Back to On the Road

Motorcycle tips to riding The Tail of the Dragon and The Cherohala Skyway

Added June 7, 2016

Motorcycle ride from the Skyway to the Dragon avoids traffic


The area where southwestern North Carolina meets Tennessee is home to two of America’s most popular motorcycle destination roads, The Tail of the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway. Both epic roads travel between North Carolina and Tennessee and they meet in the North Carolina town of Robbinsville. This seems like a perfectly opportune connection because Robbinsville offers necessary services like food and fuel. But there is a catch. The destination sections of both roads are miles from Robbinsville in different directions.

Back and forth

The start of Tail of the Dragon is 18 miles from Robbinsville. The Dragon lends itself to riding back and forth for the shear joy of 318 curves on an 11-mile stretch of U.S. Route 129. This popular way of enjoying the Dragon can lead to lots of traffic. The Cherohala Skyway starts 10 miles out from Robbinsville and then is 41 miles to the other end in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. Back and forth on the Skyway takes a lot more time—albeit with way less traffic.

Another way around

There is another way to enjoy these two roads without backtracking to Robbinsville by connecting on the Tennessee side. There are two roads that form a nice loop, Tennessee Route 360 from the western end of the Cherohala Skyway and Tennessee Route 72 to the western end of the Tail of the Dragon. Together they cover 41 miles with very little traffic most of the way and offer a chance to see more of the region.

Tennessee Route 360

Route 360 travels though beautiful Tennessee valley farmlands. It is a two-lane road with nice pavement and well-marked curves. Coming down from 5,000 feet of elevation on the Skyway to the less than 1,000 feet average elevation of the valley, you will find it much warmer, which is a nice change in early spring and late fall. Route 360 ends at U.S Route 411, which runs concurrently with Tennessee Route 72 for a few miles. Fuel is available on Route 411. Make a right turn onto Route 411 and watch for the Tennessee Route 72 sign and turn right again.

Tennessee Route 72

Route 72 features some long straightaways connected by sweeping curves. The pavement is good and there are ample passing zones. This low traffic 10-mile section provides you an opportunity to work the kinks out and unwind briefly from all the twisties that the destination roads offer.

The loop typically starts at the Cherohala Skyway and follows a clockwise course. It’s just nice and easy to run it the other way.

Till next time, ride safe!