It is obvious that all mountains have crazy roads. Engineers can’t build them straight up and over, after all; they must find reasonable grades and accommodate geological asymmetries. But there are crazy roads and there are crazy roads.
Consider the section of United States Route 129 that winds through the Appalachians of western North Carolina. It is called the Tail of the Dragon because it bends 318 times in just 11 miles, some of the turns seemingly tight enough to snap a motor home in half. Motorcycles and sports car drivers flock from all over North America to ride it.
Despite its running along the southern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park – by far the busiest national park, with more than nine million visitors a year – the lakes country, which lies west of Asheville, North Carolina and south of Knoxville, Tennessee, is free of Appalachia’s standard roadside attractions: No Dollywood, no Cracker Barrel, no ticky tacky souvenir clutter.
About two thirds of Graham County in North Carolina is national forest and the elevation ranges from 1,170 feet to almost 5,600, so visitors go the lakes and the mountains. The fishing is epic; the hiking on the Appalachian Trail and in the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Creek Wilderness Area is spectacular. If the Nantahala Gorge’s whitewater doesn’t rev your engine, you can pedal through the Tsali trail system, a celebrated mountain biking destination.
The sense of escape is palpable, occasionally even literal: The Cheoah Dam at the south end of the dragon’s tail, was the site of Harrison Ford’s plunge off the spillway scene in “The Fugitive”
We urge you find all the charms of the Carolina Lake Country….