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Tail of the Dragon

Tail of the Dragon


Tennessee is known for great motorcycle adventure roads. Starting anywhere east of the Tennessee River, this state gets more pronounced hills until you reach the Cumberland Plateau – east of Cookeville. Going east from the plateau you quickly make your way into the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains – and there you get more grins per mile than perhaps anywhere in the continental United States. And while the Smoky Mountains are a major travel destination, for bikers, there is one motorcycle road on the Cumberland Plateau which is not as well known as the Tail of the Dragon and the Foothills Parkway – The Devil’s Triangle.

Getting to the Devil’s Triangle

The Devil’s Triangle

The Devil’s Triangle is made up of Tennessee Highways 116, 62 and 330.

If you are coming from Nashville, you will want to take I-40 East to Monterey, Exit 300. Ride into Monterey and turn right on Hwy 62. Stay on Hwy 62 for approximately 50 miles until you reach Hwy 116 – which you turn left on to start your ride of the Devil’s Triangle.

If you are coming from Knoxville, or the Smoky Mountains, take I-40 west to exit 376-A and turn right on Pellissippi Parkway (TN Hwy 162). Follow signs to Hwy 62 and continue heading northwest, through Oak Ridge, to Oliver Springs. In Oliver Springs turn right on Hwy 330, taking it approximately nine miles to Hwy 116 where you will turn left to start your Devil’s Triangle adventure.

Riding the Devil’s Triangle

Some of the many switchbacks on the eastern leg of the Devil’s Triangle

While the actual triangle includes three highways, 116 is the REAL deal. Highways 330 and 62 form the base of the triangle and are fairly mundane. The left and right legs of the triangle are formed by 116 and to say it’s a gnarly, hairy, monster of an adventure road is an understatement. It is highly technical – and dangerous. Why is it dangerous? Well, let the Grey Beard Biker tell you. This is an old mining road. It is nestled along steep cliffs and rock walls. Today, large logging trucks still navigate the road. It is perched along spines of low mountains on the Cumberland Plateau. Because this section of highway doesn’t connect any major villages or cities, it is not well maintained. You will often find sections of road which are crumbling on the cliff-side or gravel washed across the road – many times in the middle of blind curves.

You can actually ride the Devil’s Triangle in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. If you are not a highly experienced rider, I recommend only riding this road in the clockwise direction. Going this direction, you will approach the four tight switchback curves on the eastern leg, from the outside, going downhill, making the hairpins easier to navigate. This is critical, because from the other counter-clockwise direction, these nasty curves gain 25-40 foot of elevation change in a matter of 25-30 yards. Many a self proclaimed experienced rider has taken these switchbacks in the wrong gear and tumbled down with their bike to the entrance of the curve. And I will also tell you this, having ridden in the mountains for many years, these switchbacks are unlike any you will find east of the Mississippi River. They literally curve back against themselves.

WARNING: make sure you are looking all the way through the switchbacks when going counter-clockwise!

These switchbacks are amazingly tight

Unlike the Tail of the Dragon, the Devil’s Triangle will actually give you some periodic breaks in the white knuckled, adrenaline filled, ass puckering excitement. And believe me, your numb hands will appreciate it. But don’t let these breaks lull you into complacency. Many of the curves you will encounter in these sections are of reducing radius. If you enter them too fast, your speed may well carry you through the curve and off the road. And because this area is largely unpopulated, another vehicle may not come by for a very long time. If you are unfortunate enough to go off the road, and need medical attention, you are going to be in a very bad bind as there is also no cellular coverage in the area for your mobile phone.

While the eastern leg of 116 is the most exciting, the western leg is also very technical on the lower 1/3. And while the switchbacks are not as unforgiving as eastern leg’s, there are plenty of them to provide you ear-to-ear grins.

Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

Finally, do not forget to stop at the historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, on the western leg. This historic prison housed James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. Closed in 2009, it now has a great little restaurant and you can tour the prison daily. Additionally, there are several little general stores along Hwy 116 that are worth stopping at. The people are all friendly and it will give you a chance to have your heart-rate slow.

Until next time, bikers and patriots, keep the shiny side up, master trigger control and ride often! Grey Beard Biker signing off!

The Grey Beard Biker™️
@Biker4Life on Gab

Grey Beard Biker Videos – The Devil’s Triangle

Riding the Eastern Leg of The Devil’s Triangle (counter-clockwise)
Riding the Western Leg of the Devil’s Triangle (counter-clockwise)

Some More Images of The Devil’s Triangle

These steep curvy roads will make your ride on The Devil’s Triangle memorable
Be careful of the sides of these roads – note: no guardrail – this could ruin your day
The switchbacks on the eastern leg of the Devil’s Triangle are not as gnarly

The Grey Beard Biker has so many motorcycle roads he loves to ride. He also counts himself as fortunate that he lives in Tennessee – a state with countless such roads. One of his favorites is in the mountains of East Tennessee – Newfound Gap Road.

Also known as US Hwy 441, Newfound Gap Road connects Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina. Roughly 35 miles long, Newfound Gap Road offers well-banked sweeping curves, switchbacks, beautiful vistas and Grey Beard’s favorite – a steeply banked 360 degree curve going through a tunnel – which offers those of us with loud pipes a chance to scare anyone else in the tunnel! There are ample pull-offs so you will have plenty of opportunities for selfies and panorama shots to chronicle your ride. But a word of caution is in order: do not expect to blast along Newfound Gap Road dragging your floorboards. The speed limit is 45 and there are always plenty of tourists gawking at the beautiful views – especially when the leaves are in their full glory. Just riding roundtrip on the Gap, with normal traffic, will take you well over 2 1/2 hours.

From Newfound Gap Road, you can connect to other great motorcycle roads including Moonshiner 28, the Tail of the Dragon and the Blue Ridge Parkway – the first two of which, offer floorboard dragging at its very best. Here is an overview of the route of Newfound Gap Road, from Gatlinburg:

Gatlinburg to Cherokee via Newfound Gap Road

Check out the following GoPro video, from your ever lovable Grey Beard Biker. You know he provides this to you because he loves you too.

The Grey Beard Biker™️
@Biker4Life on Gab

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the areas surrounding it, provides bikers with some of the most beautiful riding anywhere in the United States. From steep, winding passes through rock bluffs, to gorges running along rivers and backroads heading to little known waterfalls, this area has it all.

Bald River Falls

Your lovable Grey Beard Biker heads to East Tennessee every chance he gets. We are very fortunate to have close friends who know the area well and have helped us discover some beautiful places away from the traffic and tourists. One of these places is Bald River Falls. While it’s very close to the Cherohala National Scenic Byway, most of the tourists don’t notice the sign to Bald River Falls and drive right by River Road. Many times when we have visited the falls, we have only had to share its majesty with ten or twelve other admirers.

But Bald River Falls is only the destination. The journey is just as special. You get to Bald River Falls by riding east, approximately 4 miles, on Tennessee Hwy 165 – the Cherohala Skyway – from the junction of Tennessee Hwy 360, in Tellico Plains. You will have started climbing into the mountains by this point and will see a sign for River Road and Bald River Falls. Turn right on River Road and follow it approximate seven miles to Bald River Falls.

Directions from Tellico Plains, Tennessee to Bald River Falls

This section of River Road is paved, with beautiful views of the Tellico River, its bluffs and other small waterfalls. While not overly technical, there are plenty of tight curves and narrow bridges to navigate. While River Road continues past Bald River Falls, it does turn to gravel – so rider beware. Your lovable Grey Beard Biker highly suggests that you turn around at this point and ride back to the Cherohala Skyway and ride it into North Carolina. From there you can ride lots of other great roads like Moonshiner 28, the Tail of the Dragon or Wayah Road.

Now, get our there and do some riding!

The Grey Beard Biker™️
@Biker4Life on Gab

The Foothills Parkway has always been one of the best rides in the Great Smoky Mountains. Your lovable Grey Beard Biker rarely misses a chance to ride the Parkway when he is in East Tennessee. It is both a destination and part of the journey. It is a beautiful ride, one where a biker can set his cruise control and just run the speed limit the entire length, and rarely, if ever, touch your brakes. Connecting Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville to rides like the Tail of the Dragon, Cherohala Skyway and Wayah Road it is a staple of the Smoky Mountains. Until recently, you would have to traverse Wears Valley and Townsend, navigating the heavy traffic, to get to the entrance of Foothills Parkway, near Walland, Tennessee.

In November 2018, the final section of the 16 mile extension of the Parkway opened, which now connects Wears Valley to the original section at Walland. This makes it easier to reach Chilowee, Tennessee, from Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Pigeon Forge.

Construction of this section of the Parkway started in 1966 and was delayed while the 1.65 mile “Missing Link” was completed. This small section of the Parkway required modern construction techniques, not available in the 1960s, to build nine bridges which literally seem to hang off the side of the mountains – but are actually all freestanding.

During our visit last fall to Pigeon Forge, we were unable to ride this new section, as we were there one week before the official opening. Needless to say, Old Grey Beard was a bit disappointed as we were there during the peak of fall colors.

But the wait proved to be very worthwhile as we were have been able to ride it twice, from both directions, this spring. To say the views of Wears Valley are amazing might well be the biggest understatement your Grey Beard has ever made. Riding east along the Foothills Parkway to the “Missing Link,” gives the impression you are riding into heaven. You can see the bridge curve around the mountain, with nothing to the south but the spread out, open valley and the sky to the east, directly in front of you. My only complaint is that the National Park Service has set the speed limit about 10 MPH too slow, but it is understandable as the views are so overpowering that people would never be able to stay in their lane through the curves.

If you are planning a trip to the Gatlinburg area, make sure to take time to ride this beautiful road. Traffic is manageable and there are plenty of spots to pull over and take pictures. Check out the GoPro video, below, to experience this stunning ride.

Grey Beard Biker™️
@Biker4Life on Gab

The Tail of the Dragon is a marketing genius. Deal’s Gap Resort, US 129 Photos and Killboy have made a killing selling t-shirts, hats, stickers, pins, motel rooms and pictures. Before the road was promoted to gear heads, there was almost nothing at Deal’s Gap. That has changed big time over the last decade or two.

Nevertheless, we ride it most trips to Eastern Tennessee because it is included on the route to other great rides. This picture was from our last ride there on May 24. We were definitely dragging the right floorboard here – as we do throughout the Dragon. I ended up buying this picture from US 129 photos as it is a unique view that they had not captured of us before. The pictures are one of the things which make the Dragon a must-do in my opinion.

The Grey Beard Biker™️
@Bike4Life on Gab

Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort