Appalachian Trail, Catawba, VA 24070
Distance: 5-mile round trip (2.4 miles to summit)
Elevation: 3050 feet (approximately 1250 elevation change hike)
View: 360 degree panoramic
Worth it: Yes (4 stars)
This is possibly one of the most well-marked trails I’ve ever hiked. There are so many markers, signs, and clarified pathways that it just makes me wonder: how many people had to get lost once upon a time for them to feel the need to be so thorough? Not a complaint, just a curious question.
The trail begins at a hard-to-miss parking lot and you’re warned at the very genesis of the trail that there will be some actual hiking/rock climbing involved in order to reach the Dragon’s Tooth. The first mile and a half aren’t all that difficult, however. The path twines around a stream and leads you up some relatively steep inclines (slippery when wet), but it doesn’t really get that difficult until the last 0.7 miles.
We went after it had just rained all night and the path was soggy, but the trail was reasonably isolated. It’s obviously a populated area, however (clear pathways and continual signs to encourage you in the right direction) and I wonder how busy it gets during nicer weather. Parts of the Dragon’s Tooth Trail do coincide with the Appalachian, so if you ever happen to hike that monster, you’re sure to cross by this fascinating overlook.
I’m labeling this hike as “Medium/Hard” because there are many difficult sections–not necessarily ones that challenge physical strength (though our legs were tired out by a lot of steep inclines), but rather maneuverability. There are several points where you have to be comfortable climbing rocks, scaling high steps, and treading uneven and precarious ground. If you’re a beginner hiker, be prepared to take your time (and wear some hiking boots or shoes with good treads) and don’t rush it. If you’re an expert hiker, or even if you’ve been accustomed to some rock-climbing, it won’t be too difficult at all. Just don’t go in expecting smooth paths. Prepare to climb some rock.
I did see several people bringing their pets along with them, but I wouldn’t recommend letting just any furry friend tag along. Make sure your pup is prepped for some serious sections requiring balance and climbing before bringing them here.
Once you reach the top of the hill and you see the sign for Dragon’s Tooth 0.2 miles away, follow the arrow and the blue markers. It’s going to lead you to the right and downward again, but soon you’ll come upon what you’ve been working for.
The summit is sandy and fairly clear, providing plenty of places for a picnic, camping, or just hanging out with friends. You get a nice view of the mountains from there on the ground, so while you don’t have to climb on the Dragon’s Tooth in order to get a pretty view, you of course can (at your own risk).
You get a 360 degree, panoramic view from the tip of the bigger tooth (but not from the ground), and while the wind picks up and it is a little intimidating, there are plenty of secure places to sit and relax. We ate our lunch up there, had some great conversation, and kept turning back and forth to view the valleys and mountains on either side of us. Dragon’s Tooth is on the ridge of its mountain, so any way you look is down. It’s not for the fearer of heights, obviously, but if you’re up for some rock climbing and want a beautiful view, scale the top of those teeth.
The smaller tooth (to the left) is a bit more difficult to climb, but there’s a small “eye” in the rocks that Noah and I found a seat in. It’s hard to get to (you literally have to climb the tooth, walk along some pointy rocks, and squeeze through a crevice in the rock to get there), but it was nice and secluded. And it’s just fun to squeeze through small spaces for new viewpoints.
All in all, I like Dragon’s Tooth for how different it is. It’s not quite as exotic as McAfee’s Knob (which is a 5 minute drive from the Dragon’s Tooth parking lot) or as high as Sharp Top (which you can see from a perch on the teeth), but the hike up is so unique and the teeth at the top are quite impressive. It makes you look at nature and wonder.
It’s a must-see because it looks like it should be in a medieval movie.
And also it’s a fun time.