Dragon’s Tooth

  • Highlights: Great views, Appalachian Trail, rock scrambles, wildflowers, Triple Crown
  • Distance: 5.5 miles loop
  • Elevation change: 1,340 feet
  • Difficulty level: Strenuous
  • Trailhead Parking: Dragon’s Tooth Trailhead, route 311
  • Website: Visit Roanoke and Hiking Upward 
  • Beer Pairings: A Few Old Goats Brewing—Oatmeal Stout & Galactic Retribution IPA 

The Hike:

Dragon’s Tooth was our 3rd Triple Crown hike in three days and we saved the best for last. This is the shortest of the three hikes but it is the most challenging. It has a serious elevation gain and a lengthy rock scramble but the great views at the summit make it all worth while.

We arrived at the trailhead before sunrise and the parking area was more than half full. The trailhead kiosk is at the far end of the parking lot. Begin on the blue-blazed Dragon’s Tooth Trail and hike through the forest. Reach a trail junction at .25 miles with the Boy Scout Trail. This will be part of the return hike. 

Keep right on the blue trail continuing the climb and crossing over the stream several times. Bridges and stepping stones make for easy stream crossings. The trail continues upward at a moderate incline to Lost Spectacles Gap and the AT junction at 1.4 miles. Turn right and follow the signs and white-blazed AT south to Dragon’s Tooth.

The climb becomes steeper and rockier almost immediately. Stone steps help in some places and in other areas you will use hands and feet as you climb. While some of the rock passages are steep, there is always a sturdy handhold and a place for your feet. Imagine AT thru hikers doing this climb with a 30+ pound pack.

Follow the white blazes on rocks and trees. The Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club does a fantastic job maintaining this section of the AT. Great views of the Catawba Valley open up as you climb. At 2.2 miles reach a junction with the blue-blazed spur trail to Dragon’s Tooth. Turn left here and follow the short trail through more rocks to Dragon’s Tooth.

The views are fantastic; however, if you are so inclined, the views from the top of the Tooth are even better. Circle to the right to the base of the Tooth and carefully climb to the top. If you don’t like heights, you may want to skip this part as the climb down from the top of the Tooth is not for the fainthearted.  

Enjoy the great views and a snack or lunch and then return on the blue spur trail to the AT. Turn right on the AT and descend through the rock scrambles back to Lost Spectacles Gap. If you’ve had your fill of rock scrambles, turn left here and return to your vehicle on the blue-blazed Dragon’s Tooth Trail.

If you are looking for more rock scrambles and great views, stay straight on the AT for a short uphill section and then a steady downhill. Pass a rock outcrop with a nice view to the south  and then a short spur trail leads to Devil’s Chair, a square rock with nice views. Scramble down some rocky sections before reaching Viewpoint Rock, a boulder the size of a bus with great views of Cove and North Mountains and the valley below.

Continue down the AT as the descent levels out a bit before reaching the junction with the yellow-blazed Boy Scout Trail. Turn left here and follow this trail .3 miles to the junction with the blue-blazed Dragon’s Tooth Trail. Turn right here and a short .25 miles back to the parking area.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

After completing the Triple Crown, we were ready to celebrate. We had heard great things about A Few Old Goats Brewing and decided to give them a try. AFOG is located about 17 miles southeast of the Dragon’s Tooth Trailhead in Roanoke. They have been brewing great beer since 2018. They have indoor and outdoor seating, are pet and kid friendly, and outside food is welcomed. The staff and patrons were friendly with a fun atmosphere.

AFOG is a nano brewery and while they have 16 taps, the beer inventory changes frequently. We opted for a flight to try a variety of their beers. Goatmeal Stout was Pete’s favorite. Oatmeal and malted barley brewed together with notes of coffee. It’s everything a good stout should be, especially from a brewery proclaiming “Stouts are a year-round beer!”. Kathy likes a great New England IPA and she found one in Galactic Retribution, not overly hopped at 45 IBUs, but easy drinking and refreshing. 

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.