City Escape: Knoxville, Tennessee

Text: James T. Parks • Photography: James T. Parks

This route, in and around the Smoky Mountains, has a little bit of everything: exceptionally curvy roads, stunning scenery, charming villages, and an iconic movie location. There are few one-day rides in America that can compare to this escape. The route is appropriate for experienced mountain riders who will treat the inherent dangers with an appropriate level of respect and caution.

Length

Approximately 186 miles

Meet-up Spot

Starbucks, 121 Cusick Rd, Alcoa, TN

Lunch Stop

The Bryson City Cork & Bean Bistro is a delicious, rustic restaurant located inside The Everett Hotel. Find it at 16 Everett St, Bryson City, NC, (828) 488-1934.

Scenery (5 out of 5)

Spectacular mountain scenery from overlooks along the route.

Traffic (3 out of 5) 

Traffic is often heavy on weekends, especially on the Dragon and U.S. 441.

Difficulty (4 out of 5)

These are potentially dangerous mountain roads. Ride accordingly. 

Road Conditions (4 out of 5)

The roads are generally kept in very good condition, because they are the main attraction for riding and driving enthusiasts.

Points of Interest

  1. The 360-Degree Curve: There are hairpin curves, sweepers, switchbacks, off-camber, and other types of twisties, but U.S. 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has one that every rider should experience at least once: a full 360-degree curve that will have riders coming and going. 
  2. Clingmans Dome: At Newfound Gap on U.S. 441, take the paved road up to the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. At an elevation of 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome has breathtaking panoramic views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 
  3. The Fugitive Dam: Do you remember that iconic scene in The Fugitive when Harrison Ford’s character made that death-defying leap from the top of a dam into the river below? Scenes for the movie were filmed here at the Cheoah (aka “Fugitive”) Dam.
  4. The Dragon: The Tail of the Dragon challenges riders with 318 curves, coming in rapid-fire succession, over just 11 miles. The nearby Tree of Shame, which has motorcycle body parts festooned like Christmas tree ornaments, bears silent witness to those who dared the Dragon with too much speed.