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Dragon's Tooth - Catawba, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
5.7 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

3.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,505 ft
Jefferson National Forest
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Park off VA311 at the Dragon's Tooth parking area. 37.37898, -80.15561

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 yellow 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 yellow 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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Hiker Reviews For The Dragon's Tooth Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Dragon's Tooth hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Medic G Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, August 02, 2016
Good hike.† The "work" on this hike is the 0.7 miles on the AT.† As stated in the description, many rock scrambles which makes the 0.7 mile feel longer than what it actually is and takes additional time.† No one at the tooth when we arrived and we were able to explore it all to ourselves.† I did climb up the tooth some and almost all the way to the top.† On the return, we continued past the Dragon's Tooth trail and continue south on the AT and picked up the Boy Scout connector trail.† There were still a couple of small rock scrambles on the AT heading towards the Boy Scout connector trail.† Didn't see anyone on the return trip on the AT south of the Dragon's Tooth trail heading towards the Boy Scout trail.† The trails on this hike were well marked.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 16, 2016
Having trouble downloading the map-- is the file corrupted? Looking forward to hiking this one next weekend!

By: TJF Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 14, 2016
Beautiful hike and the rock scramble is a lot of fun! Climbed up on the Dragon's tooth and got rained on on the way down, but the tree coverage is nice. It takes a bit of work but is a lot of fun!

By: Shawn R. Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 29, 2016
This is a fantastic hike, with several great views, with the culminating view at the top of the Dragon's Tooth. It is definitely not an easy climb (which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much), so if you feel that you are not in the best shape physically, I wouldn't recommend this hike. I went on a Friday with beautiful weather and wrongly assumed that not many people would be there since it wasn't a Saturday and it had been rainy the previous days. Unfortunately, when we got there the parking lot was nearly full. The only reason that I gave this hike four stars instead of five was the lack of solitude. Going back on the AT North we only ran into one other person, which was very nice! I highly recommend making this a loop due to the increase in solitude as well as a couple more great views on this stretch of trail. We finished the hike in 3 hours with a lengthy break at the top where we were able to climb up to the top of the Tooth.

Check out my video here:

By: Sula Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, April 25, 2016
An excellent hike, with a decent amount of interesting rock-scrambling at the top.

This hike has a good local reputation and is near to Salem and Roanoke.† The result is significant numbers of hikers on fair-weather weekend days (and typically Fridays as well).† The parking lot can fill up (some overflow parking is possible along Route 311).† You'd do well to get on the trail really early, or choose a weekday (or both).

The entire route is well signed and blazed - it would take some unusual talent to get lost or seriously off trail. I nearly always carry an adjustable-length hiking stick, and it served me well on this trail.

The rocky section starts about 10 minutes above where the 1.7 mile trail from the parking lot intersects the AT.† A heavy pack would definitely make some sections much more challenging (through hikers have my admiration). Don't expect to make the same speed here - either up or down - as you would on the "hiking" parts of this trail. In two places large metal "ladder rungs" are anchored in rock (but bypassing these would not be difficult).

The climb to the tip of the tooth is a fairly easy scramble with feet and hands on good rock, but definitely exposed - those with any fear of heights probably will (and should) decline.

The return to the parking lot via the slightly longer AT & Boy Scout trail is recommended.† Judging by the state of the two trails, this one see much less traffic it's quieter and definitely more scenic (several viewpoints).

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Mid September
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