Hiking Old Rag in Shenandoah, VA

This past fall, during peak “leaf season” I convinced the ManFriend to hike a mountain with me. I knew I’d probably be leaving the “Mid-East-Coast” (or whatever the hell that area of the country is called) and wanted to get as much elevated nature in my adventures as possible. Be careful what you wish for…

I originally started off being very upfront that Old Rag is the hardest and most dangerous trail in the Shenandoah Valley, but by the time we left that morning I was almost cocky about how easy it would be. I was determined to complete the 10-mile hike in the lower end of the time estimate, and we averaged about 30 minutes a mile. Cocky me got a reality check that day… it wasn’t easy. 

On top of spaghetti… I mean, a mountain…

It ended up raining the entire time we were hiking, and was cold, wet, and windy by the time we reached the summit. I was frozen to the bone and while I thought I had planned well for hiking, I learned a few things.

  • Don’t lift legs the day before you go hike a mountain. Your legs will get enough of a workout.
  • Wear a windbreaker or a waterproof jacket if there’s any chance that it could rain.
  • Pack lots of water. Luckily, we were good with this one.
  • Also, lots of snacks. Hangry on the side of a mountain is how Lifetime movies happen, I’m pretty sure. (Luckily for the ManFriend I had my snack game on point with protein bars, mixed nuts, and bananas).
  • Dress in light layers that you can take on and off when you get hot or cold. Nothing is worse than sweating through clothing on the way up, only to freeze in your own sweat on the windy walk down. #cute
  • Despite all these things I just told you to bring, try to pack lightly. Don’t bring a picnic blanket or extra camera equipment. Not only do you have to lug that crap up and down a mountain, but Old Rag also involves rock climbing and in a few cases I had to toss my backpack ahead of me because I wouldn’t fit through a crevice with it on.

And, just because you’d rather be safe than sorry, let some people know where you’re going, and when you should be back. Give yourself some buffer time, and allow plenty of time to get back (even with snack breaks and ohmygodmylegsarefallingoff breaks) before it gets dark out. Our map of Old Rag provided us with an emergency number should anything happen, which is great if, like, cell phones had reception in the middle of a mountain. Don’t be afraid to ask other hikers for help or to make sure you’re heading the right way on the correct trail. No one wants to have to eat their arm off.

We promptly followed up hiking with drying our socks with car heat on the air vents and booking it to the nearest vineyards for some much-needed wine.


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