Old Rag Mountain
Rag Mountain is a popular hiking
destination with a summit elevation of 3,291 feet, located in the
Blue Ridge Mountains of the
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia's
Madison County, near Sperryville.
In contrast to most mountains of the Blue Ridge, Old
Rag has an
exposed (rocky) summit.
Old Rag Mountain is underlain by Old
Rag Granite, named for its ubiquitous exposure on the mountain,
formed during the Grenville Orogeny about a billion years ago.
About 400 million years after the Grenville orogeny during the
Catoctin Formation, deposition of basaltic magma occurred during
the formation of the Iapetus Ocean forming a layer of greenstone
over the granite.
This was followed by the Weverton Formation, Harpers Formation,
and Antietam formation in which sand and rock sedimented on the
ocean floor forming quartzite and sandstone deposits. Finally a
period of sedimentation of shells and skeletons of foraminifera
resulted in deposition of a layer of limestone. Approximately 700
million years after the Greenville Orogeny, the Iapetus Ocean
began to close resulting in the Alleghenian Orogeny when the Old
Rag Granite and layers of rock deposited upon it where transported
westward and eventually thrust up over the limestone bed around
it, forming Old Rag and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The summit of Old Rag is
accessible via a system of trails in Shenandoah National Park. The
shorter most common way is from a parking area at the end of
County Route 601 off Route 231 at the base of the mountain.
A 7.1 miles circuit hike or a 5.4 miles out-and-back hike to the
summit can be made. The circuit hike makes use of the Ridge Trail
which ascends the mountain 1.6 miles to the first false summit.
The trail then turns into a rock scramble, which can be strenuous
for inexperienced hikers, for 1.1 miles to the summit and
intersection with the Saddle Trail which descends 1.9 miles down
the saddle of the ridge past Byrds Nest #1 shelter and Old Rag
shelter to the junction with Weakley Hollow Fire Road. The Fire
Road then descends 2.5 miles to the Old Rag parking area . This
pleasantly convenient parking area was closed in 2010.
All parking is now limited to the lower field parking area adding
a half mile walk on asphalt. Likewise the summit can be reached
from Skyline Drive by following Old Rag Fire Road from the drive
at milepost 43 to its eastern terminus with the Saddle Trail and
then follow that trail to the summit.
Nearby hiking on the Blue Ridge Parkway also includes such
destinations as Humpback Rock, and Bald Mountain.
Old Rag is a unique destination
for rock climbing in the mid-Atlantic region. Its large granite
exposures offer rock climbers an experience similar to that
provided by the granite rocks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains,
Yosemite, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. It boasts splitter
cracks, dihedrals, and crystal pinching slabs.
The climbs are between 50 and 100 feet in length, and range in
difficulty from beginner to expert (5.4- to 5.12+ on the Yosemite