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Organization, Directions, Fees, etc.

To Ridge Trail, near Nethers: From Washington D.C., take Interstate 66 to Gainesville, then 211 west to Sperryville. A little left-right jiggle through town will lead to U.S. 522. After 0.3 miles, turn right onto State Route 231. Stay with this for 8 miles until a right turn sign marks Old Rag. This road will change names several times: 601, 602, 700. Keep going and stay right. On weekdays you can use the upper lot, and on weekends you can ask the rangers to let you drop off your packs there. Otherwise, there is a 1.2 mile slog up the road from the lower lot to the trail head.

To Saddle Trail, Near White Oak Canyon: Begin same as for Ridge Trail approach, but go 8 miles further on State Route 231. Turn right onto State Route 643 at Etlan, and right onto State Route 600 at the sign for White Oak Canyon. Continue to where the road dead-ends at the Berry Hollow parking lot.

This is a fee area. At the Nethers end of the Ridge Trail end there are rangers on weekends. Otherwise it is the honor system. The fee is $15.00. Golden Eagle Passes are good for a family or one hiker and a partner.

Camping is substantially restricted in the vicinity of Old Rag. This is a very popular location in-season, and I would suggest that you not plan on camping in the immediate area. Competition can be stiff, and this is no place to build a tent city. There are many camping areas in the nearby Shenandoah National Park and surounding areas. However, in off season periods back country camping is practical, and the cost of the permit is included the entrance permit. Please respect the following updated restrictions, effective June 23, 2000. They are designed to preserve the wilderness experience.

There is no camping permitted within:
• 10 yards of any stream
• 20 yards of any unpaved fire road
• 50 yards of any building ruins
• 50 yards of any No Camping sign
• 50 yards of any other party
• ¼ mile of any road, campground, hut, cabin, picnic area, or other developed area

Additionally, there is no camping above 2800 feet. This is just above the level of the Byrd’s Nest on the Saddle Trail, and near the Lower Ridge Slab on the Ridge Trail. This leaves only limited possibilities on the Berry Hollow Fire Road, and near the Nethers end of the Ridge Trail. The good spots are ~ 100 yards behind the Byrds Nest, and on the Ridge Trail saddle at about 2500 feet. The only trouble is that they are dry.

Back country camping permits are available at the Ranger booth at the Ridge Trail parking lot near Nethers, at the White Oak Canyon trailhead on Berry Hollow Road, and at any SNP entrance station. There is no additional fee for back country permits.

No pets are permited, even if leashed.

If you are coming from the Washington D.C area, there is practically nothing in the way of eating places on the way back until Warrenton. If you are like me you will be hungry enough to devour anything that stands still, but you are in a hurry to get home after a long day. You’re looking for more than a burger, something less greasy than pizza or fried chicken, and quicker than a sit down dinner. Heck, no real restarant would let you in anyway. For a dinner to fill you up, suit a climber’s budget, and keep in local character, try the Frost Diner, just north of where route 211 turns left in Warenton, as route 17 heads to Culpepper. Built in 1946, it is quite authentic in the menu, fittings, clientele, and the fact that they don’t take plastic. It is right across the street from Hardees, but if you’d eat there, just climb in the gym.

Shenandoah Rock Outcrop Managment Plan (ROMP)
The Park authority has been working with the climbing comunity and biologists to develop regulations regarding access to the crags throughout the park. Most of the impacts are related to hiker impacts around trail overlook areas, but there is some mention of other climbing areas.

Suggestions / Further Information
If you have a favorite area or climb that you are offended we missed, or if there are material errors in this guide, please let us know. We have kept the guide simple at this first pass to keep the adventure and to keep it accurate. However, it will be updated continuously in order to make it better. Please contact us at If you are interested in other web links concerning Old Rag, check
Climbing Areas
Below is an annotated topographical map noting the major climbing areas discussed in this guide. The main summit is labeled as the Summit Area. The Ridge Trail runs WSW for most of the length of the ridge, so it will be the convention in this guide to refer to proceeding south or west on the trail as the direction towards the Saddle Trail end. It is suggested that the climber get a full-size copy of this map in order to more clearly pick out features. We have include GPS derived coordinates for some of the harder to locate areas. However, cliff faces offer a considerable radio shadow, so there is some error and often fixes are difficult to get. Better to rely on you nose and a good map. There have been a few climbers placing signs to guide others: Please refrain from this practice, as Old Rag is a wilderness area.

The season can often determine the best climbing area just as definitively as traffic law determines which side of the road on which to drive. In the winter, the east and south facing slabs and walls are often comfortable on cold days, though the cracks never seem to warm up. The lengthy approaches to southeast crags are reasonable in the winter and early spring before the local flora springs to the defense of the mountain. The approaches to the God Crag and the Reflector Oven are infested with poison ivy by mid-May. In the summer, the west and north facing PATC fall and the Projects are more appealing, cooler destinations with shorter approaches. The Lower Ridge Slab remains accessible all year, though it can get quite warm. Bouldering on the summit is brutally cold in the winter, sun or not, but the wind makes it nice in the summer. The north and west facing areas such as the PATC Wall are brutally cold in the winter – ideal for budding alpinists anxious to practice martyrdom and pointless deprivation. Getting lost on most of the approaches can lead can lead to epic struggles with mountain laurel. But suffer you must: there is some wonderful rock hidden just around the corner! Just as alpinists flirt with frostbite and objective dangers, all Old Rag climbers come to know that the epic bushwhacking is the price exacted in the quest for new routes. Perhaps I should have thrown in a section dedicated to a non-existent crag, with a horrible approach through a rhododendron-choked gully, the sole purpose being to deepen your experience of Old Rag and blow-off the less dedicated! If you use this guide long enough, you will swear we did just that.

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