"Upper Lot" At Ridge Trailhead on Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park To Be Permanently Closed

The "upper lot" for the Ridge Trail to Old Rag will be permanently closed in mid-April. View of Old Rag from Skyline Drive. NPS photo by Alan Williams.

With the spring hiking season not far off, this news from Shenandoah National Park might not thrill everyone. They're permanently closing the "upper lot" parking area at the Ridge Trailhead for Old Rag Mountain.

Shenandoah Superintendent Martha Bogle says the 12-space parking area is being closed because of damage caused by folks parking along the road and on private land that borders the park. Additionally, the congested parking that has arisen at this trailhead in the past has made it difficult for emergency service vehicles to respond to those in need of help on Old Rag, she said.

Temporary signing in the upper and lower lots and at Rt. #600 to advise visitors of the impending upper lot closure has been posted. Park staff will accomplish the closure with the installation of a temporary gate and other barriers by mid-April 2010. The closure is a result of an Environmental Assessment (EA) entitled Old Rag Parking Lot, which included extensive public involvement over a two-year period. The Finding of No
Significant Impact for that project was approved in June 2009.

The Old Rag Mountain area trails are some of the most popular day and overnight use trail areas in park. Visitation on weekends each day can frequently exceed 500 people completing the 8.8 mile Old Rag circuit hike, park officials say. Public vehicle parking has been provided at the 12-space NPS upper parking lot and the leased 250-space lower lot.

Park officials expect that the closure of the NPS upper lot will substantially reduce the conflict and congestion of shared visitor vehicle traffic and pedestrian use on Rt. #600, will minimize road shoulder parking trespass on adjacent private land, and should potentially reduce crowding and resource impacts at the Ridge and Nicholson Hollow trailheads.

Upon closure of the upper lot to public vehicle access, the site will continue to serve as work-trip parking access for PATC and Old Rag Mountain Steward volunteers and for emergency vehicle and other official park administrative access. For the near future, at least one portable toilet will be maintained on site and most trash receptacles will be kept available.

A new parking lot in the area of Nethers Rt. #600 for Old Rag trail access is planned for future construction.

Comments

I'm planning a trip up Old Rag this summer, so this is a good heads up for me. Thanks for sharing it.

No way! One of the best parts of hiking Old Rag is getting there early enough to snag a spot in the upper lot and cutting the road mile out of your hike!

Ranger KT makes a point that was popular with hikers dating at least to the mid-60s. Back then, it was neat to get close to the "trail," but parking was usually a mess. Interesting that park management is finally moving on such an old and obvious issue. What a joy it was to hike Old Rag in any season. I recall as late as the mid-70s being able to see the top quarter of the Washington Monument from the summit. Only yesterday.

Old Rag closing upper level parking. Another sign that the USA does NOT want Americans freely enjoying the Beautiful Scenery around them. Surely, they can fix the parking issue so our Elders and Young can get closer to the top! I LOVE OLD RAG!

In response to the anonymous response from 3/17: ... If our elders and young can't manage the shallow grade/paved hike from the lower parking lot to the trailhead, they should never, ever be attempting to hike Old Rag itself. Americans (well, in fact, anyone) can continue to enjoy OR for what it is -- a beautiful and exciting adventure, albeit from a more manageable parking lot. All too often, guests to the park leave their cars on private property, or block access to the trailhead with their personal vehicles, making it difficult for park and emergency vehicles to make it to the Weakley Hollow Fire Road or to take care of the trash receptacles and port-a-johns.

This comment was edited, without changing the message, to remove a gratuitous comment. Ed.

As I'm planning to hike Old Rag tomorrow, good to find that they haven't closed the upper lot yet. I never hike Old Rag unless I can go on a weekday because I don't want to share it with 500 other people, so I've rarely had any difficulty in getting a spot in the upper lot. I don't get to hike nearly often enough, so while I can understand there may be a need to close the lot, I don't consider it good news--by the time I stagger back to my car at the end of the hike, I'm always thanking my lucky stars that I don't have to hike the extra distance back to the 'overflow' lot!

The closure of the upper lot has nothing to do with the USA not wanting americans to freely enjoy the scenery. To the contrary, there will be far more beautiful scenery to see. It is actually the result of the neighboring landowners (they do have rights you know) having problems with trespassing and people trashing their properties. It is also because roadside parking often prohibited emergency service vehicles from getting into the upper lot to access trails. Seems that not everyone who parked along the roadway, used their best judgement when trying to park in limited spaces. I guess if it was you lying up their in the rock scramble waiting to be rescued, you might feel differently about the parking issues.

I live on Nethers Road. Unfair for us locals who just want to squeeze in a nightly or weekday walk and would like the convenience to park in the upper lot!!!

I see both sides of the story. However, in my opinion, it does take some of the reward for being extra adventurous and getting there before dawn away. Very few people will venture out before dawn to get a spot that's almost a mile closer to the trailhead. Those that do (bear in mind that I'm not one of them, merely playing devil's advocate) should be able to park in one of the spaces up top.

I don't see this as an issue that a local towing company and some added signage couldn't handle. I, like many others are slowly losing faith in the nature of people, but even so, nobody wants to have their car towed, and if it's made blatently obvious that a clear path for emergency vehicles is needed, the vast majority of people will abide; those that don't, see the aforementioned towing company. I'm quite sure they would endorse such a policy if it were instituted.

As far as the comment posted that young people and old people shouldn't do the hike if they can't do the extra 1.6 miles to and from the car, that's just nonsense. It's a strenuous hike and that extra mileage can make a difference. Taking 1.6 miles off the distance will, to some, make the difference of doing it or not. Who are you to make that choice?
At the very least, people should be able to drop gear and parties off at the trailhead, drive back down to the large lot, and then hike back up. That seems like a decent compromise to me. I've not yet dealt with this issue because I'm a climber and take the Berry Hollow approach; it's less distance, elevation and scrambling. My payoff is the crags on and near the summit, not the journey there, although it is fantastic. This may also be a welcome option for those with elderly people or very young people in their party that are interested more in the summit than the scrambling to get there. The Saddle Trail, at least up to the summit, is far more forgiving than the Ridge Trail. I've never seen Berry Hollow parking anywhere close to being full. Whatever your approach, enjoy it, and leave it like you found it. Thanks.

I'm really envious of your location!! It's a bummer that you and others close to you that have no doubt had to deal with the trash and impact of non-locals can't enjoy the more convenient access to the trail.