On the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, this portion of US 129 bordered by the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest to the north, and the Cherokee National Forest on the south is called the Tail of the Dragon.
It is called that way because of the path that looks like a dragon’s tail.
The route is also named the Deals Gaps. There are many twists and turns, and the road is considered as one of the best drives in the United States along with scenic routes as the Ortega Highway or the Million Dollar Highway.
Where is the Tail of the Dragon?
It begins in North Carolina and ends in Tennessee. It winds around the southern border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The road is close to the Blue Ridge Parkway making it an ideal addition if you like scenic road trips.
The road and its typical Appalachian landscapes are magnificent, especially as no construction pollutes the route, still, people come here mainly to test their driving skills and experience the rare satisfaction of doing turns.
You can situate the Tail of the Dragon road on the map below:
Enlarge the map
Facts about the Tail of the Dragon
In North America, few roads have the reputation of Route 129. With 318 turns over a distance of 18 kilometers (11 miles) situated into the mountainside, this road puts drivers to the test because of the complexity of the route.
The road is a two lines highway that crosses the Deals Gap at 605 meters (1990 ft) above sea level. It will take you approximately 30 minutes to drive that road.
Winding through the middle of the forest, it is made up of 318 bends over a distance of 18 kilometers, all on the mountainside. The latter is considered the number 1 destination for bikers! Intended for experienced drivers, it will give you curve after curve, uphill, downhill, a good adrenaline rush.
Be careful, the bends are very tight and make the road dangerous. As evidenced by the Tree of Shame located at the entrance to the road. The latter is sadly decorated with pieces of damaged motorcycles on the circuit. Special and totally unique route, the Tail of the Dragon has even caught the attention of several film producers.
History of the Deals Gaps road:
The road exists since the 1900s and it was graveled. It was asphalted in the 1920s.
Since then the road became famous among the bikers who love riding there.
On the road, you will find a gift shop. Also, there is a hotel along the Tail of the Dragon with a restaurant called the Deals Gap motorcycle resort.
You can obviously find other accommodations such as motels, cabins, campings nearby the Tail of the Dragon.
The bikers gave names to the turns like Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Wheelie Hell, Shade Tree Corner, Mud Corner, Sunset Corner, Gravity Cavity, Beginner’s End, and Brake or Bust Bend.
It is a legendary and fabulous road that every biker or driver wants to have “done” at least once in their life!
How to get to the Tail of the Dragon?
In order to drive the Tail of the Dragon Blue Ridge Parkway, you have to drive road 129.
If you are coming from the North from Knoxville for example, drive directly road 129. And, if you are coming from the south you have to drive road 28 or 129 until you reach the Deals Gap motorcycle resort where the road starts.
You can visualize how to get there on this Deals Gap Tail of The Dragon map of the drive:
A preview of this scenic road:
The popularity of this road is increasing and it making it more and more difficult to drive because it is overcrowded. Accidents are common as many drive there at speeds well above their actual capacity. Fortunately, the road does not allow very high speeds, and mortalities are rare. Besides, parts of the carcasses of the vehicles that crashed on this road adorn the Tree of Shame near the Deals Gap.
If you are planning to drive the Tail of the Dragon road, you can watch this Youtube video:
Is the Tail of the Dragon road Open?
The road is open all year round, although in the winter the weather in this zone is harsh and very unpredictable. Indeed, It didn’t take long for a sunny day to turn into heavy snowfall.
The only benefit of driving during the winter on the Dragon is the capacity to see through many corners. Indeed, because the trees have lost their leaves. There is great visibility from November through March
Please note that the National Park Service closes the road after heavy rain or thunderstorms. Watch out for animals that may cross the road. Indeed, you will be able to meet bears, deer, and wild boars.
We advise you to avoid the high season or the weekend if you want to enjoy your ride and not be in a traffic jam! If you can’t come here in the low season come early!
Please note that the speed limit on the road was 90 km/h (55 mph) prior to 1992. It was reduced to 50 km/h (30 mph) in 2005 after numerous accidents and police often perform speed checks. In fact, 37 persons died on that road from 2000 to 2017.
If you are looking for one of the best drives in the USA, the Tail of the Dragon is definitely a must-do! Although, you should respect the speed limit and be very careful: many bikers consider that the Deals Gap road is a race track and can cause accidents.
Pictures sources: CC BY 2.5, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6975930 / By Washuotaku – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34143695
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