These guidelines are a great way to protect nature when you spend time on the trails and outside.
Dragon's Tooth Trail stands as a testament to the untamed beauty and rugged allure of the region. In this comprehensive guide, we'll lead you on an expedition to unearth the wonders of Dragon's Tooth, providing insights on the trail, directions, parking, camping options, and nearby attractions.
Before visiting Dragon's Tooth, please familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace 7 Principles. This section of the Appalachian Trail features some of the most popular hikes on the East Coast and it's critical that we all do our part to recreate responsibly and help preserve this beautiful space for years to come.
Please consider carpooling, ridesharing, or using shuttle services to limit overcrowding in the parking lot, and if possible, avoid visiting on the weekends - when the trail is most crowded.
Remember to pack out all trash you see and stay on the designated trail.
Dragon's Tooth is a unique rock formation that rises dramatically from the Appalachian Trail. Its jagged, tooth-like appearance gives the trail its name and provides hikers with an exhilarating destination at the end of their journey.
The trail features a series of rocky scrambles, making it a thrilling adventure for those looking to push their hiking skills to the next level.
The hike to Dragon's Tooth is approximately 2.3 miles one way, making for a total round trip of 4.6 miles. While the distance may seem relatively short, the challenging terrain and steep ascents and descents make this hike quite demanding.
Hikers should be prepared for a strenuous workout and have proper footwear to navigate the rocky sections. The steep terrain of this trail could make it difficult for pets, so be cautious when deciding weather to have your furry friend accompany you on this hike.
Directions from Roanoke: Take I-81 south to exit 141. Go left on Virginia VA 419, Electric Road. Go 0.4 miles to VA 311. Take right. In 4.6 miles, pass McAfee Knob trailhead parking lot on left at top of Catawba Mountain. To reach Dragon’s Tooth parking lot, continue on VA 311 for another 3.5 miles to US Forest Service Dragon’s Tooth parking lot on left, just after the intersection of VA 311 and VA 624/Newport Road (gas station and convenience store on the left).
The Dragon's Tooth trailhead parking area is a U.S. Forest Service lot that is relatively small and can fill up quickly, particularly during weekends and peak hiking seasons. Arrive early to secure a parking spot, and consider carpooling to minimize the demand for parking spaces.
NOTE: Parking is not allowed on VA 311 - illegally parked cars may be ticketed and towed.
Camping at Dragon's Tooth is not permitted as the trail and area near the parking lot are a designated Special Biological Area where camping is prohibited to protect rare species. Dispersed camping is allowed on the nearby North Mountain Trail in the Jefferson National Forest, as well as at the Pickle Branch Shelter north of Dragon's Tooth and Lost Spectacles Gap, which is 1.5 miles from the parking area and 0.9 miles from Dragon's Tooth at the junction of the Dragon's Tooth Trail and Appalachian Trail.
There are also campsites and spaces for RV hookups at the Dixie Caverns Campground in Salem.
Between Dragon's Tooth and McAfee Knob, camping is restricted to the following campsites along the Appalachian Trail:
- John's Spring Shelter
- Catawba Mountain Shelter
- Catawba Mountain Shelter Campsite
- Pig Farm Campsite & Campbell Shelter (located just north of McAfee Knob)
The Dragon's Tooth Trail is a captivating adventure on its own, but it also plays a crucial role as one-third of the famous Virginia’s Triple Crown. This challenging hike boasts a unique rock formation at its peak, making it a favorite among hikers and rock climbers alike. But for the true trail aficionado seeking the ultimate outdoor experience, the Dragon's Tooth Trail is just one piece of the puzzle.
By embarking on the Triple Crown Overnight Backpack Route, intrepid explorers can tackle not only Dragon's Tooth but also its equally remarkable siblings, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. This multi-day backpacking journey, spanning approximately 35 miles, allows you to immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of Virginia's wilderness while conquering all three jewels of the Triple Crown.
Visit the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club website for additional details & information to help plan your next hike.
After conquering Dragon's Tooth, there are several nearby attractions and activities to explore:
McAfee Knob: Just a short drive away, McAfee Knob is another iconic Appalachian Trail destination known for its stunning panoramic views.
Carvins Cove: Just a stone's throw away from the Dragon's Tooth Trail and the Virginia Triple Crown lies Carvins Cove, a sprawling recreational paradise encompassing a pristine reservoir surrounded by miles of hiking and biking trails, perfect for those seeking additional outdoor adventures amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains
Dining: Downtown Salem is less than 20 minutes from the Dragon's Tooth parking area and offers plenty of local dining options. A few of our favorites include tacos on the beautiful patio at El Jefe, delicious burgers and sandwiches at Chip & Jo's, and classic ice cream treats at the Salem Ice Cream Parlor. Visit our Salem Food & Drink page for a complete list of options.
Things to Do: Enjoy a post-hike beer at one of many nearby craft breweries, including Solstice Farm Brewery in Catawba and the award-winning Parkway Brewing Company and Olde Salem Brewing Company in Salem.
Places to Stay: Dragon's Tooth is accessible via Exit 141 off Interstate 81, which features a variety of accommodations and lodging options. The following hotels are located at Interstate 81 Exit 141:
- Baymont by Wyndham
- La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Salem
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