What’s life without a pinch of adventure? For some, adventure might be just a temporary thrill to enjoy and live in the moment, but for others, such endeavors are like a drug to keep them alive and vital. Trust me; I am not exaggerating on this!
If motorcycling is your “drug” and you have a little element of fearlessness in you, then you have got to try out this thrilling experience that is the Dragon’s Tail. Located in Deals Gap NC, a slice in the mountainous region along the North Carolina–Tennessee state line, the Dragon’s Tail represents one of the most challenging and fun rides you can imagine.
Circumscribing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and close to the Little Tennessee River, the route is a well known and a universally celebrated goal for motorcyclists and sports car aficionados alike. It ranks as top-10 among for many riders and one to definitely put on your Destination Rides wish list.
The Dragon Whips Its Tail
Most begin the Dragon run at Fugitive Bridge. It’s from here you can see Cheoah Dam. This landmark is where Harrison Ford’s character in the movie “The Fugitive” jumped to escape federal agents.
“Should I jump off of this dam or just take the Dragon’s Tail? Decisions, decisions…”
The “Dragon” comprises a stretch of U.S. 129 of just 11 miles. This small chunk of roadway is said to be made up of 318 curves. For twisties fans, this is good news, as there are very few rides that compare to the Dragon’s back and forth movement. Some of the Dragon’s most popular (and treacherous) corners own their own nicknames, christened by locals with such monikers as “Wheelie Hell,” “Gravity Cavity” and “Brake or Bust Bend.” But all kidding aside, The Dragon’s Tail represents some of the most challenging riding you will ever experience in your lifetime.
It’s at Deal’s Gap where the adventure begins. Located at the North Carolina–Tennessee state line, Deal’s Gap is where the Dragon whips its tail, providing twisty after mind-bending twisty. This is where pure riding bliss begins, so follow your line and enjoy the ride.
This is a very special and unique highway. There are no intersecting roads, no houses with driveways and no businesses. Each and every curve is different. There is very little elevation change. And many of the curves are banked like a race track. Watch out for a few twists that are off-camber and several that are decreasing radius curves
The natural surroundings are enticing to the eye, but don’t let yourself become distracted when taking this amazing and challenging ride
Things Not to do When Taking on the Dragon
This route allows riders to only pin a top speed of 35 mph—and it’s for good reason. Dangerous at times, riders pass on double yellow or corner too quickly and end up in the other lane. Hey, riding a bike can be dangerous business—we all know this—but approach the Dragon with the respect it deserves and you’ll not only have one of the greatest riding experiences in your life, but you’ll live to tell the tale.
How to Take the Dragon and Survive 101:
- Avoid site seeing. It’s North Carolina. It’s Tennessee. It’s beautiful. Watch the road when you ride. If you want to site see, buy a ticket from the numerous touring companies in the area and take a bus.
- Ride at your appropriate skill level. The Dragon is a ride to be enjoyed, not mastered.
- Don’t straighten your lines when cornering. Best bet is to maintain your line in the center of “your” lane. Numerous videos exist showing the perils of taking this ride with too much speed and ending up across the double yellow. This is where bad things happen.
- Watch for wildlife.
- Use throttle and clutch control over braking. With that being said, insure your brakes and tires are at optimal performance levels.
- Wear a helmet and quality constructed riding gear. Good leather and ballastic nylon with protective armor will keep you protected in the event you go down. Leave the jeans and tennis shoes at home.
Don’t be like this guy and cross the double yellow. Parts of the Dragon are incredibly treacherous. Speed control is essential.
Lodging, Camping and Eats
There resorts, motels and campgrounds located throughout the NC/TN sides of the Dragon run. There is nothing offered on the Dragon run by fun riding times. Most everything is located outside.
From the South:
In the South, near the NC entrance to the Dragon, you’ll find accommodation in Robbinsville, Fontana, and Deals Gap.
Robbinsville and Deals Gap offer many choices for lodging and eateries. Google Map these towns and select “Nearby” below the city listing. You can then choose from a submenu that offers you options for restaurants and hotels.
Fontana Village is another option that offers lodging and food for Dragon riders. They offer suites in the lodge, cabin rentals and camping space at Fontana Lake. They even provide hookups if you’re traveling by RV or trailer. Tent camping is available as well.
From the North:
From the Tennessee side, riders have choices in Maryville. Again, Google is your friend.
For many adventure riders there is the stunning Great Smoky Mountain National Park for camping options. The Park offers great views of the smoky mountains and historic structures from early Appalachia.
Motorcycle riding is life affirming. The open road and some occasional challenges once in a while creates beautiful experiences that make us to appreciate the rejuvenation that riding brings. The Dragon’s Tail is one of those rides. So with so little time, and so much open road to cover, don’t you think you should consider the Dragon’s Tail for your next Destination Ride? We do.
Great history, maps and more information on this ride found here www.tailofthedragon.com