Bicycling Magazine Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Tail of the Dragon 

Switchbacks, double-S curves, and more: the tarmac twists every which way on this 26-mile out-and-back on the western edge of the Smoky Mountains.

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Author: cvb
Date: 19 Mar 2008 7:59:58 AM
Source: AllSport GPS on my phone
Activity: Bicycling
State: Tennessee (TN)
Distance: 26.46 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 3718 ft
Total Loss: 3720 ft
Net Change: -1 ft
Difficulty: 6 / 10
Tags: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tallassee, Tennessee
Rating: Unrated   Rate it

By some accounts, there are more than 300 curves along the Tail of the Dragon, the nickname for this stretch of US 129. The road rolls mostly flat for the first 2.5 miles before the initial climb. After it rises above the Little Tennessee River and Calderwood Dam, the route follows creeks over ridges and down gullies through dense forest. Eight miles into the climb, you’ll get a respite on a 2-mile descent before a 4-mile ascent to the turn-around point at the North Carolina state line. The return trip is mostly downhill, technical, and thrilling.

Tip: Ride on weekdays to avoid heavy weekend traffic, (which can be particularly hazardous on blind curves).

-Mapped by Chris Vanden Bossche

Position Format: Datum:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Tail of the Dragon

Distance: 26.46 mi Points: 362
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi

Points of Interest

Route Extension

Location: 35.557612, -84.009962
To make a longer ride (70-80 miles), you can include the Foothills Parkway, starting northwest of Townsend, TN.


Location: 35.555823, -84.002377
The start is just south of the Foothills Parkway on TN 129. There is parking at the fishing station on the west side of the road.

Little Tennessee River

Location: 35.544938, -83.992195
Riding along the Little Tennessee River

The Little Tennessee

Location: 35.538687, -83.995156
Another view of the Little Tennessee

Calderwood Dam Overlook

Location: 35.507496, -83.986058
The overlook is on the right about 2 miles after the climbing begins. This first section of climbing is the steepest of the ride (an extended stetch at 6%). Afterwards, the grades are more reasonable (in the 2-3% range) with only brief pitches of steeper terrain.

Up the Dragon's Tail

Location: 35.508055, -83.962026
Heading up the Dragon's Tail

Tail of the Dragon

Location: 35.500928, -83.945160
This 11-mile stretch of US 129 is nicknamed for its supposed resemblance to a dragon's tail when viewed on a map.

A double S-curve

Location: 35.489223, -83.930483
Curves and more curves

State line: Turnaround

Location: 35.474022, -83.921084
Turnaround point: the North Carolina state line. Signs clearly mark the state line in both directions. Take the steep descent down to Deal's Gap, another mile down the road -- supplies and such are available there.


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