TOTD – Devil’s Triangle

There is a road in the Tail of the Dragon area, that is known about, but much less advertised and frequented. In fact, without much in the way of signage, you must rely on directions to get you to a starting point. It sits about a 90-minute ride from the Robbinsville area in North Carolina. This maybe why not many riders will make the journey to get there. In fact, on this day, I was riding solo, as no one in my group wanted to put in the miles. But it is well worth the ride, I promise.

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The Devils Triangle, just north of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the mountains of the Cumberland Plateau, is made up of some of the most unusual two-lane twisty roads in eastern Tennessee. The adventure ranges from the bucolic rural Tennessee scenery to a view of Brushy Mountain State Prison (now closed); from gentle country road sweepers to gnarly steep switchbacks; from serene straights to Dragon like twisties with guard rails of death or no guard rails at all; from gentle pull-offs to three foot deep rock strewn gullies just inches from the pavement; from peaceful farmsteads to sections of rutted roadway right out of a horror movie. This is not a road for beginner riders!

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TN 116, Devil’s Triangle

This 44-mile loop includes routes TN 62, TN 116 and TN 330. The interesting sections are on TN 116. The western most fun begins at the former Brushy Mountain Penitentiary and continues northeasterly for 3.5 miles. The tight twisties are as good as any on the Tail of the Dragon, but there are even more dangers here. Deep rock-strewn gullies just off the pavement, ragged steel guard rails, steep drop offs, and rock cliffs leave no room for error. The middle 14 miles are fairly tame with rural houses and driveways along the entire way.

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Guardrail? on TN 116, Devil’s Triangle

The next 5 miles, on TN 116, you will find a little bit of everything; sweepers, tight twisties and three of the tightest/steepest switchbacks I have ever encountered. These are first gear turns tighter than those on the Dragon. This is the main reason I advise novice riders to take the loop in a clockwise direction. These switchbacks are much easier to tackle in the downhill direction. The east bound lane condition degrades for a few miles before the intersection with TN 330, but it is the easiest for inexperienced riders. Experienced riders can take the loop in a counterclockwise direction, where pavement is better. But the switchbacks will be uphill, and you will need throttle, clutch, and brake to stay upright and keep from stalling.

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TN 116, Devil’s Triangle

You will enjoy the elevation changes, as you start at 1,400 feet above sea level near Ames Gap and climb to 2,150 feet above sea level in the next two miles. At the peak, the road suddenly descends to 1,600 feet above sea level at New River, in just a scant 1.5 miles.

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TN 116, Devil’s Triangle

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Al’s Market, TN 116, Briceville, Tennessee

After riding the northern section on TN 116, the TN 330 connector to TN 62, will seem much less entertaining. Here the road condition is good, and opportunities for food, fuel, and gas become more abundant, as does the vehicular traffic. It is an enjoyable country road, but not the thrill of TN 116. TN 62, which connects with TN 116 (Petros Highway) and travels through the town of Oliver Springs, is a four-lane divided highway with everything you could possibly need.

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My ride out to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to meet up with the Devil’s Triangle, started at the Tail of the Dragon and continued north on US 129 to Pumpkin Center. There I took TN 72 to US 411. Here on TN 72, I found the opposite of the Dragon. A beautifully paved two-lane road, dead flat and straight, with a clear view for at least a mile ahead. It was hard not to twist the throttle well past the posted speed limit. A quick run down the highway on US 411 till you exit onto TN 95 North. TN 95, at times, went from well-paved suburban roadway to barely improved country lane, but it was all scenic and enjoyable. This will take you to your connection with TN 62 West, and after a few miles, to your starting point for the loop. The intersection of TN 62 and TN 330 in Oliver Springs. The decision here is left for clockwise with easier switchbacks, but poorer road conditions. Or right, for counterclockwise with trickier switchbacks and better pavement. No matter which way you go, you must ride within your skill set on TN 116, as this is no road to go down on. Also, keep your eye out for ATV’s that frequent the off-road trails on the mountains and often use TN 116 for a quick ride back to the gap at the top.

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Fort Loudon Lock along TN 95 near Lenoir City, Tennessee

The ride one-way to the Devil’s Triangle is approximately 90 minutes of road time from Robbinsville. But, all in all, for me it was well worth the ride. The unique features and extended ride of the 44-mile loop makes it memorable. My motorcycle proudly sports the badge of honor it earned on this ‘Highway to Hell’. And, I beam with pride when I wear my Devil’s Triangle t-shirt that none of my friends have yet to earn.

Next entry will cover the infamous Moonshiner 28, a three-state jaunt full of history.

Comments
4 Responses to “TOTD – Devil’s Triangle”
  1. Proud of you for earning the t-shirt your friends don’t have. I’m grateful you made it safely through this ride you chose to go solo on!

  2. Great ride, nice pics 👏

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