#0 of 24 National Park Things To Do

Tail of the Dragon

Satisfy Your Need for Speed at Tail of the Dragon
Written by: Jasmin Diaz
Staff Score:
5.0 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Adrenaline lovers shouldn’t miss this famous 11-mile stretch of motorway in the Smokey Mountains. With hundreds of curves and nothing to hamper your need for speed, it will provide any motorcycle or race car lover with the thrill of a lifetime. Plan enough time on your trip to do it multiple times – it doesn’t get old!

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

Properly known as Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, this famous motorcycle and sports car road justly deserves its popularity. It boasts more than 300 curves in 11 miles (318 to be exact!) and will provide any visitor to the Smoky Mountains with a thrill and a half.

Speed isn’t the only reason to visit Tail of the Dragon, of course. It also offers amazing views of the forests between the Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest. There are also several scenic overlooks with pull-offs so you can enjoy the sweeping vistas along the way.

However, the main attraction is the road itself, which will pose a challenge even to the most hardened driver. Many of its curves are blind and it offers any number of blind crests as well. You will experience high degrees of camber as you take the tight turns, so make sure those tires are in good shape. If America were trying to design the most epic racecourse imaginable, it could hardly have done better than this.

In addition to its curves, this road – officially designated US 129 – is all by its lonesome. That means you don’t have to worry about any cars pulling on or off at any point along that 11-mile stretch. Your only concern is other traffic, so you must still practice good safety sense while driving or riding the road. It’s a good idea to start slowly, then ramp up your pace as you drive it over and over again.

Overall, safety is a key factor in enjoying Tail of the Dragon to the utmost. The number of curves means motorcycles do not infrequently leave the pavement, and cars aren’t exempt either. If you’re looking for a good reminder, check out the Tree of Shame in Deals Gap, North Caroline. Appended to its trunk and branches are hundreds of motorcycle parts from crashed vehicles – a true testament to its dangers.

Also a testament? The names some of its fiercest corners have earned. These include shiver-inducing epithets such as:

  • Hog Pen Bend
  • Wheelie Hell
  • Beginner’s End
  • Brake or Bust Bend
  • Gravity Cavity
  • Mud Corner

Now that we’ve delivered that warning, we have to say it’s one of the must-visits for any biker touring the area on the back of a hog. Plus, there are plenty of places to stop and rest awhile on either side of the road. That includes the official Tail of the Dragon pit stop and store, as well as taverns and restaurants near the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.

The latter makes it easy to find refuge after a long day of riding, with amenities such as a motel, campsites, a main office, and a store. People in cars and trucks also stay here, so there’s no need to hide out elsewhere if you’re traveling with a larger vehicle or bringing family along for the ride.

Don’t wait any longer to experience Tail of the Dragon for yourself!

The Tail of the Dragon is located along US 129 between two national wilderness areas: the Great Smoky Mountains and Cherokee National Forest. One of the best aspects of this stretch of motorway is that there are no driveways, onramps or offramps, or intersecting roads in the area to slow you down.

Insider Tips:
-It’s a good idea to plan enough time to drive the road several (or many!) times. The turns are quite tight and accidents do happen – make sure to visit the Tree of Shame if you need proof. Giving yourself time to practice it more slowly a few times can make for a safer and more enjoyable experience when you finally give in to that lead foot.
-Want to make sure you remember your trip? Check out the Tail of the Dragon store on Tapoco Road for commemorative signs and stickers. You can order custom signs online as well!