The Tail of the Dragon – A Smoky Mountain Road Trip

The Tail of the Dragon – A Smoky Mountain Road Trip

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On This Page

Trip Snapshot

Objective

To take on the infamous Smoky Mountain drive, the Tail of the Dragon, located at the Deals Gap mountain pass near the North Carolina-Tennessee state line.

When We Went

August 2015

Length of time

We spent 4 days driving through the Smoky Mountains.

Dog-Friendly Trip

Our black lab, Bocephus, came along with us.

Map

Here’s a visual of where we were on this trip:

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How We Got Around

Car

This was our first road trip together through the North Carolina mountains in Alex’s old Volkswagen beetle.

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Where We Stayed

Cabin in Bryson City

We rented an adorable cabin Alex found online. It was located in Bryson City, a charming little town tucked in the mountains.

The view from the back deck was like something out of a fairy tale.

I’d sit out on the deck every morning sipping my coffee and breathing in that crisp, mountain air.

Did I mention there was a hot tub?

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What We Did

Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

Before we took on the legendary drive, we spent a couple of days hiking and exploring the Smoky Mountains.

There seemed to be a constant haze clinging to the skyline every day we were in the mountains, it’s easy to see how they got their name.

Numerous hiking trails can be found throughout the area.

Most hikes we did were fairly moderate. A quick Google search will surely hook you up with one – and maybe even a waterfall.

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Fontana Dam

While we were passing through, we stopped to check out the Fontana Dam. There is a parking area where you can get out and walk across the dam.

At a whopping 480 feet high, it’s the tallest dam in the Eastern United States.

Fontana Lake is a reservoir impounded by the dam and is a great area to go exploring as well.

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The Road to Nowhere

When the Fontana Dam was built, they tore down highway 288. The federal government had planned to replace the highway with a new road, but an environmental issue halted its construction. It was left as is, completely unfinished.

The partially built road now ends, quite abruptly, at a tunnel.

You can walk through the tunnel and see for yourself how it just kind of stops, it really is The Road to Nowhere.

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The Tail of the Dragon

On our last day in the mountains, we were ready to take on the infamous drive.

The Tail of the Dragon is a stretch of US 129 that packs in a staggering 318 curves in just 11 miles located at the Deals Gap mountain pass along the North Carolina–Tennessee border.

As we made our way down the track and rounded bend after bend in the road, it was clear how the treacherous track appeals to joyriders from all over the world.

Motorcyclists would fly around the turns at an easy 45 degree angle, with nothing to prevent them from spinning out and tumbling down the side of the mountain. Nothing. There are no guard rails.

Finally, after swerving around a hundred more times or so, we came to the end of the tail. We weren’t done yet, it was time to turn around and go back the way we had come, another 11 miles of twists and turns.

Now, I’m not one to get motion sick, but not long into my second go around the dragon tail and my stomach began to turn. I finally had to tell Alex he was either going to have to take it easy on the turns, or deal with me getting sick all over the passenger seat of the bug.

I peeked in the back seat, Bocephus was doing great, smiling as big as ever, tail wagging. He’s a much better rider than I am!

Somehow I managed to hold down my lunch and we successfully conquered the Tail of the Dragon.

What did we get for accomplishing such a feat?

Nothing, but we did stop in the gift shop and snag this nifty sticker to take home with us.

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