Birthday Hike, Darcy Comes Too


I turned 21 on July 18th. I sort of thought I would be more emotional. I had a serious existential crisis when I turned 20, but 21 just feels good (maybe it’s the bourbon).

In fact, it was one of the BEST birthdays I have ever had. This year my birthday was on a Tuesday which meant my family celebrated the weekend after (so everyone would be off from work).

I didn’t mind– I was stoked my birthday was in the middle of the week because my favorite hike, Old Rag, is known to be PACKED on the weekend. I planned to make the venture alone, but my older sister Darcy had the day off so she came too :)!

I have hiked Old Rag at least once a year since I was 16. I never get tired of it.

Darcy had never been before, but I know she will be back —  she loved it too!


Here are the quick facts:

Distance: 9.2 miles. This hike may take anywhere from 4-6 hours to complete. You MUST pack lots of extra food and water for this hike (we actually ran out of water near the end).

Location: Syria, Virginia. Shenandoah National Park. Map.

Parking: Plenty of parking spots. At certain times of the year, a Shenandoah National Park pass must be purchased for $20. It may seem like a steep price for parking, but it is worth it. It gives you access parking anywhere in the Shenandoah for seven days and it goes towards maintaining the parks and trails.

Views: The views from Old Rag are beyond compare and there are lots of open spots to enjoy them!

Dogs: I would not recommend this trail for dogs. There is a lengthy rock scramble that would not be an easy feat for four-legged friends.

Difficulty: This trail is rated difficult — for both length and terrain. It is said to be one of the most difficult in Virginia and would I agree with that.

Trail markers: The trail is well-worn, well-marked, and well-maintained.

Fun Fact: Actress (and UVA grad) Tina Fey has hiked Old Rag 🙂 .

Our Recap?

The trail begins after a 0.4 mile walk from the parking lot (it is straight up a giant hill so don’t discount it). The hike to the summit is steep and there is a good 1.5 miles of rock scramble near the top. You can expect your entire body to get a workout on this hike!

There are two false summits on this trail. You will think you have reached the top well before you have — twice. Luckily I knew better than to rush past them. In my opinion, they offer better views than the actual summit (they’re also a good place for a picnic).

Darcy kept ice in a thermos and it actually made it to the top despite the VA heat.

We had  bourbon on the rocks on the rocks! Cheers to 21!


After our summit hydration ;), Darcy pulled out her sketchpad and charcoal pencils so that we could sketch our view. This was something I had never done before, but I loved it! It really made me see. I will have to make it a new hike tradition.

On the hike down, we stopped to dip our toes  immerse ourselves in the creek. 10/10 would recommend. This little butterfly also really liked my backpack…

We were only momentarily concerned about the discomfort of finishing the hike soaking wet because a surprise summer shower began as soon as we got walking again.

It’s not so bad getting soaked if you’re already soaked.

To be completely honest, the rainstorm was my favorite part. It was one of those magical summer rains with big fat drops that make everything smell like the earth and steam rise from the ground. It was a perfect ending!

We were pleasantly exhausted and content when we got back to the car.

We were not so pleasantly starving and stopped at my favorite Charlottesville restaurant  for dinner on the way home! It was a wonderful day and I am so glad I got to spend it with my sister.

Next time the rest of my siblings will come too — there are seven plus four siblings-in-law. Stay tuned for that one :).

  1. Have you ever hiked Old Rag?
  2. Do you like playing in the rain? YES
  3. Which birthday was the best you have ever had? Tell me about it! This was definitely my best!

One more note: This trail is certainly not easy and it deserves to be ranked as difficult. That said, do not let online reviews scare you away from giving this trail a try. You can definitely complete this trail if you have  good health, are in decent shape, pack adequate supplies, and are willing to challenge yourself. This trail is well-worn and heavily populated — you won’t get lost or be alone. The difficulty of this trail comes down to physical exertion.




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