Smyth County is home base for some of the best motorcycle routes on the east coast. Virginia is for Motorcycle Lovers, and starting in Smyth County, you can explore some of Virginia’s top roads for cyclists, including the famous Back of the Dragon.
The Claw of the Dragon
It would be a challenge to find a more beautiful driving trail than the scenic back roads of Southwest Virginia. Looping through the Blue Ridge Mountain range, the Claw of the Dragon has become one of the most popular destinations in the South for motorcycle enthusiasts.
The trail features loops totaling over 350 miles as it ventures through the communities of Marion, Wytheville, and Galax. The drive meanders through parts of seven Virginia counties, but is easily accessible from I-81 in Marion (exit 45) or Chilhowie (exit 35).
Plan a pit stop at one of the nearby watering holes, including Davis Valley Winery and Distilerry or 36 Fifty Brewing, both offering a unique taste of local flavor you can pack in your bag to celebrate the end of your ride.
Visit the Communities Along the Way:
Back of the Dragon
The Back of the Dragon takes motorcycle riders on the adventure of a lifetime on the famous Route 16 from Marion to Tazewell, a two lane ribbon that crosses over three mountain ranges. Lean into 32 miles of the most exciting and technical road you’ll ever ride and earn your badge as a Dragon Master.
Start your trip on The Back of the Dragon in Marion. Motorcycle riders are thrilled with over 300 knee-dragging curves, plenty of twisties, and breathtaking views with elevations climbing up to 3,500 ft. Be sure to stop at the newly completed overlook, just north of Hungry Mother State Park, for spectacular views of Rich Valley.
As Route 16 ends in Tazewell, hang a right to visit The Back of the Dragon Welcome Center. Just completed in 2020, the Welcome Center includes a gift shop, coffee and craft beer, and a food truck out back.
Stay the Course: Virginia Motorcycle Routes Not to Be Missed
Motorcycle rides on Virginia roads will treat you to some seriously stunning views. Ride through Smyth County’s charming towns, ascending to sensational vistas and past acres of peaceful farmland.. There’s ample wildlife watching, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, world-class fishing and history – all adding up to an unforgettable riding adventure. You’ll never get tired of riding these Southwest Virginia roads.
Mount Rogers Scenic Byway to Whitetop Mountain
Travel the highest navigable road in Virginia, and reach the second highest summit on your bike. At 5520 ft, reaching Whitetop Mountain by the Mount Rogers Scenic Byway on two wheels is a motorcycle ride not to be missed. Sunsets on Whitetop Mountain are particularly spectacular. Please note: as you ascend this road to Whitetop Mountain, it turns to gravel. Riders should check the weather and use their discretion on whether their motorcycle model is a good fit for gravel roads.
From Marion, head south on Hwy 16 to Route 603 (Mount Rogers Scenic Byway). Turn on Rt. 600 and follow it south to the right turn onto FR 89 heading to Whitetop Mountain. Follow this road for 1.6 miles to the top of Whitetop Mountain.
Return to I-81 by way of Whitetop Road (Route 762) to end in Chilhowie, VA and enjoy a hearty meal at Riverfront Restaurant.
Heart of Appalachia Motorcycle Rides
Just a crow’s fly away, explore the Heart of Appalachia’s scenic driving routes, a perfect day trip during your stay in Smyth County. This driving tour offers stops along the way at National Historic Landmarks and awesome views. The Heart of Appalachia Driving tour takes the rider through the history of the impact of the coal industry on Appalachian communities