HomeOutdoorsShenandoah National Park: Why Old Rag Mountain Hikers Will Now Need a Permit

Shenandoah National Park: Why Old Rag Mountain Hikers Will Now Need a Permit

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Heads up, hikers! If you’re hoping to scale the beautiful Old Rag Mountain in Virginia, you can no longer simply lace up your boots and hit the trail. Beginning March 1, 2022, Shenandoah National Park will enforce a hiking permit requirement for the beloved trail. Don’t worry – this permit will serve as a minor inconvenience, not a full-blown deterrent; it’s only $1 to obtain.

Now, is adding an extra step to the hiking experience ideal? No. However, for avid hikers, the permit should be a welcome addition rather than an annoyance. Here’s why.

A true outdoorsman knows that hiking requires a certain level of responsibility. Specifically, following the 7 leave no trace principles: plan ahead, travel on durable surfaces, dispose of waste, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of fellow hikers.

Unfortunately, the more crowded a trail or outdoor space becomes, the less likely it is that these principles will be followed. And since the start of the pandemic, outdoor spaces such as Old Rag Mountain have become increasingly more popular. So popular, in fact, that it’s not uncommon for hikers to spend several hours on the trail waiting their turn to traverse the tougher sections.

This is not only damaging to the experience of each individual hiker but also extremely dangerous to the terrain, resources, and wildlife of Old Rag Mountain. With the decrease in visitors and the increase in donations from the $1 permits, the National Park Service will be able to give Old Rag the protection it needs to remain a vibrant environment, teeming with truly remarkable plants and wildlife.

Hikers Share Their Thoughts on the Shenandoah National Park Permit

Millions of outdoor enthusiasts flock to Shenandoah National Park every year to spend time in one of the most breathtaking places in the country. It’s no surprise, then, that there was no shortage of hikers willing to give their thoughts on the upcoming permit.

Some hikers were staunchly against the idea, one saying, “I don’t like it. I come here on the weekdays, so why do I need a permit? That doesn’t make sense. Weekends, I understand, because there’s not much parking. Or If you’re going to Mount Whitney, where they need to know who’s on the mountain in case of a rescue. But here?”

Others can clearly see the benefits of enforcing a permit for the trail. Greg Griswold, a Fairfax County native said, “The last time I was here — which was a January day about three years ago — it was a nice day, and everybody had the same idea, and it was insane. It took me two hours to get the last half-mile to the summit. It was just awful, just too many people, hence the need to put in the trail passes. It’s been a pretty popular spot since the pandemic. I get the need to do something.”

Love the idea or hate it, you can’t deny that it’s what’s best for the mountain itself. And though we’d all love the option to grab a granola bar and hit the road, it’s important to remember that the natural spaces we enjoy should always come first.