Tail of the Dragon
Riding Dragon's Tail
If you enjoy time on the motorcycle, one of the most exciting things you could do close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is to ride Dragon's Tail. This road is often referred to as Tail of the Dragon or Deal's Gap. The Crossroads of Time, where the road begins, is located about nine miles from Fontana Lake and is very close to both Cherokee and Bryson City. If you are a motorcycle enthusiast, then this is definitely an experience you do not want to miss.
This eleven mile stretch of road in Eastern Tennessee includes more than 300 different hairpin turns. This creates a harrowing, heart-pounding experience that many motorcycle enthusiasts travel for miles to enjoy. If you plan on riding this interesting road you certainly need to be prepared, especially if you have never taken the trip before.
To begin with, you absolutely need to ensure you have the right clothing. Depending on the time of the year, the weather can vary immensely. Be sure to bring your heavy duty motorcycle gear for your comfort as well as safety. Please be aware helmets are required by law to be worn at all times in Tennessee and North Carolina.
Before discussing the exciting adventure waiting for you on Dragon's Tail, you need to know a few different safety precautions. The constant turns and switchbacks can be very difficult, so you should always abide by these precautions for your own well-being:
- Always observe the speed limit. It is 30 mph all the way.
- Watch out for others. People can drive cars on the road and they may not always abide by speed laws. Do not depend on them to look out for you. Instead, be sure to keep aware of everything around you.
- Always keep your helmet on. Highway patrol keeps a close eye on the stretch of highway.
- Wear heavy clothing. It could protect you if you do lay down the motorcycle and help you avoid scrapes and bruises.
Slaying the Dragon's Tail
Now lets get to the thrilling adventure that you are about to embark on. To start out on the trail, you will need to go to the intersection of US 129 and North Carolina State Road 28. You will find a very small community called Crossroads of Time. This is a good place to gather your bearings before embarking on the journey.
The trail starts out easy. You can expect about a mile of s-turns that are simple and smooth to follow. However, do not assume everything is this calm and start speeding. In about a mile, things are going to change drastically. When you reach the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, you will enter the area called Deal's Gap. This is when the hairpin turns begin.
If you get behind a slow moving vehicle, do not pass unless you are absolutely sure that you can. There is no sense in taking chances.
Pretty Places to Stop
When you are about a third of the way down the trail, there is a beautiful and scenic place to stop and take a break called Parson's Branch Road. This path meanders from Cade's Cove and offers you a chance to walk along a mountain stream.
At the end of the Dragon's Tail, you will see Chillowee Lake. This is another great place to stop and enjoy the scenery, especially if you need to let your heartbeat slow after the experience you just had.
If you continue on the road after finishing the Dragon's Tail, you will come to Maryville and Foothills Parkway. This unique and fun trail can be an exciting adventure by motorcycle.
*Notice: Please be aware this area can be difficult to navigate, so please take your time. Cellphone reception is also very unreliable in many of these areas, so it is advisable to bring paper directions or a map.