One of the best experiences is a day on Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park, its most popular and dangerous hike.
The number of blogs and websites about this hike speaks to its popularity, and the numerous search and rescue missions each year attest to its danger. The scramble is great fun, and the views are spectacular.
It is a challenging hike, but when you make it about 3/4 of the way up, you will have some rock scrambling that will slow your pace. There are a lot of switchbacks, so you will not be going straight up, but the trails are still steep. The descent, a longer distance than the ascent, is more gradual, ending on a fire trail. When hiking Old Rag Mountain, each time you think you’ve reached the summit – you haven’t! This mountain has several false peaks. You know you’ve hit the Old Rag Summit when you see the Old Rag Mountain brown elevation sign. Find a lovely rock with a fabulous 360-degree view for your lunch spot before starting your descent on the back of the mountain through the Saddle Trail.
The pilot program, which requires visitors to purchase day-use tickets that began in 2022, will resume on March 1, 2023. A total of 800 tickets will be available for each day from March 1 to November 30. 400 will be available 30 days before the arrival date, and the last 400 will be released five days before. Hikers must purchase their tickets online at recreation.gov before their arrival. Tickets are valid for the day of arrival only. A day-use ticket does not guarantee a parking spot. Entrance fees still apply in addition to the day-use ticket fee of $1.00.
For more information about the pilot, specifics about where tickets are required, and details on how to get them, go to https://go.nps.gov/oldragticket