On Saturday, Matt and I made our return to one of our absolute favorite hikes: Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park!
Matt and I consider Old Rag Mountain to be one of “our spots” – it was one of our favorite hikes to do when we were still dating, so much so that we got engaged on the top of it back in October of 2011!
(That picture below is the real moment – not a re-enactment!)
Apparently we hiked Old Rag a lot in 2011 – here’s another Old Rag throwback recap from July 2011!
Thanks to the blog, I know that the last time we hiked Old Rag was back in January of 2013. It had been way too long, so Matt and I decided the time had come to return, and we planned our anniversary weekend around the adventure.
If you missed part 1 of our anniversary weekend recap, check that out first – we spent Friday getting in a run date and then relaxing at a winery.
We stayed at a cute bed and breakfast in Berryville, VA, called Waypoint House, which is the town where our wedding was, and enjoyed a yummy breakfast there on Saturday before heading off for the hike. Sadly I didn’t get a photo because we were eating with the other bed and breakfast guests and I didn’t want to be the weird one taking photos, but it was a delicious potato and corn hash with soft poached eggs!
We took our time and didn’t arrive at the parking area for Old Rag (which is actually outside of the park/not on Skyline Drive) until 11:30… and unfortunately the lot was full so we had to pay an enterprising neighbor $10 to park in their field. Womp, womp.
The parking lot is about a 3/4 mile walk along the road to the trailhead; I miss the old days when you used to be able to park in the lot right at the trailhead! Apparently that lot hasn’t been open for the public for at least 8 or 9 years.
Sidenote – a few of you have asked what bug spray we use.
My current fave is this organic + DEET-free one from Primally Pure (<- affiliate link for 10% off their website). I am comfortable using it on Riese, too. That brand also has great baby oil, natural baby soap, and natural dry shampoo, among other stuff!
There are three main parts to Old Rag, which is a nearly 10 mile loop (including the walk along the road to get to the trailhead). The first part of the actual trail involves a wooded trail with lots of switchbacks – you hike up and up and up!
We stopped for lunch about an hour and a half in and enjoyed a picnic lunch we ordered from our bed and breakfast. Delicious! Homemade hummus, grapes, carrots, crackers, cheese, meats, and olives. I love lunches like this with lots of different parts, textures, and tastes!
After a little while longer we started to get into my favorite part of the hike: the rock scramble.
It’s really fun but challenging and keeps you very engaged because there are lots of things to consider – how do I get up there? Where should I put my feet? Will my fingers hold me up in this placement? Can I smush through that? Etc.
We were nervous because on the climb up there were a ton of people coming back down, saying that there were long bottleneck lines at a few of the more technical scramble points. So many people didn’t wait and just came back down, but Matt and I figured we had nowhere else to be so we might as well wait no matter how long it took.
Well, we ended up being in luck that we had a lazy morning and a late start, because by the time we made it to the scramble, the crowds had cleared! There were other people around but no waits or anything. Whew!
A park service intern we saw said there had been about 900 people through the hike that day – insane. Old Rag is so popular now, but we see why. 🙂
After the scramble is the summit! And it’s absolutely gorgeous. There are a couple false summit areas before you reach the full summit, but all of it has great views.
We stopped at one of the false summits and ate the second half of our picnic for a little refuel.
If you click on the panorama shot below it will show larger. 🙂
Taking it all in.
The clouds were really cool!
While we were eating our snack, a rainbow appeared!
The skies continued to clear and by the time we made it to the true summit, it was a stunning afternoon.
We spent about half an hour on the summit enjoying the sunshine and the views… it was so lovely and there weren’t many people around by that point either since we were on the later side (we were up there around 4/4:30).
From the summit, it takes about 2 or so hours to get back down (at our pace, anyway, which is pretty average I think), if you take the normal loop route to get down.
To do the loop, you don’t go back the way you came; instead, you head to a switchback trail that takes you down and down and down and after about 2 miles of hiking down you reach a fire road that you then stroll down for the last 3 miles. The fire road is boring but nice and relaxing… although by that point we are always kind of ready to be done. 😉
We’ve always said it would be awesome to have a mountain bike or a horse or something waiting for us on the fire road!
We made it back to the car around 6:30 and headed out to get some dinner!
On the drive out, we went right by a spot called The Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill, VA – we ate there once before on a Shenandoah B&B weekend trip and enjoyed it so we decided to go back.
We sat at the bar because they had a live band setting up. I started with an arugula, beet, and fried goat cheese salad – yum, I was craving some greens.
And then for my entree I had an Asian noodle dish with a honey soy salmon – it was really salty, filling, and delicious, just what I wanted after the hike.
It reminded me of my Peanut Noodles with Tilapia recipe a bit – similar flavors.
We were wiped by the time we made it back to our B&B, but it was such a fun day.
We are considering trying to get back out there to see the fall colors in a couple weeks, but we’ll see! It has been such a warm fall so far that all the leaves were still bright green as you can see from these photos… I think they will be gorgeous reds and yellows in about 2 weeks though!
Are you a hiking fan? What’s your favorite hike?