If you’re a motorcycle enthusiast looking for an exciting ride, head to the legendary Tail of the Dragon. This iconic stretch of US 129 features 318 curves packed into just 11 miles, providing one of the premier motorcycle rides in the eastern United States. Read on to learn everything you need to know to plan your road trip!
Located along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, Tail of the Dragon is a rite of passage for many bikers and sports car drivers. The challenging series of tight turns and switchbacks has earned it quite the reputation over the years. Some call it the “Damn Road to Tennessee” while others say it’s the “Gravity Cavity”. Whatever you call it, Tail of the Dragon offers an incredible driving experience like no other.
Where is Tail of the Dragon Located?
Tail of the Dragon runs from Deals Gap on the Tennessee side to Calderwood, North Carolina. It lies along a stretch of US 129 nestled within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The scenic byway connects the towns of Maryville, TN and Robbinsville, NC.
Surrounded by the lush Appalachian Mountains, Tail of the Dragon provides amazing views as you cruise along. A few scenic overlooks allow you to stop and take in the breathtaking scenery when needed.
What is the reason for the fame of the Tail of the Dragon?
This 11-mile stretch of US 129 packs in 318 curves as it winds through the Smoky Mountains along the North Carolina-Tennessee state line. All those tight twists and turns within such a short distance are what gives Tail of the Dragon its notoriety.
The constant curves make it a popular destination for motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts wanting to test their driving skills. Thousands come each year, especially during the summer and fall months, to challenge themselves on this legendary stretch of pavement.
What’s the Speed Limit ?
To help keep things under control, there’s a 30 mph speed limit along most of Tail of the Dragon. Some areas drop down to 20 mph or lower around the sharpest switchbacks.
While it may seem painfully slow for some, the tight turns and frequent curves demand extra caution. The last thing you want is to misjudge a corner and find yourself cruising over the edge of the mountain!
Are There Places to Stop Along the Way?
If you need a break from the curves, a few scenic overlooks provide places to stop and take in the views. Calderwood Overlook at the northern end offers a great vista looking south along the route.
There are also a couple of small towns along US 129 just outside the main stretch of road. Robbinsville, NC and Tellico Plains, TN offer restaurants, gas stations, and lodging options if needed.
The iconic Tail of the Dragon store sits right at the epicenter of Deals Gap. Here you’ll find souvenirs, bike gear, and refreshments if required. They also have a live webcam pointed at the Gap so you can check road conditions before heading out.
When is the Best Time to Ride Tail of the Dragon?
The curves of Tail of the Dragon call most loudly during the spring, summer, and fall months. Warm sunny days make for ideal cruising without having to worry about ice or snow in the higher elevations.
Weekdays tend to be less crowded if you’re looking for a more serene experience. Things pick up on weekends with motorcycle rallies and driving events centered around Tail of the Dragon. Definitely best to avoid Sundays when the sports car guys flock in.
Mornings typically provide cooler temperatures and lighter traffic if you want to get an early start. Just make sure the sun is up high enough to avoid foggy sections or wet corners in the shade. What is the optimal time to ride Tail of the Dragon?
The twists and turns of Tail of the Dragon are most inviting during the seasons of spring, summer, and autumn. Sunny and warm days provide the perfect conditions for a smooth and enjoyable ride, without the concern of encountering icy or snowy patches at higher altitudes.
For a more peaceful and tranquil experience, it is advisable to choose weekdays over weekends. On weekends, there is a surge in the number of motorcyclists and driving events centered around Tail of the Dragon. It is particularly wise to avoid Sundays, as that is when sports car enthusiasts gather in large numbers.
If you prefer cooler temperatures and lighter traffic, mornings are the ideal time to embark on your journey. However, it is important to ensure that the sun is high enough in the sky to prevent any foggy areas or damp corners that might be shaded.
What Should You Know Before Heading Out?
- Double check weather and road conditions before riding. Rain or fog can make the tight corners extra tricky.
- Pack rain gear in case an unexpected storm rolls through. Temperature drops quickly at higher elevations.
- Fill up on gas before entering the area. Fueling stations are limited around the route.
- Bring along some snacks and hydration. Packing a light tail bag helps keep supplies handy.
- Make sure tires are properly inflated with good tread depth. You’ll need the extra grip through all those curves.
- Adjust suspension to handle the rapid transition from turn to turn. Stock settings may be too soft.
- Print out a map or download digital maps in case GPS signal is lost in the mountains.
What Other Roads Can You Ride in the Area?
If you’re up for more incredible rides, there are lots of other great motorcycle roads branching out from Tail of the Dragon. Here are a few must-ride routes to consider:
- Cherohala Skyway – Sweeping 43 miles of curves connecting Robbinsville, NC to Tellico Plains, TN.
- Moonshiner28 – A 28 mile loop offering great views starting from the Tail of the Dragon.
- Devil’s Triangle – Three legendary roads, including Tail of the Dragon, connected in one epic loop.
- Foothills Parkway – Runs along the edge of the Smokies with fantastic scenery.
- Blue Ridge Parkway – 469 miles of Appalachian vistas connecting Shenandoah to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Where to Stay when Visiting Tail of the Dragon
You’ll find several accommodation options located right along the route or within a short drive:
- Fontana Village Resort – Lodging and cabins located steps away from the Tail of the Dragon on the NC side.
- Tapoco Lodge – Scenic retreat in Robbinsville, NC with various lodging options and event hosting.
- Two Wheels of Suches – Motorcycle themed cabins conveniently located outside the Gap.
- Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort – Tail of the Dragon’s flagship motel with bike-focused amenities and on-site food.
- Everett’s on the River – Riverside rooms and cabins set along the Little Tennessee in Maryville, TN.
Plan Your Epic Tail of the Dragon Adventure!
With its incredible scenery and challenging curves, Tail of the Dragon belongs on every motorcyclist’s bucket list. Just be sure to ride within your limits, keep focus through the corners, and allow faster riders to pass when possible.
Pack your gear, gas up the bike, and get ready for the ride of a lifetime on this iconic stretch of pavement! The thrilling twists of Tail of the Dragon deliver an unforgettable experience unlike any other road in the country. Let us know about your own Tail of the Dragon adventures!
- Tail of the Dragon offers 318 thrilling curves along an epic 11 mile stretch through the Smoky Mountains.
- Located along US 129 connecting Tennessee and North Carolina.
- Popular destination for motorcycles and sports cars wanting to test their skills.
- Best times to ride are weekdays and weekends in spring, summer, fall.
- Stop at scenic overlooks or grab supplies from nearby towns.
- Check weather, pack rain gear, adjust suspension for a smooth ride.
- Combine with other fantastic roads like Cherohala Skyway for the ultimate trip.
- Stay right nearby at biker-friendly accommodations like Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.
Get your knee pucks warmed up and enjoy the ride! The call of the Dragon awaits…
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Tail of the Dragon?
The Tail of the Dragon is a legendary road located in North Carolina and Tennessee. It is also known as US 129 and is renowned for its 318 curves within an 11-mile stretch. Motorcycle enthusiasts and sports car drivers from all around the world visit this iconic road to experience its thrilling and scenic route.
Where can I find a Tail of the Dragon map?
You can easily find a Tail of the Dragon map online. Many websites dedicated to motorcycle routes and road trips provide detailed maps of the Tail of the Dragon. Additionally, you can visit the Tail of the Dragon store or the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort to get a physical copy of the map.
What is the best time to visit the Tail of the Dragon?
The Tail of the Dragon can be enjoyed throughout the year. However, the spring and fall seasons offer pleasant weather and beautiful scenery. It is advisable to avoid visiting during extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain or snow.
Are there any accommodations available near the Tail of the Dragon?
Yes, there are several accommodations available near the Tail of the Dragon. You can find cabins, resorts, and hotels in towns like Robbinsville and Cherokee. The Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort is a popular choice among riders as it offers lodging options and other amenities.
What are some other attractions near the Tail of the Dragon?
The Tail of the Dragon is surrounded by scenic beauty and other amazing attractions. You can explore the Great Smoky Mountains, ride the Cherohala Skyway, or visit the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are also numerous hiking trails, overlooks, and historic sites to discover in the area.
Is there a speed limit on the Tail of the Dragon?
Yes, there is a speed limit on the Tail of the Dragon. The posted speed limit is 30 mph (48 km/h) for the entire route. It is essential to abide by the speed limit and exercise caution while enjoying the scenic drive.
Can I ride the Tail of the Dragon on a motorcycle?
Absolutely! The Tail of the Dragon is a paradise for motorcycle enthusiasts. Many riders specifically visit this stretch of road to experience the thrill and excitement it offers. However, it is important to prioritize safety and wear appropriate protective gear while riding.
Is the Tail of the Dragon open all year round?
Yes, the Tail of the Dragon is open throughout the year unless there are extreme weather conditions or road closures due to maintenance. It is recommended to check road conditions and closures before planning your trip.