Tail of the Dragon, North Carolina, USA

Nearing the Dragon,I climbed out of North Carolina and into Tennessee to an elevation of 1,756 feet at Deal’s Gap. 11 miles long and packed with over 300 curves, the ‘Tail of the Dragon’ is one of the most technical roads I’ve ever driven.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m scared of the driving dynamics of an old 911, and the road’s technicality unnerved me at times. Taking advantage of the plethora of sweeping banked turns and quick dips and dives can prove difficult if you don’t have a wealth of experience at the wheel of such a car. I wanted to push my own 911 harder, but never had the chance in the circumstances.

The problem with the Tail of the Dragon, you see, is that it is filled with traffic. If you ever find yourself in a post-apocalyptic America, the route from Deal’s Gap may in fact be one of the most challenging roads on Earth, but until then it’s hard to think of it as anything more than a tourist trap, rife with opportunities to get yourself into trouble with cyclists or pedestrians.

Tail of the Dragon 2

The Tail of the Dragon is often touted as the best road in America, although there are other great roads for enthusiasts in the area too, should you wish to venture off course.

Approximately two hours south from Deal’s Gap, you’ll find the Unicoi Turnpike in Helen, GA, as one such example. West is Highway 348 and Gainesville Highway, and some more of the best roads I’ve ever personally driven on unravel once more, offering everything Deal’s Gap may not be able to provide on a busy day. Quiet and untravelled, they twist around on themselves.

Essential info
Location: 
Deal’s Gap, North Carolina
Latitude: 35.4910N/839400W
Length of drive: 11 miles
Points of interest: Tail of the Dragon, State Parks, Miles upon miles of good roads
Food and accommodation:
Tapoco Lodge
Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort

The scenery, if you dare to look, is beautiful. I learned a lot about my car on those roads, and the 911 chassis handles better than I’m willing to push it. I did drive some of these roads in a pretty dedicated manner, but didn’t need to push too hard to get the best from car or road.

Looking back, I can see that I missed even more great driving roads. I didn’t think to pull out my phone; I was too busy enjoying the absence of radio and cruise control in the twists and turns of North Carolina.

 

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Comments (1)

  • Bruce S

    Josh,
    You don’t mention what time of day or day of the week you drove the Dragon. I found traffic light in the early morning and late afternoon during a recent drive. It’s definitely not a main through route. I saw plenty of motorcycles – as the road is an icon to bikers – but no bicyclists. It should be noted that there are numerous pull-offs and most slow motorists pull off. I agree that there are roads in the vicinity that offer a more engaging variety of corners and short straights. The Dragon is nearly a constant stream of tight radius curves.