The most luxurious and convenient motorcycle friendly lodging nearest the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, the Tapoco Lodge is historic, unique, classy, and about as close to The Dragon as you can stay.
Greg McCoy from SportBikes4Hire.com had often mentioned the fine dining at the Tapoco Lodge near the Dragon at Deals Gap, but I’d never stopped in to check it out. Honestly, it’s so close to the Tail of the Dragon, I usually blast right past it enjoying the curves on this section of US 129. This week I had the chance to pay a visit and I was impressed with what I found.
The Tapoco Lodge was built in the 1930’s by the Alcoa Corporation which was subsequently involved in building the many power generating dams along the Tennessee River to provide power for the aluminum plants in Maryville and Knoxville, Tennessee. At one time as many as 2000 people lived in the area working both in construction of the many dams nearby and substantial timber operations in the surrounding mountains. What is now the Tapoco Lodge saw service as a hospital, theater, residential and operations headquarters for the company, and you’ll find the lodge filled and adorned with historic artifacts from this era.
Visting today, there is little evidence of the thousands of people who lived and worked here in those times past. As the many dams were completed the lakes which formed behind them submerged the roads, railroads, and small communities, and the area seems remote and isolated, pristine and natural, as if it all never happened save the dams which and lakes which remain as a legacy and still generate power.
Riding through the area you may come across the Chillowhee Dam on US 129 north of The Dragon, the Santeetlah Dam just north of Robbinsville, the Calderwood Dam viewed from the popular overlook at the Tennessee end of The Dragon, but the most impressive and notable are the Fontana Dam on NC 28 (a.k.a. The Moonshiner 28) and the Cheoah Dam just up the road from the lodge.
The Fontana Dam is one of the highest and most impressive, and is a popular stop for riders in the area. The Cheoah Dam is commonly referred to as “the Fugitive Dam” as it was the structure Harrison Ford’s character in the movie “The Fugitive” jumped from (the movie was shot in the surrounding area).
As operations in the area wound down, the Tapoco Lodge property transferred to private ownership and for many years after was used as a corporate retreat center for the company and others. In 2010, it was sold to the current owners who have renovated, upgraded, and restored the property to a glorious and historic lodge with outstanding accommodations and fine dining in an exclusive setting.
Unfortunately my untimely visit happened just as the Tapoco Lodge was shutting down operations for the year. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to sample the sumptuous 5 course dinner at Jasper’s Restaraunt ($44 per plate, reservations required) nor the more casual fare in served in the Slickrock Riverside Grill. I trust Greg’s recommendations the food matches the quality of the rest of the establishment.
Nor have I had the opportunity to enjoy the luxurious rooms, though I did get the quick tour of the lodge and they are outstanding. I passed on the opportunity to see the cabins this time.
I’m particularly interested in the very comfortable looking bar, a unique feature in the last dry county in the State of North Carolina. It looked well stocked and I noted a good variety of wines. I love having a comfy place to enjoy a libation after a hard days riding and this bar will serve the purpose well.
I’m really looking forward to a stay at the Tapoco Lodge as it’s the ideal location for riding some of the best motorcycle rides in North Carolina and Tennessee. it’s on the popular Cherohala Skyway / Tail of the Dragon loop ride. Roll out the driveway, and you’re on the ride.
They are already booking groups for next year, it’s an ideal location for gatherings and they can accommodate a lot of people. Initially, the price of a stay seems high, but once you factor in the cost of the 5 course dinner and cooked to order all-you-can-eat breakfast, which are included in your room cost, it works out to be an affordable way to enjoy a luxurious, convenient, and comfortable stay in the area.
You won’t find better food, you won’t find anything like it for accommodations, and you don’t have to ride to the next county to enjoy a cold brew at the end of the day.
The Tapoco Lodge
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com
Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech
_______________________________________________________________________________I’ll be adding The Tapoco Lodge to America Rides Maps Map #7 – Best Motorcycle Rides SOUTH of GSMNP, Map #8 – Best Motorcycle Rides NORTH of GSMNP and map – 12 Classic Deals Gap Motorcycle Rides