Dragon's Back

Salem, Virginia 24153

Dragon's Back

Dragon's Back Professional Review and Guide

"This ride's general location is 13 miles north of Salem. Scenery includes great views from the top of North Mountain; however, riders who rubberneck don't last too long on the Dragon. "Dragon's Back is a technical bike knight's delight, traversing a ridge narrow as a broadsword's blade, with rocks and rides to challenge the noblest of all riders," so sayeth the announcement for the 1997 East Coasters Virginia Championship Mountain Bike Series.

The ride is laid out as a loop starting from the intersection of FS 224, ascending Turkey Trail, traversing the ridge, and descending Deer Trail. The loop will get your legs and lungs working at full capacity. This is a challenging loop despite its length, and only lords and ladies of intermediate abilities or better should attempt this one."

Dragon's Back Reviews

3
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6/28/2007
Clearly there is no trail maintenance being done here anymore. I rode up Grouse TR to the top of the ridge. There are 9 switchbacks of which only 3-4 can be ridden. The problems with this trail are the massive erosion, fallen trees, & rock slides. There are areas of the trail where it is no wider than 6 in. & it cambers off dropping at a 50+ degree pitch for a long way. Most of the upper switchbacks are unrideable due to the steepness, large exposed roots & rocks. Once at the top of Grouse TR there is a sign indicating the Deer TR is to the right and the Turkey TR to the left. The sign has actually fallen off the post. I found it laying on the ground. I took the ridge to the right hoping to ride down the Deer TR. But since it is so overgrown I could not find the entrance to the Deer TR. I continued along North Mountain TR down to US 311. Along the way I passed by at least a 1/2 dozen "No Trespassing" signs. I can only wonder the reason for the signs as this is (or maybe was) a marked hiking/biking trail on public land. Nevertheless I kept riding until US 311. I found the ridge and subsequent DH to be mostly rideable although totally overgrown with undergrowth and plenty of poison ivy. The ridge is also covered with leaves which makes it nearly impossible to ride up the inclines. On the DH portion I was pretty much whipped on my arms, legs and face the entire way by branches that had grown across the trail. By the end of the ride I was glad to be done. Due to the lack of attention this trail receives at least 1/3 of it has become unrideable. As I described above it is quite dangerous in spots. I rode some portions that I probably should have walked. I just kept telling myself over and over not to look down. For all these reasons I do not recommend this trail unless you are up for some real abuse or are into nearly as much hike a bike as you are into riding.
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Comments
8/14/2006
This is a very challenging trail. There are almost no markers to find these trails except for a small 1ft x 1ft sign (hiking symbol) at the bottom of the Grouse trail about 3.4mi off Rt 313. We ascended the Grouse trail from 224 (Wildlife Road), which took about 55min. When we got to the top we turned right and rode along the ridge for about 4mi and never saw the entrance to the Deer Trail. We turned back and rode past the point we reached the top and kept going the other direction about 5.5 mi until we saw the opening for the Turkey Trail (no markers at all, no sign, label or anything). We rode down this trail which at the beginning was full of tricky switchbacks but eventually lightens up into some great downhilling, When we reached 224 we rode back to the Grouse Trail entrance were we parked. The total ride was about 22mi according to the bike computer and took us about 3hr 40min. Very tough. The ridge (Dragons back) is overgrown in a lot of places and is riddled with shale and rock sticking straight out of the trail (its pinch flat city) so be careful. As we left we say the exit of the Deer trail which was about 1.7 mi from the Grouse Trail heading back towards 313. Next time we'll ride that up to the ridge and mark it so we can complete the whole course. All in all it was a fun ride, a little frustrating since we had trouble finding the trails but now we have it mapped out. I recommend riding this with someone who knows it otherwise you'll spend a lot of time exploring (which can be fun if you're into it) so make sure you can handle serious climbs and technical riding cause this trail has it all.
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7/26/2006
I tried to do the race course the other day and was unable to find the trail heads. I found two trails with no signs (never found the third from the map) and rode the entire length of the fire road twice looking for them. The day was a total bust. Incidentally, I went to the local trail shop and got what sounded like pretty confident instructions based on the map, but still was unable to find trails with any certainty. I was able to find the well marked end of the North Mountain Trail on the main road. If you're gonna ride this trail, go with someone whose knows it well or start at the trail head at the south end of the N Mountain Trail on the main road. Caution!
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Conquer the Dragon! This ride is tough. Major single track climbs involved. A couple of tight switchbacks await you during the climbs. Once you reach the top, you get to travel across the back of the dragon. Rocky, wet and extreme technical riding at hand. There are several options for the downhill. All of which is sweet and fast. Enjoy!
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Trail Information

Salem
Nearby City
10.5
Distance
Loop/Lollipop
Trail Type
Difficult
Technical Difficulty
Difficult
Physical Difficulty
Year-round, except when there is snow and ice. Also use caution during hunting season.
Season
New Castle Ranger District, Jefferson National Forest 540-864-5195
Local Contacts
Jefferson National Forest Map of the New Castle Ranger District; USGS Catawba & Looney
Local Maps