It is 5:30 in the morning and I am awake, but (for once) it has nothing to do with the kids or work. I am going to visit an old friend. Well, friend may be a bit strong. Actually, it's an old nemesis that I haven't seen since before my kids were born — Old Rag Mountain.  It's 8.8 miles of steep, rock-scrambly mess that leads you to one of the most spectacular views in Virginia. It had been 15 years since I had even attempted this intimidating hike. To be honest, I couldn't even find my hiking boots for awhile when I first decided to try this hike and when I did, they were filled with old plastic toys, some yarn, and a dried-up marker. In other words, even though I take my kids "hiking" on a regular basis, it had been a while since I had done any serious "grown-up" hiking.  

So, can an old mom of two pull off Old Rag Mountain? Indeed! And what I found was that hiking Old Rag was not nearly as rough as I remembered from my younger years. I mean please, after child birth, this hike was nothing more than a walk in the woods.  

If you want to try this hike, check out the official National Park Service page for a trail map and details on getting there. Here are my own personal tips for getting the most out of a hike on Virginia's Olg Rag Mountain.

Come early: Old Rag Mountain is a lovely two-hour drive from northern Virginia and D.C.  And because of this, it gets busy fast. I got to the parking lot at 6:30 in the morning and as a result I didn't see a soul for the majority of my hike. Pry yourself out of bed on hike day and get here early. It is worth it to have the mountain to yourself.

Come prepared: Old Rag can be a really fun hike, but not if you run out of water or don't have on the right shoes. It is steep, rocky, and long, so be sure you have plenty of water and good sturdy hiking boots for scrambling over and shimming down the rocky terrain.

Don't be intimidated: With that said, don't let this hike scare you off either. You don't need any fancy equipment or clothing. Just ask my dusty old hiking boots. All you need is a little chutzpah and lots and lots of water.

Leave the kiddos at home: Old Rag Mountain is not a hike for kids. I don't care if your kids are tough or if they hike a lot. I just can't in good conscience recommend this hike for little ones. When my first daughter was a baby, I used to carry her in a baby backpack and take her hiking, but that just won't cut it on Old Rag where there are plenty of spots like this one that would make carrying your child downright dangerous.  
Mom vs. the Mountain
MNN's family blogger goes toe to trail with Virginia's Old Rag Mountain.