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Level: Expert
Length: 12 mi (19.3 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Network
Elevation: +1,657/ -1,691 ft
Total: 32 riders

Mountain Biking Dragon's Back

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#3 of 300 mountain bike trails in Virginia
#120 in the world

Park at the grouse trail and start climbing. The beginning is very rocky then it changes into really fun switchbacks. As you get closer to the top, the trail gets rocky again and the switchbacks are nearly impossible to climb. There are also so many leaves in places too that make you slip. It's like every leaf in Virginia blew onto this trail! The grouse trail is about 2.5 miles long. At the top is the ridge trail and there is a sign. You can go left to the turkey trail or right to the deer trail. If you turn left on the ridge trail, it is 3 miles to the turkey trail. This ridge trail is very technical because of all the sharp rocks sticking out in all directions. It's the rockiest trail I've ever seen! You'll see the turkey trail on the right. This is a very nice DH with some impossible switchbacks on the first half of the trail. Then the trail gets straight and fast with some cool obstacles. Back at the fire road, turn left and go about 4.4 miles back to the grouse trail if you parked there. This part is very boring because fire roads suck.

First added by aabiking on Jul 23, 2007. Last updated May 11, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
Take route 331 west from Roanoke into Craig County. Turn right on to FS road 224, about 2 miles from the Craig County line. This forest service road is also called Wildlife Road. Go about 4 miles to the grouse trail. You can go a little over 4 more miles to turkey trail. Both grouse and turkey are on the right.
System trails (3)
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Trail conditions

Dry (on Apr 6, 2014)
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Mountain Bike Trails Near Salem, Virginia

| 2.1 mi
| 6 mi
| 6 mi
Beginner | 12 mi

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  • Jackofall

    Very cool Pro level riding.

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  • Jackofall

    Very cool Pro riding.

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  • markader

    WOW! Did the trail last weekend and would firmly place this trail in the full day adventure category. Started at Dragon's Tooth parking lot and rode / pushed up the North Mountain trail to top of the ridge. (approx. 1,100 ft. straight climbing). Once on top of the mountain the North Mountain trail is a narrow ridge line with ups and downs and lots of rock outcroppings. I mean lots and lots and lots of rock outcroppings. Boulders, lose rocks, sharp rocks sticking up straight out of the ground waiting to destroy bike parts. I was truly amazed neither one of us ripped off a derailleur or blew a tire. We rode and pushed 6 miles of North Mountain trail to Turkey trail, which minus a few impossible switch backs was a lot of fun. After the Turkey downhill it was 7 miles of dirt roads and a couple miles of 311 back to the car.

    Major take away from the trip...
    Be prepared to push your bike. A LOT!
    Not something I would ever consider doing alone.
    Be in really good shape with really good low speed technical skills.
    Bring way more food and water than you think you need.
    Bring spare bike parts.

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  • mtberik

    One of the reasons I like the trails here is because of the back country trails that make you feel in the middle of nowhere even though you are 15 mins to downtown Roanoke. The Turkey trail is pretty much impossible without hiking you bike for 15% of the trail. I think the best trail is North Mtn trail from Deer trail to the highway. I still haven't been on Deer trail but i am hoping to do the next time I go.

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  • Greg Heil   ✓ supporter

    This is a classic old school backcountry mountain bike ride! Complete with gravel road connectors, hike a bike singletrack, rocky Ridgeline riding , gorgeous views, and blazing fast technical descending, this ride hardens back to the days when men were men and boys stayed at home and hid behind their mothers aprons. To be sure, this ride isn't easy--but it is very rewarding! (Ps if you've ridden snake creek gap in Georgia, the ridge top riding here reminds me of a much easier and much more fun version of the snake.)

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  • RoadWarrior

    Trail is open, clear, well signed, and blazed, with maps at all TH's. Dragons Back is part of the 28 mile North Mountain Trail System. All the trails are signed as more, or most difficult. Great trail for strong and advanced level riders. Trails up the mtn are steep but rideable, except for some of the switchbacks. Top of the mtn is classic Va. mtn top riding, rock mixed with sweet singletrack. Tread width ranges from 18" to none.
    Probably the best TH is Dragons Tooths, which is on Rt 311 before the forest rd. Got family that doesn't ride? Send them hiking to Dragons Tooth while you go ride the back.
    Group I rode with had everything from SS Ridged to Full Sup. We all had a blast.* Review edited 5/2/2011

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  • cjk133

    dragon's back is a ride where you must accept your bicycle only as a means to facilitate mobility. There are hike-a-bikes, trees, rocks...no one cleans this trail from beginning to end. It's backwoods, it's best in fall or spring, and it can easily take up most of your day to ride it out. Take several lunches, and 11 bucks for the home place restaurant 1 mile east on 311. If you rode the ridge, you're gonna want all you can eat mashed potatoes.

    I prefer to park at dragon's tooth, cross the street and board the ridge from there. Trail head is hard to find...just keep looking. It's there.
    Descend the ridge at 1 of 4 places and ride wilderness road back...the return on the road can make for a long grind if you rode the whole way out, but not so bad if you have some legs.

    It's an excellent single speed trail, as alot stands to break on a geared bike and the ridge traverse is pretty mono-tonic speed wise. * Review edited 11/2/2007

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  • aabiking

    Last ime I rode this trail was in January and there were hugh trees across most of Grouse trail. The trail has really went down hill. All the attention is being paid to Carvins Cove which is an incredible ride for all levels if you know where to go. Talk to the guys at Just The Right Gear for their recomendations for where to ride but be sure to let them know your skill level and what you are looking for.

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