I was first exposed to the North Mountain Trail system in July of 2020 when we did a Strava MTB Stage Race in the area. The tip of the ridge was included in the route, I think it was 10miles.
This past winter I did a full pull on the ridge with a friend followed by traversing the ridge with full bikepack gear as I came through on the Rockstar Trail.
Over the past year, this route has been calling me back. It’s everything I love about trail riding - technical ups and downs with a raw backcountry feel.
So, when I learned about this established route via a Facebook post by the Virginia Endurance Series, I was instantly intrigued.
With everyone else throwing their hat into the FKT ring last year I was secretly jealous. Not jealous enough to make a special trip out to Utah for the White Rim Trail or the Kokopeli Trail but jealous enough to submit myself to miles of Ridgeline bramble and shaggy, summertime, greenery. When I decided to fight the Dragon I didn’t know it would actually fight back.
The route is 36 miles with 7,800ft of climbing. It’s located 15 miles north of Roanoke just outside of Catawba, Va. In that area there is a series of ridges and valleys that is almost bewildering. Ancient glacial movements have created an incredible landscape.
There is one particular ridge called North Mountain that someone cut a trail across the top of, it’s 12.8 miles of Ridgeline single track and it’s rugged.
Off the ridge there are 4 trails, 3 trails that drop off the north side (named after animals) and one that drops off the south side called Catawba Valley Trail. The way to “slay the dragon” is to ride the entire ridge and all four trails in one go.
There is a nice route that links all the trails together without much repeating and so that is the route I have set my sights on. While other people have done this route, locally, it’s known more for just how hard of a ride it is. No one has really set an FKT on it. So I’ll be setting the bar and I was aiming to set it high.
While I am happy with my time I am pretty keen to have another go at it, probably fall or early spring. I think I could make some pacing adjustments and for sure having a clear sight on the ridge would be way more advantageous. On another note, it was just a fun loop. Lots of challenges that only got harder the more depleted I got. The Dragon will certainly keep you on your toes!