TAIL OF THE DRAGON
Maggie Valley & Blue Ridge Parkway Loop

A Great North Carolina Loop
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Just one of the many unique exhibits at the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley


Wheeler's Motorcycle Shop - a must stop in Robbinsville.


At the falls on the Cheoah River along US 129

Nice pavement and some tight turns on NC 28, The Hellbender

Misty, cold waters Lake Cheoah along NC 28

Almost to Fontana on NC 28

Home cooking at the Stecoah Diner. Great homemade burgers.

Broaster chicken, snacks and gas at Wolf Creek on NC 28

Partons Trading Post on US 74/19 is clean and offers friendly service.

The Salty Dog on US 19 in Maggie Valley

My favorite bike at the Wheels Through Time - 1916 Traub

Dale, owner of the Wheels Through Time, puts on a great show.

Nancy liked the Women Riders exhibit.

The falls at West Fork Pigeon River

Just great scenery everywhere on the way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Lake Logan on the way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Tree down on NC 215. One more reason not to be going knee-down on some of these back roads.

The Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley

This is a great loop that takes you on some good back roads in North Carolina . An added bonus is there are some good places to eat and visit along the way.

A Great North Carolina Loop

From Robbinsville take US 129 north. Good places to gas-up in Robbinsville are the Texaco, Solo and the new Skyway Convenience Store. If you need anything for your bike or a souvenir stop by Wheelers Motorcycle Shop just two miles north of Robbinsville. Wheeler has been featured on Speedvision and other television shows.

Heading north you come to the Cheoah River after about 8 miles. If it’s a release day you might see rafters on this class 5 rapids for the next 7 miles. There is lots of action on this river so stop and watch if you have time. The best place is the falls about 6 miles down river. You’ll see the crowds gathered. at this hot spot.

Stop at the Tapoco Lodge if you need any Tail of the Dragon gear. They also serve meals on a limited time schedule. Tapoco offers both inn rooms and cabin rooms in a peaceful mountain valley setting and it’s just three miles from the Dragon.

Just around the bend Slickrock Trail begins on the south side of the Calderwood Lake Bridge over the Little Tennessee River . This trail leads back into Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock Wilderness Area with some of the best hiking in the US . As you cross the bridge you’ll see the Cheoah Dam off to the right. This dam appeared in the movies Two Lane Blacktop, In Dreams and The Fugitive so locals call it Fugitive Dam. In Two Lane Blacktop the old one-lane bridge was shown. The pilings to your left are from that bridge.

After the bridge you’ll climb The Slide, a tricky couple of corners where you need to stay right to avoid anyone coming at you over the double yellow. After the sharp curves there is a good place to pull over and see Fugitive Dam from the top.

Back on US 129 north you come to NC 28. The Tail of the Dragon store is located on US 129 just past the intersection on the left. Stop and say hello to Ron or Nancy. Taking NC 28 South you’ll be on what locals call the Hellbender. This road is in good condition having been partially repaved in 2007. There is a little bit of everything for the first ten miles; tight twisties, sweepers, and some fairly long straights. Don’t get carried away here or you’ll find yourself too fast for the next corner. The road follows Cheoah Lake for the next nine miles and there are some scenic pull-offs along the way. Often the water is so cold that it provides natural air conditioning.

After crossing the Cheoah Lake Bridge you’ll soon come to Fontana Village . The old Texaco gas station has been completely remodeled into a motorcycle themed Pitstop. Stop for souvenirs, lunch, beer, gas or just to see the place. Fontana Village is also a good place to plan your next stay in the area. Accommodations range from camping/RV hook-ups to Inn rooms and even cabins. Want to go all out? Rent one of their luxury houseboats moored on Fontana Lake .

Heading back out on NC 28 east you’ll come to some of the tightest twisties in North Carolina . Another mile or two and you’ll see the Fontana Dam turn-off. Bear to the left and in a little more than a mile you’ll find the scenic Fontana Dam, the highest dam in the Eastern United States at 480 feet. You can ride/drive across the dam which is part of the Appalachian Trail winding from Georgia to Maine .

Backtrack to NC 28 and hang a left. You are now on the sweeper sections of the Hellbender. Don’t let the new pavement lure you into too much speed here …. you can find trouble if you really want to. You’ll pass Rainbow Falls , a small waterfall right on the side of the roadway. This road is good all the way to the intersection of NC 143 before it straightens.

Passing through the rural community of Stecoah you’ll see the Stecoah Diner on your left. Like their original restaurant in Andrews, the Burger Basket, their featured meal is the homemade hamburger. Even Nancy and I like them!

Continue easterly on NC 28. You’ll come to the Wolf ??? a gas stop with broasted chicken and snacks. Here the road turns to 4-lane. I will only warn you once in all caps …. WATCH YOUR SPEED ON THE 4-LANES IN NORTH CAROLINA . This is where the NCHP plays with their radar toys. Go nine miles and take a left onto US 19/74. This is still 4-lane so remember the CAPS above. Take US 19/74 east and you’ll see the new Partons Trading Post on the left. This is another good place to gas-up and get a snack. Real friendly people and clean.

Continue east and take Exit 67 into Bryson City . A great place to eat here is on Everett Street at of course the Everett Street Diner. You can also get a pretty good pizza for the area at Anthony’s Italian Restaurant on Depot Street .

Taking US 19 (the back way) to Cherokee is interesting. We don’t much care for Cherokee itself, so we pass right through holding our wallets and have some fun on US 19 between Cherokee and Maggie Valley . Too bad the traffic here is usually dreadful. It’s such a good road in places, just watch for some bad paving.

In Maggie Valley we have eaten at the biker friendly Salty Dog’s Seafood and Grill. Now let it be known that we do not eat seafood in the mountains. Just something that doesn’t seem right about it. We had the buffalo wings, potato skins and a beer. Don’t stop here if you are looking for atmosphere, but it is clean and the people are friendly.

Just down the street is the world famous Wheels Through Time Museum. Don’t miss this if you are within a hundred miles. The museum holds more than 275 antique American motorcycles, many of them extremely rare. And every one in the house runs! Sometimes the owner Dale will fire one up and take off burning rubber for a lap or two inside the museum. My favorite is the one of a kind, mostly hand built 1916 bike that was found in an old home in Chicago in 1967. No one knows of any other motorcycle bearing this Traub emblem. The engineering was years ahead of its time. It is a truly priceless motorcycle.

Plan to spend a couple of hours at least in the Wheels Through Time. There are many exhibits with period tools, signs, parts, posters, photos and backdrops.

If you are looking for a place to rent a motorcycle on this loop we highly recommend Gryphon Bikes of Maggie Valley. There are several cruisers to choose from at reasonable rates.

Continuing easterly on US 129 take a right on US 276 right through downtown Waynesville. This is a quaint downtown with many spots of interest if you want to walk a while. The old Mast General Store is one of our favorites.

Back in the saddle continue of US 276 on some country roads to Bethel . Here you’ll take a right onto NC 215 and begin climbing to the Blue Ridge Parkway . The curves start-out as sweepers and the scenery is rural. Soon you’ll cross a small causeway over Lake Logan at Sunburst.

Continuing to climb the curves tighten. We suddenly came upon a downed tree that could have been a serious problem had we not been paying attention. A good habit to get into when riding these mountain roads is to always expect the unexpected.

A must stop is at the waterfalls of the West Fork Pigeon River . A great place for some photos and a Red Bull.

Still climbing you’ll reach the Blue Ridge Parkway at Beech Gap, Milepost 423.3. From here take the BRP south (west looking at a map). The next 15 miles are some of the most scenic on the Parkway. The highest point on the BRP (6,047 feet) is at the Richard Balsam Overlook, Milepost 431.4. Be warned, the speed limit on the BRP is 45 mph and it is a good idea for safety reason alone to keep you speed within reason. There are hefty federal fines, traffic can be a hazard, and this is no place to go off the edge of the road.

There are a number of pull offs on the Blue Ridge Parkway to stop and take some snaps of the distant vistas.

From here it is all downhill. At Balsam Gap , Milepost 443.1, you have the choice of hopping down onto the 4-lane US 74 to zip back to Robbinsville or continuing on the BRP to Cherokee at Milepost 469.1 and then backtracking to Robbinsville. If you have the time take the much more scenic and relaxing BRP.

MILEAGE – QUICK ROUTE HOME: 205 miles, 6 hours not including stops

MILEAGE – BRP ROUTE HOME: 218 miles, 7 hours not including stops

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