Rock scrambling is a method of ascending rocky faces and ridges. It’s not rock climbing, but it’s not walking either. Rock scrambles are typically associated with trails that offer ‘non-technical’ summits as a destination.
One distinction between scrambling and rock climbing is that scramblers usually use their hands for balance whereas climbers use them to hold and pull body weight.
A competent scrambler should have basic mountaineering, climbing, and hiking skills. Do not attempt rock scrambles unless you are fully prepared. Rock scrambles can be steep and often require climbing over cracks. No scramble should be attempted alone.
Bearfence Rock Scramble
Located near the Lewis Mountain area is the Bearfence Rock Scramble, a 1.2 mile circuit hike to a spectacular 360° view. The hike is short, but challenging. Do not attempt when rocks are wet. Pets are not allowed on this trail.
Little Devils Stairs
Plan to do this hike in the early spring when water levels are at their peak, to best enjoy the numerous waterfalls along the gorge. The Little Devils Stairs Trail can be hard to find in places, so keep an eye out for blue blazes on the trees. As you climb/descend the gorge there are several short rock scrambles. The round trip hike is a strenuous 4.8 miles straight down the gorge and back. From Skyline Drive, it’s a 7.7 mile circuit hike from the parking lot at milepost 19.4.
Old Rag is Shenandoah’s most popular and most dangerous hike. The number of blogs and websites about this hike attests to its popularity. The number of search and rescue missions each year attests to its danger. There’s no doubt that the scramble is great fun and the views are spectacular. A day on Old Rag is one of Shenandoah’s premier experiences. We want to be sure that your experience is not marred by an accident or health issue that could be prevented with good planning.
This is a very challenging 8.8-mile hike and rock scramble. From the Old Rag parking area, the Ridge Trail takes you across a strenuous rock scramble to the summit. To complete the circuit hike, return by way of the Saddle trail, past Old Rag Shelter, to Weakley Hollow Fire Road, and back to the Old Rag parking area. Old Rag offers a series of above-treeline views offering panoramas of the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont Valley. The trailhead is located close to Sperryville, Va. Do not attempt when rocks are wet. Pets are not allowed.