A helpful set of guidelines to ensure you ride responsibly and minimize your impact on the local trails and natural environment.
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The proper name for Dragon’s Back is North Mountain, but it’s common to hear the names used interchangeably among local mountain bikers & riding enthusiasts.
It's known as "Dragon's Back" among locals for the mountain's unique ridgeline and shape.
The North Mountain Trail System is located in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
This is one of the best areas for challenging mountain biking in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, earning high praise from professional mountain biker Brice Shirbach.
In his Pinkbike article “Local Flavors: The Complete Guide to Riding in Virginia’s Blue Ridge,” Shirbach described North Mountain as “home to some of the southeast’s most revered backcountry.”
As part of an Instagram takeover in the visitvbr page, he wrote about the opportunity to ride on Dragon's Back, saying:
"This stunning swath of land is thankfully open to bikes, and features some of the most technical and brilliant descents and climbs in all of Virginia."
The start of the long ridgeline ride on North Mountain Trail is on Route 311 near the parking lot for the popular Dragon’s Tooth hiking trail. The trail system can also be accessed from Wildlife Road, located on the right a little farther north on Route 311. Wildlife Road is not open to thru traffic and the gate is closed for periods during the winter.
You can access the road as far as Grouse Trail and this makes for the best shuttle option from the 311 parking lot.
There are three trails that drop off the main North Mountain Trail from the top of the ridge: Deer, Grouse, and Turkey. These can be combined to make a figure eight or ride the whole ridge both ways and use Turkey & Grouse or Grouse & Deer trails to make a “lollipop” loop.
The following is a video from professional mountain biker Jeff Lenosky exploring North Mountain.
Because the trail system is located in the national forest, primitive dispersed camping is allowed, but there are no services available. National Forest dispersed camping guidelines >
Don’t forget to wear bright colors as hunting is permitted in-season on national forest land.
Before You Ride: Familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics for Mountain Biking - a set of guidelines to help you enjoy the trails responsibly and minimize your impact on the natural environment.
Dragon’s Tooth Trailhead - 6128 Catawba Valley Drive, Catawba, VA 24070
NOTE - This is also the parking area for the Dragon’s Tooth hiking trail, one of the most popular hikes in the region. Overcrowding and lack of available space is a regular issue in this parking lot, particularly on weekends, so plan accordingly by carpooling and visiting during off times whenever possible.
Following your ride, the City of Salem, Virginia's Championship City, offers a great selection of places to stay, restaurants & craft breweries, shopping, special events, and things to do. You could also catch a Salem Red Sox baseball game and learn about local history with a visit to the Salem Museum.
Check out this in-depth feature on mountain biking in Virginia's Blue Ridge by Pinkbike.