Old Rag Hike

There is one good thing about not training for a fall marathon. I have the time and energy to get in some fall hiking. I’m really trying to stay positive about this whole not running thing.

It was 35 degrees and dark when I left my house at 5:50. I stopped for coffee and made it to the base of Old Rag a little after 7.

IMG_20131021_070253_181The moon was so bright. I thought it would have been really nice if I’d arrived early enough to do the hike by moonlight and watch the sunrise from the peak.

I’m not sure I’d be up for a solo night hike, though. It’s too bad my friend Rebecca moved to the other side of the country. She’s the only person I could think of who might be willing  to do that with me.

I hadn’t realized just how late the sun has been coming up these days. If I’d arrived any earlier, I would have been hiking in the dark.

The upper parking lot by the trailhead is closed, and there’s no parking anywhere along the road, so everybody has to park in the lower parking lot.

From there, it’s slightly less than a mile of road walking to reach the upper parking lot and trailheads. I always hike up the Ridge Trail, meet up with the Saddle Trail at the summit, and connect with the Weakley Hollow Fire Road to make a circuit that begins and ends in the upper parking lot. This seems to be the most popular route, although hikers wanting to avoid the rock scramble can do an out and back on the Weakley Hollow and Saddle Trails.


IMG_20131021_082415_984Old Rag is famous for the huge rock scramble of boulders along its ridge.

IMG_20131021_082608_397I couldn’t have asked for a prettier day.

IMG_20131021_082939_609IMG_20131021_083221_417There are several false peaks, but you know you’ve reached the top when you see this sign.

IMG_20131021_090026_180The view from the top.

IMG_20131021_090349_274One of the perks of starting so early in the morning is having the entire mountaintop to myself.


IMG_20131021_090038_327I met my first fellow hikers just before the Byrd’s Nest day shelter on my way back down. They were three older ladies. I’m guessing they were at least in their late sixties. I’m pretty sure the leader was in her seventies. I was just thinking how cool that was, when one of the ladies looked at me wide-eyed and asked “You don’t mind hiking by yourself?”. I told her I did not. “I love that.”, she said.

So I guess we were all impressed with each other for different reasons.

IMG_20131021_095037_545Once you reach the Weakley Hollow Fire Road, it’s an easy (but long) stroll back to the upper parking lot.


IMG_20131021_103609_166From there, it’s the same road walk, but in the opposite direction, back to the lower parking lot.

IMG_20131021_104253_970Even on a Monday morning, I met a steady throng of people heading out as I was making my way back.

I changed clothes and was driving back to Charlottesville by 11 am, which left me plenty of time to do some shopping and clean the house.

Total Hike Distance: 9 miles
Walking: yes
Biking: no
Dogs: no
Kid-friendly: possibly for older kids with hiking experience
Wheelchair/Stroller Accessible: no
Fee: $8 per person ($5 in winter months) or valid park pass

Elevation Gain: 2429

old rag elevationYou can watch an interesting video about hiking Old Rag put out by the National Park Service here.

Directions from Charlottesville:
Take 29 north toward Madison. Once you pass Madison County High School on your right, start looking for 231 North on your left. Turn left onto 231 North, once you are through downtown Madison, bear left to stay on 231. Continue for about 13 miles. You will see a brown sign for Old Rag Mountain on the right side of the road. Turn left onto Nethers Rd. Keep left to stay on Nethers Road for about 3.5 until you come to the grassy parking lot on your right.

Author: healthyincville

Nemophilist Trail runner Introvert Animal-loving vegetarian * My ideal city would be car-free. I love my cats.

10 thoughts on “Old Rag Hike”

  1. That looks like a really pretty hike! I love hiking in the fall when all the leaves are changing. I’m kind of out of commission right now for running, but the runner in me thinks those fire roads look like a great place to run. I can’t help seeing trails or roads like that and not think about running there 🙂

    So have you nixed the full marathon? I’m sorry if you had to cancel your plans 😦 that really stinks.

    1. Yeah, I’m definitely not running a marathon this fall. If I can manage to stay healthy I’ll run Blue Ridge again in the spring and try for a BQ again next fall.
      I hope your long run(s) go well this weekend! Happy you’re feeling better!

      1. I’m sorry to hear that :-/ I know what a disappointment that is. I’ll be at the Blue Ridge Half in the spring (my third year) and my husband will be running the Blue Ridge full for the first time (after doing the half the past two years). He’s crazy.

  2. I love fall hikes!!!! The air is so fresh. It’s perfect! Those pictures are beautiful, looks like a great way to spend the day to me!

    – Leah

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