Ride 3 - Foothills Parkway and Tail of the Dragon

Cycling through Foothills Parkway and then the Tail of the Dragon, one of the hardest and most rewarding rides I've done.

See map here.

My ride started out with getting dropped off at the base of the Foothills Parkway. From there, it's a nice and steady three mile climb before the road levels out for a bit and then continues going uphill. I've always thought though that only by climb could you really see nice sights, and there was no shortage of them on Foothills Parkway, with the Smoky Mountains to the east and a large view of flat land to the west.

At the top of the climb, there's a large parking lot with a scenic view and a ranger station nearby.

From there, it's a good 8 miles of downhill until you reach 129 and take a left towards North Carolina. Chilhowee Lake will be on your right side, something which I had overlooked in planning the ride, so it was a nice surprise.

Tail of the Dragon will start after about three miles cycling along the lake. This rather obvious sign will let you know when it starts.

The following 11 miles are some of the curviest in the world, and much loved by motorcyclists and cyclists alike.

Tail of the Dragon isn't just a single climb, but a couple smaller uphills and downhills. The climbs are enjoyable, and the descending it fantastic. There are certainly some technical parts to the descents, but nothing too challenging. What's nice is that the car speed limit here is 30 mph, so there isn't much of a risk of cars blowing by and they can be dropped when going downhill.

It's hard to get one image to encapsulate the curviness, because a single image can't well represent how unrelenting the curves were for 11 miles. Well, 22 miles after I turned around at the North Carolina state line and did it all the other way.

Going back through the Dragon was fun, but climbing up Foothills Parkway again about did me in. It's a good 8 miles which barely levels out, and while I enjoy climbing, that's just not something we get in Texas. I suffered up the 8 miles and called in a pick up at the end of the Parkway because I didn't feel like going the added six miles. For getting to and from Foothills Parkway from Townsend though, the Old Walland highway is superior in every respect to cycling on Lamar Alexander.

And for those who would rather suffer several miles of climbing rather than 8, return via Happy Valley rather than Foothills Parkway; it's crams 8 miles of climbing into less than 3.

For more Tail of the Dragon info, this site can't be beat for being informative and interesting. Unfortunately, the store at Deals Gap is closed during the winter, otherwise I would've got myself a nice airbrushed motorcycle shirt.

Ride 4 - Wears Valley to Pigeon Forge

Cycling in Townsend and the Smoky Mountains

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