Shenandoah National Park will reinstate the Old Rag ticketing pilot program in March for a second year.
The park began the program last year to test a system intended to address crowding and congestion on one of Shenandoah’s most popular destinations by controlling the number of hikers on the mountain and combating bottlenecks that can create long waits along narrow corridors of the nearly 10-mile loop trail.
The goals are to improve the visitor experience and safety, as well as to protect fragile natural resources at Old Rag.
During the pilot, hikers who used trails in the Old Rag area (Saddle, Ridge, and Ridge Access) were required to purchase day-use tickets that were capped at 800 each day. Park staff collected data to be used to determine if the system was contributing toward relieving congestion.
The park planned to share the data and evaluate the pilot in early January, but two winter storms in December caused widespread damage, closing Skyline Drive and delaying release of the data, according to a news release from the park.
“Reopening Skyline Drive was our top priority in January, which did not allow us the time needed for evaluating the pilot program” Superintendent Pat Kenney, a Castleton resident, said in a statement. “We have decided to reinstate the pilot for 2023 to gather more information and to be able to devote time for careful consideration of a longer-term solution to address our concerns at Old Rag.”
Within the next few months park staff will share the data and provide an opportunity for additional public input, the news release said.
A total of 800 tickets will be available for each day for $1 beginning March 1 to November 30; 400 will be available 30 days prior to the date of arrival, and the remaining 400 will be released five days in advance.
Hikers must purchase their tickets online before arriving. Tickets are valid for the day of arrival only. A day-use ticket does not guarantee a parking spot, and entrance fees still apply in addition to the day-use ticket fee.
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