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photo courtesy Cameron Davidson / VTC
It would be a challenge for motorcycle riders 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 is becoming one of the most popular destinations in the South for motorcycle enthusiasts.
With the charming town of Wytheville, Virginia, as the trail’s center or hub, the trail features loops totaling over 350 miles as it ventures over to the community of Marion to the west and Galax to the east. The drive meanders through parts of seven Virginia counties but is easily accessible from Interstates 77 or 81 as a starting part.
Along the way, riders have the opportunity to stop at many interesting and authentic attractions. After a heart-stopping trip on the ride that follows Virginia Route 16, the two-lane ribbon over three mountains between Tazewell and Marion called Back of the Dragon, don’t miss some of the unique attractions nearby. Harkening back to the grand movie palaces of yesteryear, The Lincoln Theatre is the home of the nationally syndicated bluegrass music television series, “Song of the Mountains.” This beautiful facility is one of only three remaining Mayan Revival theaters in America. The General Francis Marion Hotel is a favorite of riders with its restaurant called The Black Rooster and a bar with 27 beer taps. Nearby, Virginia Sweetwater Distillery and Appalachian Mountain Spirits offer a unique taste of local flavor. Wolf’s Barbeque is also a hometown favorite with several other restaurants also available. Other interesting attractions include The Lincoln Theatre, Hungry Mother State Park, and the Museum of the Middle Appalachians.
Next, continue on to the Wytheville area. Many people will recognize this area as the location where two interstates converge, but there’s a lot more interesting roads within the historic community. Riders will enjoy a challenging ride up Big Walker Mountain. As the 16-mile scenic byway makes it way to the top, the rider is immersed in breathtaking flora and fauna of each season. At the top, take a rest at Big Walker Lookout, climb the 100 foot tower, and enjoy a snack in the country store. A variety of other local attractions such as Beagle Ridge Herb Farm, West Wind Winery, and Fort Chiswell Animal Park, offer the opportunity to enjoy some distinctive “homegrown” experiences. Wytheville’s downtown historic district allows visitors to leisurely walk the streets and discover the history that has made this a town of hospitality for over 200 hundred years. Interesting shopping, museums, and the historic flavor of the 1776 Log House Restaurant are just a few of the must-see stops along the way. An evening of music can be enjoyed at the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre or one of several music venues nearby. Wytheville has a variety of lodging accommodations from all-suite hotels to bed & breakfasts and cabins. A historic boutique hotel will open soon in the downtown district.
The newest anchor community for The Claw of the Dragon is Galax. This Virginia city is steeped in the history of music. The Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention held the second week of August each year has earned the community the distinction of the “World Capital of Old Time Mountain Music.” Festivals and special events are held at the Rex Theatre and in the downtown showcasing the area’s authentic sound. Capitalizing on the wealth of local artisans, the area is also home to the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts. A variety of classes offer a hands-on opportunity to explore an art or hone a craft with a local artist. The words “Galax” and “barbecue” are synonymous, so much so that the annual Smoke on the Mountain, Virginia State Barbecue Championship is held in downtown Galax each July.
This is but a sampling of all the interesting things you can see and do as you ride The Claw of the Dragon and explore the interesting communities along the way. For more information, visit www.ClawoftheDragon.com.