With 318 curves in 11 miles, is 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 and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. A quick glance at the map, at its sheer drops and serpentine twists and turns, confirms that this is no hype. 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 drive is definitely worth it. Don’t forget your camera!
The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. Any barriers along the edge afford little more than token protection; large stretches should be taken at a snail's pace and a lookout kept for vehicles coming from the opposite direction! 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. The road is certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation.
This road is very exciting and sometimes very exposed and unsecured driveway in innumerable twists and turns. This infamous road is tightly hairpinned and bumped, an exquisite winding mountain drive with sharp and blind curves and hairpin switchbacks leading the traveler over the mountains. 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. The road is difficult and it’s a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both).
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. A sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions. 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.
This road is usually open all year, but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. There are many ridable days in the winter, but they are not predictable. Heavy snowfalls can sometimes block some sections of the road and can be extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. Higher elevations of the Cherohala and Blue Ridge Parkway can experience snow well into May. Conditions can change quickly and be harsh. 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. Road closures can be frequent, so check conditions before traveling to this area.
The main risk on this curvy and narrow mountainous road which rarely permits speeds over 30km/h 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. So, use caution and enjoy the magnificent scenery.
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.