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Drive to Fontana Dam

New Jersey
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Drive to Fontana Dam

Can someone let me know how long the drive is to Fontana Dam? Also, is there more than one route, and if so, which is the preferred? Thanks!

Cincinnati, Ohio
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1. Re: Drive to Fontana Dam

My sister just did this drive last week. She says the drive to the dam was about 1 hour, 50 minutes, more if you stop along the way.

There are two ways to get to Fontana. One goes over Newfound Gap into Cherokee, and the other uses the Foothills Parkway out of Walland (Townsend). Timing wise, google says they are about the same.

My sister actually did a big loop from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, Bryson, Fontana and on to the Foothills Parkway, into Townsend and back to Gatlinburg.

Here is the google map with the route:


If you want to do the entire loop, she recommends beginning on the Gatlinburg to Cherokee route. Here's why. If you do the loop instead of turning around and going back to Gatlinburg the same way you came, you will encounter a section of road known as (Drum Roll please) The Tail of the Dragon.

Tail of the Dragon is an 11 mile stretch of 129, with 318 curves and is "America's number one motorcycle and sports car road". I haven't been on this route in years, way before it became a riders paradise.

In that 11 mile stretch, they encountered 70 motorcycles, 22 cars, 1 truck pulling a camper, and 2 trucks. And that was on a weekday without any special events going on!

She would suggest if you do the loop, starting on the Newfound Gap side, because most of the motorcycle traffic seemed to be headed in the opposite direction. The riders like to start from the Foothills Parkway (Walland, Townsend) and head towards Fontana, going up hill on the curves instead of down. That was her impression anyway. She also said also they pulled their minivan over where they could to let the riders pass. There are photographers set up along the way for the riders, but when a car goes by they just wave. My sister thought that was pretty funny. She said everyone along the way was very friendly.

If you do decide to do the loop, check out the Tail of the Dragon website just to make sure there are not special rallies or events when you are going.

You don't want to get caught on that stretch of road during a big event.

Hope I explained that well. I was on the phone getting her report as I typed. The last thing she said was that all the curves even have names.

They enjoyed their time over in Fontana. They wanted to take a boat to Hazel Creek or take the dam tour boat ride, but neither were running that day.

Cullowhee, North...
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2. Re: Drive to Fontana Dam


Not sure where you staying so the time to the dam is relative to where you depart from. I am now 41 and something has happened to me in the past few years dont know what it is, but I would now get car sick driving the Tail as Smokiesgirl pointed out.

You can get from Grburg to Cherokee in maybe 40 minutes or so depending on traffic. From Cherokee to the Dam might be another 50 minutes to hour. I would almost suggest doing an out and back to avoid the Tail of the Dragon.

Here is an idea. If you planning on spending the day over here and want to see the dam, do it by water! Rent a pontoon boat from Almond Boat Park just outside of Bryson or Yellow Branch Marina near Stecoa and travel the lake to see the dam. The lake is beautiful. Now if you are coming in the fall or winter, then the boat thing is kind of out.

if you stop in Bryson for lunch stop at Jimmy Macs on US 19. they have pretty good food.

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3. Re: Drive to Fontana Dam

Bob is right, it depends on where you start, since this is the Gatlinburg thread I guess you are starting in Gatlinburg.

I prefer the route from Foothills West to 129, but if I get that far west I have to do the beautiful Cherohala Skyway Drive!

Either way takes me all day because there is just so many beautiful picture taking spots!

I did not think Tail of the Dragon is that bad and I do think there are many roads around there that are!

NEVER NEVER NEVER take hwy 32 from 321 to Big Creek!

Maybe because I had herd so much about it I was over prepared. My adopted daughter who has bad car sickness said it is not as bad as most roads around there because there are trees on the sides not rivers or cliffs everywhere like some. But I am sure there are some who should not go on it at all. We did not even know we were on it until we started seeing all the photographers. They do take pictures of cars to, but only offer them on their web sites if they decide to, usually very expensive shinny ones. I did not like that some motorcycles past you on the curves even if you are doing the speed limit and even when there are police cars near. There was only a couple pull offs and they were full of photographers and police cars so there was no room to pull over.

Smokiesgrl's warning is a good one! I do not know if I would do it if there was a rally or event.

Some maps of the areas around there: http://www.tailofthedragon.com/maps.html

Some photogrpher pictures of the brave? motorcycles and cars: http://www.us129photos.com/

We are so good at the site with over answering people! LOL

New Jersey
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4. Re: Drive to Fontana Dam

Thank you all for your comments and advice. We are staying in Gatlinburg, and may consider taking the loop from NC. I've never been to Fontana, but my husband has. He response to me was, "Remember the road to Hana?" Enough said.

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5. Re: Drive to Fontana Dam

We just did this 2 weeks ago, but we started in Townsend and went to Cherokee, then back through the park. The Dam and lake are beautiful. The drive took us hours. My husband was driving and did comment that he was glad he got all the twisting roads out of the way first. We didn't see too much car traffic, mostly motorcycles. When we went most of the traffic was coming from the other direction (Cherokee).

North Carolina
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6. Re: Drive to Fontana Dam

I get sick just thinking about the Dragon.....lol.

7. Re: Drive to Fontana Dam

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