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
Trailhead: From I-81 south of Roanoke, take exit 141 to VA 419/311. Turn left at the stoplight and drive 0.3 mile to the light at the VA 311 junction. Turn right and drive almost 10 miles to the marked parking area on your left, just past Catawba Grocery.