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Old 07-28-2013, 09:49 AM   #1
TigerTrek OP
Joined: Jul 2012
Location: Indiana
Oddometer: 5
Parson Branch and the Dragon

Spent four hours in mid-July on the 2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer coming up Little River/Laurel Creek Road in the Great Smokey Mountain Park doing 2/3 of the Cades Cove Loop, then diverting onto Parson Branch Road and then onto 129 "The Dragon". Rode the Dragon down to Deals Gap and then ran the whole stretch going west. Jumped onto Foothills Parkway and into Townsend to tube with the family.

Little River/Laurel Creek is a great ride in its own right. The road is slow through the park but the entire stretch runs along the creek and the cool air and forest smells are a real treat, on most days this road would be the highlight.

Cades Cove during tourist season is a pain in the butt... literally. 10-12 mph with frequent stops for people to look an munching does and horses. I certainly can appreciate the beauty of the Cove but I had bigger fish to fry so this got a bit tedious. Allow more time than you think to get around this part of the map.

Right after the Cades Cove visitor center parking lot the road leading to Parson Branch road comes off on the right. The road starts out as a wide gravel two way road and then comes to a "trail head" on Parson Branch. The entry sign warns that the road is rough and one way. I was immediately struck on just how rough the road was. I've been riding ATVs for 30 years and this road reminded me of a slightly wider forest service ATV trail. Pot holes, ruts and some decently steep hill climbs mark the first half of the trail and you quickly realize that you are way the heck out there as soon as you get going. I was all alone on the road and wondered if I tossed the bike back there if the bears would find me before another human did. This was my first real off pavement with the big Tiger and I was taking it slow and safe. The bike performed great and I felt very stable all the time. The last half of the road involves going primarily downhill and involves I believe 11 creek crossings. The creeks crossing have concrete road base and the water was a bit high for mid-July but I had no problem with any crossings. When I finally got to the other trail head (the ride was about 25 minutes) I met a couple in a jeep eating their lunch. They said they had been sitting about 10 minutes, which put them 10 minutes ahead of me on the trail. They said they saw two black bears and a coyote while on the road, which means these critters were certainly around but I didn't see any wildlife.

Then I hit the Dragon and was instantly impressed by the beauty and condition of this amazing road. Perfect pavement, perfect lines and deeply banked curves. This road is the real deal. Traffic was light and I was able to get my bearings for the first four mile stretch down to Deals Gap. A stop at the "Tail of the Dragon" store to pick up some souvenirs and a great pulled pork taco gave me a break and then I turned around and ran the full Dragon at a more aggressive pace. Bottom line, this road is awesome and a must visit for every ADV rider. I never felt unsafe or out of control as the road is just a perfect ribbon of asphalt through some great scenery.

Coming off the Dragon funnels you toward the entrance to the Foothills Parkway which was a great way to end this section of the ride. The parkway is long sweeping curves, straight aways and great visibility. I ended up running into a guy on a Suzuki V-Strom and let him lead the way at decent speed over the parkway. What a great ride in its own right.

Great day of riding, a lot of different road in a reasonable compact part of the map. Definitely want to do this trip if you can fit it in. Allow four hours.
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Old 07-28-2013, 11:57 AM   #2
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Apr 2013
Location: Kissimmee Florida
Oddometer: 328
Parsons Branch... ahhh great road. Did it in my Ford Focus...Lets just say I wont do that again. My wife thought it was amusing though.
Current ride: 2013 Yamaha Super Tenere
Past rides: 2013 Triumph Tiger 800XC, 1997 Honda Goldwing SE, 2003 Kawasaki Ninja 6RR, 1997 Suzuki TL1000S, 1995 Suzuki Katana 600, 1985 Suzuki GS550EF, 1980 Suzuki GS250T
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Old 07-29-2013, 08:01 PM   #3
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Elgin, IL
Oddometer: 445
I love Parson's Branch Rd we've been using it as an interesting entry to the Dragon on a beater car road rally I've done several times. I never really thought it was that bad, but then I was driving an AWD Astro van.
Aaron - Elgin, IL
1980 Kawasaki KE100 (ZomBessy)
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:23 AM   #4
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Joined: Sep 2008
Location: 30 min from Deals Gap, TN
Oddometer: 339
forgive me as I haven't made it onto Parson's yet. What's the best way to get to it? I need enough gas to make it to CROT to fuel up so please advise where I should do my last fuel stop before going off road and if I need to bring gas with me.

I live in Greenback, TN so I am having difficulty figuring out the best entry point with concerns of fuel on the drz400sm.
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:44 AM   #5
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Joined: Mar 2009
Location: north florida
Oddometer: 1,688
foothills parkway, take a right at the cades cove sign. get in line, ride the clutch until the first dirt road. then turn onto it. get gass before tuning into cades cove.
2012 VSTROM ADV 650
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:55 AM   #6
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Joined: Dec 2003
Location: South Carolina
Oddometer: 2,367
bad directions

foothills parkway, take a right at the cades cove sign. get in line, ride the clutch until the first dirt road. then turn onto it. get gass before tuning into cades cove.
It is the second or maybe 3rd dirt road - the one by the visitors center - the name of the road at the turn is Forge Creek Rd. I like to go early to avoid the traffic, turn off 441 just south of Gatlinburg by the Sugarlands visitors enter. The next 20 miles is one of the best rides in the Smokeys if you are ahead of the traffic. Follow the signs into Cades Cove, go several miles around the loop until you see the visitors center, look for the gravel road and go there.

Andy Simons
Trenton, SC
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andy29847 screwed with this post 08-29-2013 at 11:31 AM
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