Riding Roads: NC 28 and Deals Gap

NC 28 | North Carolina

Highway 28, NC

Part of a 238-mile highway that traverses three states, NC 28 begins in Beech Island, South Carolina, and rolls to a halt near Tennessee. It is the only state highway that keeps the same number as it traverses South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina.

The road begins its winding northwestern twists at the South Carolina state line, but the area of most interest to riders is the 56-mile stretch from Franklin, North Carolina, to Deals Gap at the Tennessee border. For those pilots coming from Georgia or South Carolina with plans to “slay The Dragon,” this section is a winding and not heavily traveled direct route that’s a good warm-up for what’s ahead. And while it might not be the fastest way to Deals Gap, its almost continuously winding character makes it a route that’s far more appealing to motorcyclists than to car drivers.

Highway 28, NC

The first leg of NC 28 from Franklin to Highway 74 is a 21-mile, two-lane winding road carved through national forest that’s seemingly made just for bike riders (unless of course you’re caught behind a slow-moving vehicle; then it can be a drag, as passing opportunities are limited).

NC 28 joins with Highway 74 for a quick 3-mile jog west before resuming its northwestern route. Here the road continues another 33 miles, tracing the southern edge of Smoky Mountains National Park much of the way and channeling the park’s personality en route. You’ll encounter an almost nonstop series of S-turns and switchbacks framed by the beautifully dense pine forest overhanging the road. Although the serpentine nature of this section might inspire you to take the twisties at a spirited pace, hurrying through here misses some of the best NC 28 has to offer. Settle in at a more leisurely pace and you’ll appreciate both a stellar road and the awe-inspiring surroundings of the Smokies.

Highway 28, NC

The last 10 miles feature some of 28’s best riding, as you wind along the shores of Fontana then Cheoah Lake before crossing the Fontana Dam into Tennessee. As you round the last curve before the dam, you’re pointed directly at an Appalachian Mountain ridge rising a few hundred feet directly in front of you. The view is simply spectacular and rivals areas in the Rocky Mountains for sheer, stark beauty. Once past the dam, NC 28 ends at Highway 129 and Deals Gap, where you’ll probably trade the serenity of the last few miles for a slightly more electric atmosphere. No matter, it’s still a big highlight of your riding day.

Road Notes: Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort