This 139 mile Ride begins and ends at the
Fontana Village Resort
in Fontana Dam, NC.
This ride is one of the classic loops for
riders visiting the Smoky Mountains. Either direction is great
depending on whether you want to hit the Dragon or the Cherohala
Start by riding NC 28 east and then
turning right onto NC Route 143 and following it to Robbinsville.
Enter the Nantahala National Forest, pass Santeetlah Lake, and start
climbing the Cherohala Skyway. The Cherohala is similar to the best of
the Blue Ridge Parkway (high elevation, scenic vistas, some nice
Cherohala Skyway Sign
Stop for a break and good food at
Grains in Tellico Plains, TN.
Get back on the bike for a relaxed and
scenic ride north on TN Route 360 to Vonore and Maryville. Turn right
on TN 72 and follow it and Route 129 to the Dragon.
Stop just before the Dragon at the Calderwood Dam Scenic Overlook
to admire the view.
Calderwood Dam Scenic Overlook
The Dragon (TN 129) can be a lot of fun to ride
with a few caveats:
1) Try to ride it early in the day when it
is not crowded. Weekdays are best. Busy weekends can get crowded and
2) Prepare your mind for blind decreasing
radius turns. Never charge into a corner. A GPS can be a huge help
reading curves, but do not rely on it.
3) Watch for people straying over the
centerline. Prepare for it. Do not hug the center line.
4) Watch for speed traps. Consider riding
the Dragon in one direction to make sure that it is not being heavily
enforced. You can then ride in the opposite direction without
Ridden with the proper mindset and the
Dragon can be a blast. I rode it 10 times on my last trip.
Dragon Map (labeled)
Riding the Dragon
After riding the Dragon, stop at the Deals
Gap Motorcycle Resort and pick up souvenirs and see the Tree of Shame.
Go across the street to see the Dragon Statues and peruse more Dragon
Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort
Tree of Shame
Dragon Tail Statue
Leave the Dragon and ride east on North Carolina Route 28
through Nantahala National Forest. NC 28 from the Dragon to Route
143 in Robbinsville might be my favorite road in
the Appalachians. The curves are plentiful with good sight lines.
NC Route 28
The route ends back at the Fontana Village