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Roanoke, VA: Dragon's Tooth

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Distance: 4.4 miles


This rocky climb up Cove Mountain ends with a heart-pounding scramble to the top of the Dragon's Tooth, a 35-foot quartzite and sandstone tower.

Check the tread on your boots before this 4.4-mile loop that climbs rocky slopes and boulder-lined ridges on its way to a towering quartzite formation. From the information board at the Dragon's Tooth Trail parking lot, hike an easy quarter mile to the trail's junction with the Boy Scout Connector Trail. Turn left and follow the Boy Scout Connector as it switchbacks up a wooded slope for 0.4 mile before meeting the Appalachian Trail.

Turn right onto the white-blazed AT and follow it one mile south as it climbs a rocky, dragon-backed ridge. Look left for dramatic, boulder-framed views of farms in the valley below. The path rolls briefly across the summit then descends to a small clearing at Lost Spectacles Gap. Here, the Dragon's Tooth Trail joins the AT as the latter climbs Cove Mountain. To continue 1 mile to the tooth, cross the gap and hike through the two white-blazed trees just ahead.

From here, the trail jags and twists up a craggy ridge. To stay on course, look for white blazes painted on the rocks. At the 3,020-foot summit of Cove Mountain, turn left onto the blue-blazed Dragon's Tooth spur trail and hike a few hundred feet to the Tooth. If you're flexible—and not afraid of heights—walk behind the formation and scramble up its steep surface. Your reward? Panoramic views that sweep in Catawba Valley, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs.

After descending Cove Mountain, leave the AT and turn left onto the Dragon's Tooth Trail at Lost Spectacles Gap to complete the loop. The trail descends 1.5 miles on an easy path marked by stream crossings and lazy switchbacks. At the junction with the Boy Scout Connector Trail, turn left and return to the parking lot.

-Mapped by Amy C. Balfour

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