Spanning 11 miles and packing 318 tight curves, the Tail of the Dragon is one of the most exhilarating motorcycle rides in the country. This scenic route is located on Highway 129, running through Blount County and into North Carolina. In addition to stunning views of the mountains and thick, evergreen forests, the Dragon is popular with motorcyclists for the challenge of its sharp turns and steep cliff drop-offs.
Preparing for the ride
If you don’t already own a motorcycle, you’ll need to buy one before you can set off on your adventure. Motorcycle prices vary, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $5000-$10,000. Take a look at your finances and work out what type of motorbike you can afford in terms of monthly payments. Also, don’t forget to shop around for the best insurance rates. You’ll also need the right gear, which includes a high-abrasion grade leather jacket, gloves, boots, and a helmet. High-quality motorcycle pants are also important as they protect the hips, knees, and shins.
If you’re approaching the Dragon from North Carolina, you’ll have to drive two miles through the Nantahala National Forest. Alternatively, approaching from Tennessee entails eleven miles through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The route is quietest on weekdays. If you’re going on a weekend, try and get there early (at least before 8am) to increase your chances of a quiet, uninterrupted run. Make sure you have enough gas since there’s only one gas station in the area — it’s located in Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort where you’ll also find sundry shop and motel.
The Dragon can be a dangerous route — there were 71 recorded motorcycle wrecks in 2017 — so it’s important to stay as safe as possible. Stick to the 30-mph speed limit. Watch out for deer, wild turkeys, and bears which can sometimes pop up unexpectedly. Also be vigilant of cars entering and leaving overlooks. Fortunately, there aren’t any intersecting public roads, which increases both the safety and your enjoyment of the route. In fact, it’s recommended motorcyclists drive slowly once though the route to familiarize themselves before speeding up.
The Tail of the Dragon is a must for any motorcycle enthusiast. It’s an ideal location to improve and test your biking skills. As long as you’re safe and use common sense, you’ll have a great time navigating the route’s famous twists and turns.