With 318 curves in 11 miles, it's America's number one motorcycle and sports car road. Deals Gap, also known as Tail of the Dragon, is a portion of U.S. Route 129 in Blount County, Tennessee, situated in a gap in Swain County, North Carolina, United States. It's heralded as one of the most scenic drives in USA.
The road still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey. With hundreds of blind curves, long blind crests, and high degrees of camber, this claustrophobic scenic forest road presents plenty of opportunities to leave the pavement both laterally, and longitudinally, and will provide a challenge for even the most seasoned sim veterans. The 11-mile stretch of the Dragon in Tennessee is said to have 318 curves. Some of the Dragon's sharpest curves have names like Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Wheelie Hell, Shade Tree Corner, Mud Corner, Sunset Corner, Gravity Cavity, Beginner's End, and Brake or Bust Bend. The road earned its name from its curves being said to resemble a dragon's tail. While you're there, be sure to visit the Tree of Shame, where crashed motorcycle bits adorn the tree and dangle from its branches as a reminder of the road's dangers.
The road is certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. It mostly travels through forested area and there are a few scenic overlooks and pull-off points along the route. Prior to 1992 the speed limit in both Tennessee and North Carolina was 55 mph. In 1993 the speed limit on the Tennessee side was lowered to 40 mph. In 2002 the speed limit was lowered to 30 mph, which is still in effect today. The North Carolina portion of the Dragon was lowered to 30 mph in early 2005. The presence of law enforcement on the Tennessee portion has dramatically increased. This road used to be a popular shortcut for truckers when I-40 was blocked by a landslide (which tends to happen once in a while). After so many accidents and incidents involving semi-tractors the authorities finally decided to restrict large commercial vehicles from using this stretch a few years ago.
The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable and it does not take much time for the bright sun shine to change over to moderate to heavy snow fall. Weather on the Dragon is fairly predictable most of the summer. The winter months from November through March can be impossible to predict. The road is desolate and can be a real adventure in the winter months, having to deal with bears, turkeys, deer, and wild boars in the road, trees down, ice/snow, and tractor-trailers taking-up both lanes in the curves. It is not a road for the squeamish, but if you're looking for a little excitement don't miss this one.
It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging. There are many ridable days in the winter, but they are not predictable. Higher elevations of the Cherohala and Blue Ridge Parkway can experience snow well into May. Many summer afternoons bring widely scattered rain showers. Often the weather stations and web weather will indicate rain for the entire area. Be aware that you can still have nearly a full day of riding before the summer showers hit in mid-afternoon. And these showers are here and there .... not everywhere. They often disipate in the late afternoon leaving several hours of good riding before dark.
The main risk on this curvy and narrow mountainous road is coming around a blind corner and discover a vehicle proceeding toward you. Cars can run the Dragon most of the year. Winter is a great time to have the road to yourself. At times the road is dusted with salt/sand, but that is only when a severe storm is coming. It is usually gone after the next good rain. One big advantage of winter on the Dragon is the ability to see through many the corners because the trees have dropped their leaves. Good visibility from November through March. One downside is the sun is lower and can get in your eyes even at noon. The shadows also make for reduced visability. It's one of the Hollywood favorite roads. It has been the setting for countless movies (in the Cheoah Dam Harrison Ford jumped in the movie The Fugitive...) and advertisements.