a crowded day. Once you pass this crevasse, the path continues going downwards but then it begins to go upwards again. From this point on, the path will mostly ascend and there are areas where you need to really strain yourself to get your feet on the rock ahead of you. The trail becomes very difficult as you have to drag yourself on top of rocks to keep moving.
After about two-three miles on the trail, you will get to a point where the trail passes through a cave. This cave can be easily avoided by walking around it on the right side of it. If you decide to make your way through the cave expect to wait for many long minutes as on most days, the trail is crowded and everybody wants to go through the cave. The cave is also slippery and after walking through it your hands will be worn out, as they probably will be anyway at this point because steep rocks on every step cause many hikers to use their hands.
Once you pass the cave, you get to a point where the trail becomes very thin. It is this part that leads up to the most difficult part of the trail where the only way to pass through is to go through a trench that requires you to climb on top of a rock 6 feet high with no steps. On a crowded day, you will spend up to a good hour waiting in line in the trench and out of it as hikers try to haul themselves up. It is almost impossible to go through by yourself as you need someone to push you up and somebody from the top puling you up. This part of the trail will leave you exhausted!
Once you pass this crevis the trail becomes easier but at this point most hikers are so worn out that they have difficulty walking the trail which requires you to jump 2 to three feet from rock to rock unless you feel like climbing up and down and up and down and again and again and again as many careless hikers do. You will get to a point where the rocks become very open and there are open views on both sides. After that, the top will become in view and it will only be a matter of minutes before you are at the top. Overall however, getting to the top from the practical side will take you a good 3 to 5 hours.
The top is very ugly and windy so you will probably get cold. The view is unimpressive and many hikers will probably just walk by look around and being descending stopping at a nicer location. From this point, you can take back the trail and be faced with anxious tourists who will stand in line blocking your way down. The other option is to hike a very long and boarding road intended for cars back to parking. Either way, it’s a terrible strain and the road back down is long and boring, going down it will kill your hiking intuition for months. It is for this reason that the best way to go about this trail is to climb half of it and then climb back down the same way. This should leave you with a nice 4 to 6 hour hike that will not leave you so exhausted and worn out that you want to die.