Enjoy stunning, jaw-dropping views along the rocky trail. This fun hike has much to offer once you hit the 0.7 mile marker there is a rock crawl along the way. If you choose to make this an overnight trip, there are scenic campsites (with water access). Bare in mind, this campsite is along the trail so privacy will be limited due to the popularity of the hike. One of Appalachian trail’s most iconic side adventures is Dragon’s Tooth.
I grabbed this awesome shot while camping underneath the tooth. The campsite, underneath the stars, was so relaxing. We built a campfire and laughed at the stories being exchanged, over some late night snacks.
Ready to tackle the Dragon?
This 4.6 mile, out and back trail provides hikers with a true hiking experience in Virginia. The hike will take approximately 3 hours, including a half-hour spent exploring up top. The trail is roughly 30 minutues from downtown Roanoke.
As you pull into the trail head parking lot, watch your speed, it’s a short, but bumpy pull into the lot. There are many pot holes and the lot fills up quickly in the morning. You may need to park along the road and walk to the trail head. Don’t worry, this will not be a long walk at all if the lot is full.
There is an outhouse type bathroom facility at the trailhead (hand sanitizer is provided). Now that you are all set to go, you will find an information kiosk at the trailhead that provides a map and important information about the trail and what kind of things you may encounter on your journey.
I always make sure to read up on what may be posted on the Kiosk. I have come across alerts before about wildlife, trail damage, and what new regulations may now be in place.
As you follow the blue blazed trail, from the kiosk, you will venture your way, shaded by the trees, into some amazing places to set up camp for the night. Keep in mind you are just .30 from the kiosk! In addition, there is a creek next to the campsite if you have a water filtration system.
You will see a sign pointing to the “boy scouts trail” to the left or the Dragon’s Tooth trail, which bears right. From this point, the trail will cross a creek several times. The first few crossings are in the form of wooden bridges and the next several crossings are by steps on rocks within the creek.
Watch your footing! Some of the rocks are unstable and wet. After crossing the creek for the final time, the trail begins a slight ascent for the next mile. Luckily, this part of the trail is shaded by trees but will get you winded.
Once you reach the “Appalachian Trail” sign there are more areas to camp (without a water source). The next 0.7 mile stretch is strenuous, in the sun mostly, to the top, or I should say tooth! From this point on, I would recommend not bringing along any older dogs that may have difficulty climbing rocks or going up very steep embankments.
The rock crawl does require some endurance and pulling yourself up and over rocks. No rock climbing experience is necessary in order to complete this fun, challenging hike. The rocks are marked by a white marker so you know which way to travel up the rocks.
Take your time and enjoy the awe-inspiring views that flourish among the trail. Once you are nearing the top of the trail, some of the more challenging rocks have metal footholds built into the rocks to assist you up. Some may find this part of the trail a bit unnerving just take it slow and enjoy your climb. Once you make it to the top of the ridge, bear to the left and follow the trail for another .2 to the tooth.
At the top, the trail features some of the most breathtaking views, of the mountains, surrounding Roanoke. For an even more spectacular view, make sure you follow the rocks around to the front of the tooth. Climb under or over the rock in between the two boulders to see an amazing view of the valley below. Once you make it to the top of the tooth, be sure to pull out your camera and snap some pictures.
Be cautious while up on the rocks! This area is very narrow and the drop off is severe.
Simply follow the same trail you hiked up, in order to return to the parking lot. Congrats, you have now tackled Appalachian Trail’s Dragon’s Tooth.
Where to eat
The top of the tooth makes for a perfect place to enjoy a packed meal or if you’d rather eat after, I would suggest stopping by the Home Place Restaurant located at 4968 Catawba Valley Dr., Catawba. This place is a local favorite known to serve some of the best southern cooking in Virginia. Keep in mind the Home Place is only from 4-8p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 11a.m.-6p.m. Sunday.
- Daypack (unless camping)
- First Aid kit
- Light jacket (It can be windy at the top)
Need help figuring out what gear you need? Checkout our compiled list of Travel Gear.
From I-81: Exit 140 and take Highway 311 north for 11 miles towards New Castle. Dragon’s Tooth parking lot is on the left, just past Catawba Grocery.
LAT 37.3787 LONG -80.1563