With 489 curves, US 421, “The Snake,” rivals the Tail of the Dragon as Tennessee's best drive

The Snake isn’t as well known, but it may be an even better drive than the famous Tail of the Dragon

When it comes to hair-raising, butt-clinching drives through Tennessee and North Carolina, the Tail of the Dragon has long stood as a favorite for motorcyclists, sports car enthusiasts, and other thrill-seekers, but the US 421 aka “The Snake,” is quickly building a cult following all its own. The Tail of the Dragon is short, a mere 11 miles, but The Snake is 3 times as long with 33 miles crossing 3 mountains and 1 valley. Oh, and we forgot the best part: The Snake has a ridiculous 489 curves.

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Tucked just south of Bristol, Tennessee, the 33 miles of US 421 known as “The Snake” starts (or ends, depending how you view it) down in Mountain City, Tennessee. This true Appalachian Mountain town sits at an elevation of 2350 ft., the highest of any city in the state, and offers classic southern charm just like you hope it would. Grab some good country cookin’ at Lois's Country Cafe and you might even get a free bluegrass show while you eat. Other great places to grab a bite in town include Teammates Pizza, Poblanos Mexican Grill, and the Tributary Restaurant. If you need “fuel” before your trip on The Snake, swing by the CoffeeHouse Cafe for your java jolt.

After you hit the road, there won’t be a whole lot of places to stop along the 33 mile stretch of turns, twists, and hills, much like the Tail of the Dragon. You will, however, want to stop off about half way down the Snake to grab a t-shirt or even a bite to eat at the Shady Valley Country Store. They’ve become a gathering point over the years for the thousands of bikers and driving enthusiasts that make a run down the Snake.


From there its nothing but beautiful mountains and valleys and curves until you reach South Holston Lake. Created as part of the TVA, the lake is a great stop if you want to try your hand at catching some bass or spend the weekend swimming and boating.

After passing the lake, the Snake’s excitement starts to dwindle, but just up the road toward Bristol is a worthy stop… The Bristol Caverns.


Once used by Native Americans to swoop in and out of the area undetected, the 200+ million year old caverns, the Bristol Caverns are today a major tourist attraction with paved walkways throughout their many rooms.


Continue from the caverns up to Bristol, TN/VA and end your trip with a burger at The Burger Bar. The place has everything going for it… Good food, classic diner vibes, and a history like no other- in fact, the Burger Bar is said to be the very last place Hank Williams Sr. was seen alive.

Whether you’re looking for a fun drive while on your way to or from a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway or you’re just a diehard driving/riding enthusiast, US 421 aka The Snake will keep you entertained as you tackle its 489 curves and enjoy the beautiful changes in elevation.

Of course, you can’t compare US 421 “The Snake” to the Tail of the Dragon without experiencing both… Read more about the Tail of the Dragon and its 11 miles of awesomeness here.


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Places explored in this article:

This was originally written for Roadtrippers, a great resource for anyone interested in travel.
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