Drive the Tail of the Dragon: America’s most exciting 11 miles
Tail of the Dragon may only be 11 miles, but it's still the most exciting, terrifying, and awesome stretch of road in America...
Twists, turns, and thick woods... This drive isn’t about scenic overlooks and nature’s majesty like a drive through Arches or down the Loneliest Highway, Tail of the Dragon is about you, the pavement, and 2 hands of white knuckles around a steering wheel. That’s why this stretch of road is considered one of the most exciting drives in America. Do you have the guts to tackle its 318 turns?
Cutting through the mountains at Deal’s Gap at the TN/NC state line, the Tail of the Dragon is actually just a portion of the longer US 129, or as some North Carolina folks call it, “that damn road to Tennessee.”
Tailofthedragon.com warns riders and drivers of the perils that await them on the Tail of the Dragon:
Beware …. it is not a road to sight see on. The attraction is the road itself, not the scenery. No need to look at the wooded roadside when the curves are coming at you rapid fire. And the curves are what you should be concerned with.
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.
Whether you’re starting or completing the Tail of the Dragon at the intersection of US 129 & NC 28, this is the perfect place to snap pictures, grab souvenirs, eat lunch, have a cold beer, and even spend the night. Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, right near that intersection is an ideal place to do pretty much all those things in one place. Also check out the Tail of the Dragon Store across the street for more great souvenirs and your obligatory photo with the giant Dragon sculpture.
Of course, a stretch of road this famous has a legend or two surrounding it… Travelers of the Dragon claim they’ve heard more than one ghost while on the road at night. With the stretch having claimed the lives of many over the years (On average, the 11 mile Tail of the Dragon takes at least 1 life a year.), it’s natural to assume the road just has to be haunted. Death and bloodshed, however, also came to the area long before the paved road cut through Deal’s Gap. Cherokee fought more than one battle in the area, and it’s reported there’s at least one Civil War soldier buried near the road, and rumors of an angry land owner hanging motorists who wouldn’t pay his toll also figure into the proposition of the Dragon being haunted.
The legend of the Tail of the Dragon has spread far beyond the North Caroline and Tennessee areas and has even caught the eye of movie producers, celebrities, and documentary crews. The road and nearby Cheoah Dam were featured in “The Fugitive” and some of the gearhead classic “Two-Lane Blacktop” actually features much of the road at the very end of the movie. If you’re a Two-Lane Blacktop fan then be sure to stop at what was the Esso Gas station/Crafton’s Motel & Restaurant in the movie, now the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.
Need an excuse to drive the Tail of the Dragon? First of all, it’s surrounded by slightly-less curvy, but still exciting and scenic roads, and the Dragon can easily be worked into a scenic drive plan toward Asheville, one of the most beautiful towns in the Carolinas.
More great drives...
Roadtrippers, a great resource for anyone interested in travel.
Want more articles by Austin Coop? Find them here!