A river surrounded by thick trees. Asheville
21 April 2015

Tail of The Dragon

Hold tight. Of the USA’s best known drives, few can match the twist’n’turn drama of the so-called “Tail of the Dragon”. Named for its flowing curves – there are no less than 57 bends along its length – the North Carolina hillside road has achieved legendary status among sports car drivers. It’s one of the clear highlights of this 165-mile US road trip from Asheville to Knoxville, which also takes in classic mountain scenery and some archetypal Southeastern towns and cities.

Banner Image Credit: dieter_weinelt

  • Asheville

    Founded in the late 1700s in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, arty Asheville has grown into a decidedly hip city of some 88,000 people. Pay a visit to George Vanderbilt’s grand Biltmore Estate, billed as “America’s Largest Home”, then browse the New Morning Art Gallery. To get a sense of the area’s passion for local produce, meanwhile, sign up to one of the city’s regular Asheville Food Tours. East of town you’ll find the neighbouring settlement of Black Mountain, birthplace of legendary singer Roberta Flack. From Asheville,  Maggie Valley is 40 minutes away.

    Image Credit: BlakeLewisPhotography

    From 29/04/2015

    View over Baltimore Estate in Asheville.
  • Maggie Valley

    Sitting pretty in the Smoky Mountains, the small town of Maggie Valley has considerable charm. Set aside an afternoon for the Wheels Through Time Transportation Museum, with its collection of vintage cars and motorbikes, then call in for steaks and seafood at Cataloochee Café & Bakery. Like Asheville, Maggie Valley also sits close to another famously scenic drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway, which stretches east to Virginia. Continuing west instead, you’ll reach Bryson City after less than 28 miles.

    Image Credit: bradkeb

    From 29/04/2015

    View over Maggie Valley. Green trees and fields.
  • Bryson City

    Despite its name, Bryson City is very much a town. With a setting on the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, however, it’s no stranger to visitors. Outdoor-lovers will be in their element: hiking, horse-riding, tubing, fishing, rafting and kayaking are all offered. Our tips? Take a round-trip excursion on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad then settle down to the Southern specials at Cork & Bean. This is an area with Native American heritage too: the town is just a few short miles from where the Cherokee tribe is thought to have first settled. Back on the road, an hour’s drive brings you to the stupendous Tail of the Dragon.

    Image Credit: nfalsey

    From 24/04/2015

    Viewof trees and hills near Bryson City
  • Tail of The Dragon

    Formally listed as US Route 129 but far better known as “The Dragon”, this is a highway with a difference. You’ll snake along its ten miles of tight bends as the road winds past Deals Gap and into the mountains, showing exactly why it’s been ranked the 23rd World’s Best Driving Road. And by the time the road straightens and you’ve caught your breath, you’ll find yourself well across the Tennessee border. Close by is the dam from which Harrison Ford jumped in The Fugitive. Plus, do you remember the scene in The Fugitive when Harrison Ford’s character took a leap for freedom, escaping the clutches of Tommy Lee Jones? That very same dam is close by – so you can see first-hand where Dr. Richard Kimble washed up. Your final stop, Knoxville, is just over an hour away to the north.    

    Image Credit: donna_0622

    From 29/04/2015

    Curved road of tail to the dragon surrounded by trees.
  • Knoxville

    Spread across the banks of the Tennessee River, the funky university city of Knoxville gives a suitably rewarding end-point to your car-hire trip. Its main focal point is Market Square, a pedestrianised area that attracts street artists, musicians and market stalls – you’ll find Stock & Barrel, a quality burger joint, nearby. The city also has a very lively arts and festival scene, so check listings at the 1920s-era Tennessee Theatre and the even older Bijou Theatre. If you’re here in September or October, meanwhile, you’ll witness Market Square transformed into a Friday night open-air cinema.

    Image Credit: C Jill Reed

    From 29/04/2015

    View of a street in Knoxville
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