Highway 129 crosses along the beautiful, rugged southwestern border of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The highway’s collection of turns and bends have earned it the nickname “Dragon’s Tail.” Along this stretch of road are drastic curves with names such as “Beginner’s End” and “Gravity Cavity.” These nicknames aren’t meant to be taken lightly, as accidents along the highway are frequent.
Commercial trucks with a trailer longer than 30 feet are forbidden from operating along this stretch of highway. Truck drivers may even lose their commercial driver’s license for attempting to traverse the dangerous highway. With this lack of commercial traffic, Highway 129 is a tempting destination for motorcycle and sports car lovers from across the globe.
The highway is so popular that several companies run photo services along the route catering to adventurous motorists. Simply drive the road on any summer day and your photo will be taken numerous times and available to purchase online.
The route was originally used by the native Cherokee and herds of roaming buffalo before it become an official Tennessee route in the 1920s. The road was named TN72 on the Tennessee side. It was seldom used until the mid-1990s, when motorcycle and sport car communities began to take notice.
At the southern end of the roadway in North Carolina, two permanent stores across from each other offer a number of souvenirs, t-shirts, and cold drinks. It’s considered bad luck by some to buy souvenirs or put dragon stickers on your vehicle until you’ve actually traversed the road safely. The shops are seasonal and are only open during the spring and summer months. During these months anticipate heavy traffic along the popular roadway.
Know Before You Go
The speed limit has dropped from 55 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour and is frequently patrolled for traffic violations. Bring your action camera and motion sickness pills. Keep in mind that rescue squads can take up to an hour to reach the location of a wreck. Double yellow lines means do not pass. Keep an eye out for weekend daredevils. Cabins, restaurants, and shops can be found at either end of this stretch.