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:
Cherokee’s Fire Mountain Trails
Twelve-mile system with wide variety of terrain from beginners to relatively serious downhill sections. This is one of the best-maintained trail systems in the Smokies region. Trailhead is in downtown Cherokee at the Oconaluftee Indian Village.
Tsali Recreation Area
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.
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
More than 7 miles of singletrack across the street from the WCU campus in Cullowhee. The system has two trailheads. One is located near the softball field and picnic area on the main campus, east of N.C. 107. Trail users then travel through the pedestrian tunnel under N.C. 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 Interstate 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
Located near 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, near 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.
Nantahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City
The Nantahala Outdoor Center in the Nantahala Gorge has its own trail, which allows riders to try their hand at some technical maneuvering. The 4.5-mile Flint Ridge Trail system was designed specifically for mountain bikers. It features technical riding as well as some rolling single-track.
Directions: From Bryson City, go south on U.S. 74 for 12 miles and the NOC campus will be on the right. The highway will narrow to two lanes after about 8 miles. www.noc.com.
Fontana Village, Robbinsville
Fontana Village has closed due to COVID-19, but trail system is reportedly still open and website is still up. The trails are labeled and fairly well blazed. Mix and match from numerous options to make your own loop. You can get a good bit of climbing and long descents, plus technical rock gardens, stream crossings and log crossings on the 20-mile trail system that is among the best in the region.
Directions: From Bryson City, take U.S. 74 southbound 8 miles past Bryson City. Turn right on N.C. 28. Go about 25 miles. www.fontanavillage.com/hiking.