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Great Date Escapes: Old Rag Mountain

Climb to the top of this historic peak

MAY 2022


TRAVEL TIDBIT: Hike during a weekday morning to enjoy more solitude.

Sometimes, the most time-tested is still the best, and that’s the case with Old Rag Mountain, a hike for friends, companions and loved ones for generations. Note important changes for 2022, though: Due to the popularity of the rock scrambles and panoramic views, the National Park Service has instituted a day-use permit system to control overcrowding. “This pilot project will allow us an opportunity to test a strategy for managing this area to ensure Old Rag is preserved,” says Patrick Kenney, superintendent of Shenandoah National Park.

The climb is still worth the paperwork. Outsideonline.com named it one of the 25 best hikes in the world. Old Rag, named for the appearance of its billion-year-old granite, can be approached in several ways. The most common is through the Nethers community in Madison County, about an hour north of Charlottesville. It’s a 9-mile loop with a top elevation of 3,284 feet, though a shorter route is available at Berry Hollow and you’re free to linger along the trails.

You’ll need to be in good physical condition because parts of the trails are difficult; also, bring along plenty of water for hydration as well as a first-aid kit. Pets are not permitted. To secure online permits, search for “old rag day use” in your browser of choice. Tickets are only $1 during the 2022 test period, with 400 released 30 days in advance and another 400 released five days in advance.

Virginia Route 601 | Nethers, VA 22743 | 540-999-35000 (national park office) NPS.GOV/PLACES/OLD-RAG.HTM