Mt. Robertson in Shenandoah National Park


The Old Rag area in western Virginia is a beautiful and popular hiking destination within 2 hours of the D.C. area. The drive to Shenandoah National Park is through beautiful country past Warrenton, Sperryville and a few other small towns.

During the summer and early fall there are lots of hikers in this part of Shenandoah. At the foot of the hiking trail, there is a parking lot for up to 200 cars.  As we arrived late on Saturday afternoon, there were still some spots left however, when we hiked out on Sunday afternoon, there was a line of cars each waiting for a spot.

Beautiful views from the top of Mt. Robertson

Beside the parking lot, there is a little white house that serves as the registration station. Depending on when you go, there may be an attendant. The station has self-registration forms to document how long you are staying and how many people in your party. This information determines the price of admission and can be paid by cash, check or credit card. There is an envelope for the cash or check and space to fill out credit card information. This is an honor system, however and without an attendant, there is no change available.  Although you may be able to make it if an attendant happens to be present. Rates are not bad: $8 for an individual and no more than $15 per vehicle.

The most popular hike in this part of Shenandoah is Old Rag. As described by the park’s maps Old Rag hike is a difficult 9-mile hike including steep slopes and a rock scramble at the top. This sounded good to a set of reasonably fit people, but we also saw many that weren’t in the best of shape but had apparently made it up Old Rag.

Old Rag is not the only hike accessible from this area, though. There are 3 single-day hikes near by: Old Rag, Mt. Robinson and Corbin Run Hollow, which runs along a stream. The longer hikes from the same 200-car lot include Corbin Mountain Trail, Indian Run Trail, Nicholson Hollow Trail, Hannah Run Trail and Hot-Shot Mountain Trail. These last set of trails, however are much longer than the Old Rag and Robertson Mountain ones-so most likely not single-day hikes.

Beside the parking lot, there is a little white house that serves as the registration station. Depending on when you go, there may be an attendant. The station has self-registration forms to document how long you are staying and how many people in your party. This information determines the price of admission and can be paid by cash, check or credit card. There is an envelope for the cash or check and space to fill out credit card information. This is an honor system, however and without an attendant, there is no change available.  Although you may be able to make it if an attendant happens to be present. Rates are not bad: $8 for an individual and no more than $15 per vehicle.

The most popular hike in this part of Shenandoah is Old Rag. As described by the park’s maps Old Rag hike is a difficult 9-mile hike including steep slopes and a rock scramble at the top. This sounded good to a set of reasonably fit people, but we also saw many that weren’t in the best of shape but had apparently made it up Old Rag.


Old Rag is not the only hike accessible from this area, though. There are 3 single-day hikes near by: Old Rag, Mt. Robinson and Corbin Run Hollow, which runs along a stream. The longer hikes from the same 200-car lot include Corbin Mountain Trail, Indian Run Trail, Nicholson Hollow Trail, Hannah Run Trail and Hot-Shot Mountain Trail. These last set of trails, however are much longer than the Old Rag and Robertson Mountain ones-so most likely not single-day hikes.

Although we originally drove out to backpack overnight and hike Old Rag the next morning, we decided to hike partway up Robertson Mt. to look for somewhere to sleep Saturday night. All hikes begin by climbing the fire toad, and once up it, there is an obviously marked entrance to the Old Rag hike equipped with a large map, port-a-potties and water fountains. We hiked past this to continue to Mt. Robertson, but I suggest that if you are hiking Old Rag, begin at that sign for Old Rag. While hiking toward Mt. Robinson, soon realized that we were hiking against the flow of traffic and quickly found out why: this way up the mountain is incredibly steep. The fire road itself had a good incline to it until we veered off into the Mt. Robertson trail whereas we encountered a steeper incline.

Vibram Five-Fingers

It’s pretty easy to determine the trails in this area. All trailheads are well-marked by stand-alone concrete markers that simply state ‘no fires.’

Despite the steepness, we hiked up Mt. Robertson anyway but found it difficult to make camp. There was not much flat land along the trail. This shouldn’t have been a big issue, though as we have a hammock and generally use less flat space in it-meaning there was really no flat land off the side of this trail.

The hike up Mt. Robertson from east to west, i.e. against the flow of traffic, is mostly steep and windy. However, once we reached the summit-of 5 feet taller than Old Rag at 3,296 feet, by the way-there is a beautiful, flat camp site. If we had wanted to make it to the summit before nightfall, we needed to get to the park with plenty of time to hike there before dark. There are regulations that prohibit camping more than 2,800 up Old Rag, however this is only applies to Old Rag so the camp site on top of Mt. Robertson is fair game.

As our legs were quite sore from discovering how steep Mt. Robertson was, we decided not hike Old Rag the next day, but instead go back along the Corbin Hollow trail. This was a nice, gradual descent down Mt. Robinson, so I suggest hiking Mt. Robertson from west to east. The Corbin Hollow trail along Brokenback Run stream also had good camp sites. There were many flat spaces available all along the trail, so camping would be pretty feasible at any point along that trail, although the trailhead marker still prohibited fires.

Although the hike up Mt. Robinson was more of a workout than either of our legs or feet-both clad in vibram five-fingers-were entirely prepared for, overall the trip was beautiful, enjoyable and could be a single-day or multiple-day excursion.

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