Dragon's Back & North Mountain | Roanoke County

Mountain Biking on North Mountain (aka "Dragon's Back") in Virginia's Blue Ridge

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.

North Mountain - Virginia

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.”

North Mountain, home to some of the Southeast's most revered backcountry quote by Brice Shirbach

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.

Mountain Biking on North Mountain - Suggested Routes

North Mountain Roanoke - Biking

North Mountain - Mountain Biking Resources

North Mountain Trail System - Roanoke, VA

North Mountain - Parking Area

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.

Salem VA

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.

North Mountain - Nearby Food & Drink

Olde Salem Brewing Company - Salem, VA

  • Olde Salem Brewing Company - located on Salem’s historic Main Street, this local brewery presents full-flavored beers and innovative tastes
  • Parkway Brewing Company - craft brewery in Salem specializing in complex ales that are crafted with care in the heart of the Blue Ridge
  • West Salem Barbecue - come on in to West Salem BBQ, take a seat, and stay awhile. Slow-cooked, savory food is our style and good vibes are our way of life.
  • Salem Ice Cream Parlor - a locally-owned ice cream parlor offering 41 delicious ice cream flavors and unique creations, plus a deli
  • Allsports Cafe Salem - award-winning wings and all the great dishes you’d expect from your favorite local sports bar, including delicious burgers, sandwiches, & wraps
  • Kelly Cafe - stop in for a sweet treat and choose from house-made ice cream, gelato, bubble tea, coffee, and macarons
  • The Dilly Dally - a historic general store that's also a great place to visit for hot dogs, sandwiches, ice cream, and locally made cupcakes
  • Champloo Desserts - hand-crafted rolled ice cream, honey boba tee, fusion teas, and Vietnamese iced coffee; featuring vegan, lactose-free, and gluten-free options 

North Mountain - Local Bike Shop

  • Just the Right Gear - a welcoming bike shop for everyone, ranging to the newest mountain and road rider to the experienced racer or free rider
Roanoke Valley Spotlight

A helpful set of guidelines to ensure you ride responsibly and minimize your impact on the local trails and natural environment.

Sign up to receive the Bike VBR E-Newsletter and learn more about biking & cycling in Virginia's Blue Ridge.

Virginia's Blue Ridge - America's East Coast Mountain Biking Capital

Rider Up Podcast

Virginia's Blue Ridge is the first IMBA Silver-Level Ride Center for mountain biking on the East Coast!

VBR Cheers Trail Passport

Known by many locals as "Dragon's Back," North Mountain is an iconic local mountain that features epic trails for exploring.

Check out this in-depth feature on mountain biking in Virginia's Blue Ridge by Pinkbike.