The Tail of the Dragon – A Smoky Mountain Road Trip

The Tail of the Dragon – A Smoky Mountain Road Trip

On This Page

Trip Snapshot


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.


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

Back to Top

How We Got Around


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

Back to Top

Where We Stayed

A Cabin in Bryson City

We rented an adorable cabin Alex found online. It was located in Bryson City, a charming mountain town.

The view from the back deck:

Did I mention there was a hot tub?

Back to Top

What We Did

Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

Before we took on the legendary drive, we spent a couple of days hiking.

There seemed to be a constant haze in the sky, it’s easy to see how the mountains got their name.

Numerous hiking trails can be found throughout the area.

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

Back to What We Did

Fontana Dam

We stopped to check out the Fontana Dam.

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

There is a parking area where you can get out and walk across the dam.

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

Back to What We Did

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.

Back to What We Did

The Tail of the Dragon

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

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

As we made our way down and rounded bend after bend in the road, it was clear how the treacherous track appeals to enthusiasts 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, now we had to turn around and go back the way we came, back through the 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 started to revolt. I had to tell Alex he was either going to have to take it easy, or deal with me getting sick all over the passenger seat.

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 pick up this sticker at the gift shop.

Back to What We Did

Back to Top