The Dragon’s Tooth is an aptly named rock monolith of Tuscarora quartzite straddling Craig and Roanoke Counties just west of Catawba, VA. It stands out on it’s own at the top of Cove Mountain. It's as popular a hike as its’ nearby neighbor, McAfee Knob , with one difference, sweat! McAfee Knob is a walk in the park compared to this tough short hike.
Parking is directly off VA311. From the Dragon’s Tooth parking area head towards the information kiosk located at the rear of the parking area (Note: non-flush toilets are available). The blue blazed Dragon’s Tooth Trail begins at the kiosk. Go about 0.25 miles, crossing two small bridges before arriving at the intersection of the blue blazed Boy Scout Connector Trail. There are a couple of camping spots at this intersection, and if the creek is running, they are the only camping spots on the whole trail with a water source. You will use the Boy Scout Connector Trail on the return trip. Bear to the right on the blue blazed Dragon’s Tooth Trail.
For the next 1.4 miles you will cross the creek/creek bed about 7-8 times on a steady but easy climb to the intersection of the white blazed Appalachian Trail (A.T.) There are some great camping spots (no water source) at this intersection. Turn right onto the A.T., heading south towards the Dragon’s Tooth.
Now the fun begins!! The next 0.7 miles is one of the toughest parts of the A.T. that we have hiked. The trail becomes very rocky, climbing multiple series of rock steps, the trail seemingly clinging to the edge of the mountain at times, near the top at two different places you will use a series of u-shaped iron bar steps embedded in the rock due to the steepness of the trail, and a few overlooks to give you a breather prior to reaching the intersection of the blue blazed Dragon’s Tooth Spur Trail, bear left. Imagine doing this part of the trail as an A.T. thru-hiker with 25-35+ lbs on your back!
It is less than 0.3 miles to Dragon’s Tooth on an easy path. Keep your eyes open on the left for a paths leading to overlooks prior to reaching Dragon’s Tooth. Be sure to circle behind the Tooth, as there is a crevice that makes it possible to climb onto the Tooth. It is not the easiest climb, and if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t do it, be safe! There are plenty of good views without climbing the Tooth.
For your return trip; take the blue blazed Dragon’s Tooth Spur Trail back to the intersection of the A.T. taking a right and heading north. Stay on the A.T. reaching the intersection of the Dragon’s Tooth Trail in 0.7 miles. Instead of returning on the blue blazed Dragon’s Tooth Trail stay straight on the more scenic A.T. going north. There will be an overlook in less than 0.25 miles with a campsite (no water) about 0.5 miles beyond that. Take a left in 0.3 miles onto the blue blazed Boy Scout Connector Trail, and in another 0.3 miles arrive at the blue blazed Dragon’s Tooth Trail passing the campsites mentioned near the beginning of the hike. Take a right on the Dragon’s Tooth Trail arriving at the Dragon’s Tooth Parking Lot in 0.25 miles.
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Reviews For The Dragon's Tooth Hike (5 Most Recent)
Very nice hike. The Boy Scout connector off the AT is not blazed in blue but in yellow.
Date of Hike: Saturday, November 09, 2013
We entered the coordinates of the parking lot in our GPS and ended up in WV. After finally getting there we started the hike and almost immediately ran into two large groups of people. The hike up to the top was crowded with huge groups of college kids and nothing special. We brought our dog, which I would not recommend, and we had to basically carry our german shepherd the last .7 miles to the top and back down. The view up there was not worth the trouble. The only reason I would recommend this hike is if you want to be able to say you hiked .7 of the hardest miles on the app trail.
Date of Hike: Saturday, June 29, 2013
This is definitely a more difficult hike than McAfee's Knob, but the end result is worth it. If you have no fear of climbing gyms, then this is no problem. If you prefer to hike without using your hands, then this isn't for you.
Getting to the trail is fairly easy as most major search engine maps know where the trailhead is. Just look for the small sign and gravel road entrance on the left on 311 going out from Roanoke a few miles past the McAfee Knob parking area.
The trails are well marked and beaten down, so I wearing shorts was not a problem when it came to weeds and ticks. I did wear my mid-top hiking shoes instead of my low tops because I figured the extra rocks would be good for twisting ankles, and I'm glad I wore the higher top shoes.
The last section of hike on the A.T. is quite difficult, as described, but that's the fun of it! Seeing the tooth for the first time is quite a spectacle and from the back side, it doesn't seem possible to get to the top, but moving around to the front right shows the path up to the top of the tooth. There is a nice landing area past the crevice and rock that you can scoot up using your back and feet. This is where most of my friends stopped to take pictures. But if you are daring, you can climb up the tooth to a higher spot safely, and it is even possible to touch the top of the tooth if you are careful. I stayed low and kept both my feet and hands secured on the non-slanted areas that provided grip.
The A.T. trail coming back is more scenic, but seemed to be a little rockier, so it makes me wonder if it would be easier going up this way, rather than the blue trail.
Date of Hike: Monday, June 24, 2013
My husband and I wanted to do a challenging hike and this fit the bill.† I wasn't mentally prepared for scaling the rock ledges but I quickly got over it and did just fine.† We passed†four couples and one loan hiker that entire trip.† The negatives were the biting flies but we were in the woods so insects are to be expected.† Next time I'll bring bug spray.† I loved the challenge of the different terrain but my quads were jello by the end of the hike.† I'm a distance runner so my legs are strong but the downhill and the climbing used my muscles in a different way.† We finished the trail just shy of 3 1/2 hours (including our time at the tooth).† I would recommend this hike for fit people but honestly I could not imagine bringing a dog (unless it will fit in your backpack) or children.† We took the AT connector back and it was just as challenging.† If you are tired you should probably skip this extra slice of the AT and just do an out and back on the same trail.† We didn't see much wildlife (other than insects) but it was really hot.
We will definitely do this hike again with more water, bug spray and an earlier start.
Buck and Nikki
Date of Hike: Saturday, January 12, 2013
This was my first hike in the Blue Ridge since I was a child. The weather was perfect 61 degrees and clear with a slight breeze from the south. We should have worn shorts or at least our zip offs. There were about twenty cars at the trail head parking lot when we started at 1300 hours. Even with this much traffic the trail was not crowded we spent a lot of time alone to enjoy the quiet as we summited.
We are both flat landers and while in good shape the altitude caused us both to pant. Periodic breaks for water and to talk to those on the trail made the walk enjoyable. We were both surprised by the number of dogs on the trail with their owners. Not in a bad way as we are both love them it was just unexpected.
The rock scrambles were awesome I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this. We spent about an hour at the Tooth and could not get a turn to ascend it so we packed up and made our descent. Arriving at the parking lot we found it packed weaving our way out we both commented on how much fun it was and set our sights on MacFee Knob for the next day.
This was a great reintroduction and primer for our future forays to the AT and its side trails. Thanks to all those that help maintain this incredible resource.