Mountain Biking in the Tsali Recreation Area in Western NC
In the Nantahala National Forest above Fontana Lake lies the Tsali Recreation Area. 20 miles of smooth, fast single-track travel along the lakeshore and ridgelines, with 4 main loop trails alternating usage schedules between mountain bikers and horseback riders. Two trails are open to each user group each day. Here's the scoop on Tsali's mountain biking trails:
1. Mouse Branch Loop (7 - 10 miles with an optional spur to an overlook)
With good views, this moderate trail has one long, fast single-track downhill, with a gradual climb up to it. Watch how quickly the forest can change as you go in and out of coves and along ridges. The optional side trip to the overlook provides spectacular cliff-top views to Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park beyond that.
2. Thompson Loop (8 miles)
This moderate loop has some stream crossings and travels mostly on old logging roads. It also has some great lakeshore single-track riding with long, gradual hills. There are some really great, fast gravel road sections. Most people combine this with Mouse Branch Loop to make an overall difficult ride.
3. Right Loop (11 miles)
You can ride Right Loop in its entirety for a more difficult ride or you can take one of the connecting trails to make two smaller, easy and moderate loops as well. Some of this trail travels along the lakeshore while most of it travels along Tsali's interior hills. There are many great jumps on the loop as well!
4. Left Loop (12 miles)
This is the longest Tsali trail. It starts with a roller coaster ride along the lakeshore as the trail dips into a cove, crosses a creek, then emerges to zoom along the shoreline time and again. Toward the end of the loop and the overlook, the trail moves into the interior hills of the peninsula. There is a very muddy creekside climb is followed by a fast, rolling cruise that connects to a spur to a cliff top vista overlooking Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains. This one is not to be missed!
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