This is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the Smokies, one easily witnessed by all the vehicles with mountain bikes strapped to the back or top. Pretty straightforward as to why so may partake of this sport: the Smokies contain some of the best bike trails anywhere. Here are the popular spots:
Tsali Recreation Area (Graham County)
This is the granddaddy of Western North Carolina mountain biking, boasting 40 miles of trails on four loops. Rated as one of top 10 places to ride in the U.S. Fast, hard-packed singletrack, and you can’t go wrong with any of the loops. Off N.C. 28 past Bryson City, or if coming from Robbinsville N.C. 143 until you reach N.C. 28, go east. Entrance on north side of N.C. 28, well-marked.
Santeetlah Lake Trail
A 15-mile trail open to mountain bikes, horses, and hikers. The trail follows a number of open and gated Forest Service roads with a short portion of single-track. Large sections of the trail hug the shoreline of Lake Santeetlah offering beautiful mountain lake views. The primary trailhead is located at the intersection of N.C. 143 (N.C. 1127) and Snowbird Road.
Jackrabbit Mountain (Lake Chatuge)
Located next to the huge Jackrabbit Campground at Lake Chatuge, this 14-mile trail system is gaining popularity fast. Mostly flat with rolling dips and berms and just a few technical areas. At Lake Chatuge get on N.C. 175, turn onto Jackrabbit Road, signed parking area on left.
Western Carolina University Trail (Cullowhee)
Recently opened 6.6 miles of singletrack across the street from main WCU campus in Cullowhee. Challenging but relatively short. The trail system has two trailheads. One is located near the softball field and picnic area on WCU main campus, east of N.C. 107. Trail users then travel through the pedestrian tunnel under 107 and access the trail on NCCAT property. The second trailhead is located at the parking lot of the Health and Human Sciences building.
Bent Creek (Asheville)
Located near where N.C. 191 intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway and I-26, this favorite among Asheville locals because of its proximity to this outdoors-loving city. Lots of hardpacked singletrack with very few technical sections, great place for beginner to intermediate riders and for children. www.mtbikewnc.com.
Dupont State Park (Brevard)
This has become one of the premier destinations in the region. 10,000 acres of trails, waterfalls, and rivers. Great spot with numerous trailheads. www.dupontforest.com.
Pisgah National Forest (Brevard)
Hundreds of miles of trails for bikers, some of it among the most technical in the region. For information on specific trails and trailheads, visit www.mtbikewnc.com.