There are a handful of places in the country that are considered meccas of mountain biking and North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest is one of them.
It covers some 500,000 acres of land and features hundreds of miles of mountain biking trails. It’s home to some of the best trails in the country, with a few recognized globally such as the Tsali loop.
From amazing flow trails to rides across massive rock faces to difficult technical ascents, North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains have much to offer in the way of mountain biking. That said, there are plenty of trails in other parts of the state that shouldn’t be overlooked.
While the western part of the state offers mountain biking through three seasons, the eastern part of North Carolina is more temperate, making mounting biking a year-round sport and an attractive option for winter riding.
Here are the 10 best mountain bike trails in North Carolina.
1. Dupont Ridgeline Trail, Brevard
There are many great loops in the 88 miles of trail in the Dupont National Forest for riders of all levels, but the loop that is the jewel of this amazing trail system is the Ridgeline Trail, which is a fast and flowy descent that is definitely a can’t miss ride.
It’s smooth enough for intermediate riders but offers enough optional jumps and obstacles to challenge experts.
You’ll also want to experience riding on NC’s signature slickrock, so be sure to check out the Cedar Rock and Big Rock trails as well, both of which also feature amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
2. Warrior Creek, Moravian Falls
Next to Dupont State Forest, the Kerr Scott system of trails in Wilkesboro, NC, is one of the most impressive systems of trails in the North Carolina. Within that system, you’ll need to take on the Warrior Creek trail.
This is one of those trails in which every inch seems to have been carefully planned to create the best mountain biking experience you can have.
A seemingly endless series of perfectly placed monster banked turns that simulate the feel of a roller coaster, technical rock gardens, and well-integrated wood structures all come together to create a trail that is both fun and challenging from start to finish.
3. Wild Turkey Trail, Summerfield
While not a long out and back trail, the Wild Turkey Trail in Greensboro, NC, is a well-constructed trail that skirts one of the largest lakes in the area.
Modeled after some of the better-known MTB trails in the western part of the state, Wild Turkey is smooth and fast with plenty of downhill switchbacks and moderate climbs.
The trail is well maintained and designed, with Wild Turkey is accessible to intermediate riders but technical enough to challenge experts with technical climbs and descents and plenty of optional rock jumps and log piles set up throughout.
4. Kitsuma, Black Mountain
Warrior Creek and the Ridgeline Trail in Dupont State Park get much of the attention when it comes to the top flow trails on the East Coast, but perhaps a nod should be given to Kitsuma, which some think is the best of the three.
This trail, which follows a ridgeline, is pavement smooth and relatively straight, yet still has enough dips and terms to make it fun, challenging and very very fast. The jumps that are sprinkled intermittently along this route will dare you to push beyond your comfort zone and go for bigger air.
5. Rocky Knob Park, Boone
The city of Boone, NC pumped $2 million into the creation of this mountain bike park, and it shows.
The designs at Rocky Knob show off some impressive man-made structures. This includes bridges and ramps that incorporate boulders, undulating boardwalks that snake through the forest, and narrow log crossings.
These designs set Rocky Knob apart from the more old school designs of the Pisgah forest trails. And, with plans to further expand the park in 2020, it’s certainly worth a trip out to Boone to experience Rocky Knob.
6. Fire on the Mountain, Cherokee
Opened just three years ago, you’d think that Fire on the Mountain trail system wouldn’t be much of a blip in the Pisgah National Forest, one of the most popular locations for mountain biking in the country, but that’s not the case.
This trail system, created by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, features three impressive descents on fully groomed trails that are all flow.
The trails are designed for intermediate and advanced riders with each offering a fun descent to the bottom or options for big-time jumps.
Check out Kessel Run, which features switchbacks with massive berms in quick succession and long downhills with tabletops for rolling or launching.
7. Tsali Left and Right Loop, Bryson City
For classic North Carolina mountain bike riding, Tsali is the only place to visit.
This IMBA Epic trail system is broken into two loops, named simply the Left Loop and the Right Loop, and two smaller loops.
Combined, the Left Loop and Right Loop create 24 miles of singletrack.
Like most IMBA Epic trails, Tsali is less about trails designed for thrills and more about natural beauty. Both loops skirt Fontana Lake, offering amazing views and overlooks.
While there are climbs and descents that offer some technical riding, this singletrack ranges from moderate to intermediate.
8. Black Mountain, Brevard
The Pisgah National Forest has dozens and dozens of mountain biking trails, and one of the most famous is the venerable Black Mountain trail. It’s well known for its thrilling descent, which drops nearly 2,000 feet in just under four miles.
Just keep in mind that this trail is made technical not by design but by its rugged nature.
This trail is rocky and rooty with numerous small drops, rough washed-out areas, and, in some areas, deep ditches. You’ll need to choose your lines wisely to avoid calamity.
After some climbing and descending, you’ll hit the main drop after a climb at about five miles in. From there it’s all downhill for 2.5 miles and 1,400 feet.
9. Bailey Mountain Bike Park, Mars Hill
If you’re into downhill mountain bike trails, then Bailey Mountain Bike Park is for you.
This downhillers dream features some 14 downhill trail segments with such colorful names as Skywalker, Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, and Little Red Riding Hood.
Trails are wide with monster berms for carrying lots of speed and, of course, each features switchback after switchback after switchback. There are also plenty of massive drop-offs for serious air. This is truly an experts-only experience.
Make sure your bike has full suspension to handle this. Adding an extra cool factor to Bailey are open bed military transport trucks that shuttle riders to the top.