Old Rag is the most difficult hike in the Shenandoah Valley


Brigid Banks

Senior Brigid Banks and her friend Sarah Samuels (pictured) hiked to the top of old rag in Nov. 2020.

Brigid Banks, Photo Editor

Old Rag is a ten mile hiking loop located near Etlan, Virginia. This intense hike involves not only ten miles of walking and climbing, but includes multiple rock scrambles and an elevation gain of 2,683 ft.

I have hiked Old Rag and can attest to the difficulty of it. Besides the sheer length of the hike, the most difficult part is the rock scrambles. A rock scramble is when you have to climb over rocks to continue your hike. There are no paths on the rock scramble and usually involves a great deal of upper body strength and balance. All while doing this, you have to balance so that you do not fall about 3,000 feet from the ground, with no railings stopping you from slipping and falling. 

Since it is a fairly popular hike, there’s a great deal of congestion when you get to the rock scramble parts of the hike. Trying to navigate these narrow passages that you have to shimmy through, or the high boulders you have to climb is made exponentially more difficult with about 200 other people trying to climb as well. 

Other difficult parts of this hike involve your own personal preparation. Going into the hike, I would have said I was relatively athletic, had the right gear and was overall prepared. Even though I thought this, the hike turned this notion on its head. Half way through the hike, I was completely out of water even after having two water bottles packed in my backpack. I also found that I couldn’t eat because the heavy breathing and intense elevation change had caused my throat to become sore and made it almost impossible to eat. 

Even with these intense challenges, the hike is definitely worth it. After miles of hiking, you reach the peak of the mountain and the view is indescribable. You get a 360 degree view of the Shenandoah Valley, allowing you to see the entirety of everything around you until the sky meets the ground.