Old Rag is on every D.C. area hikers list. The thrill and challenge of the hike is the nearly mile long boulders that require jumping, crawling and climbing over them. On a beautiful sunny day, also expect a traffic jam along the boulder field.
I’ve hiked this mountain many times over the years in all seasons and I’d say fall is the best time to take in the vast beauty all around this trail. Old Rag is a 9.1 mile loop hike (you can make it a 10.4 in and out hike if you want to skip the boulders). To hike the loop, I’d recommend starting on the Ridge Trail, which gradually climbs over three miles. Next is the rock scramble across various boulders. The first set of views begin shortly after. Hop across the last set of boulders before arriving at the summit of Old Rag. The breathtaking views all around is truly the reward for the hard work of getting here. Hikers following the loop take the Ridge Trail to the Saddle Trail and then the Weakly Hollow Fire Road.
I decided to hike Old Rag on Saturday because it was a beautiful day with temperatures in the high 50’s. By the time we made it to the summit, however, the winds were gusting and it was much cooler than we anticipated. So, we cut our time short at the top and stopped to eat lunch at Byrd’s Nest Shelter. It’s a day use area with a picnic table. There are no bathrooms at this shelter. If you’re interested in additional rock scrambling, Balance Rock near the Byrd’s Nest Shelter is a short side trip.