The cytoplasmic tail of gp41 (gp41CT) remains the last HIV-1 domain with an unknown structure. It plays important roles in HIV-1 replication such as mediating envelope (Env) intracellular trafficking and incorporation into assembling virions, mechanisms of which are poorly understood. Here, we present the solution structure of gp41CT in a micellar environment and characterize its interaction with the membrane. We show that the N-terminal 45 residues are unstructured and not associated with the membrane. However, the C-terminal 105 residues form three membrane-bound amphipathic α helices with distinctive structural features such as variable degree of membrane penetration, hydrophobic and basic surfaces, clusters of aromatic residues, and a network of cation-π interactions. This work fills a major gap by providing the structure of the last segment of HIV-1 Env, which will provide insights into the mechanisms of Gag-mediated Env incorporation as well as the overall Env mobility and conformation on the virion surface. Murphy et al. devised new approaches to prepare the HIV-1 gp41CT protein, solved the structure by NMR methods, characterized its interactions with the membrane, and provided a preferred topology of the protein when bound to the membrane.