Swain County is Great for Road Cycling and Off-road Mountain Biking at the Tsali Recreation Area

In the Western North Carolina mountains, the word "flat" is seldom used to describe our landscape. So, needless to say, biking these hills can be a challenge for road bikers and off-road bikers alike.

Mtn BikingEach year, Swain County attracts thousands of mountain bikers to the world-famous Tsali Recreation Area Trail System, 15 miles west of Bryson City. Pronounced "SAH-lee" and named after the 19th Cherokee Indian martyr, the 42-mile network of multi-use trails is consistently rated one of the top ten riding destinations in the United States. The four-loop system offers a variety of landscapes and trail types from single track to old logging roads. Hikers may use the trails any day of the week, but mountain bikers and horseback riders are kept separated by alternating use of the trails. A schedule is posted at all trailheads. Click here for a printable map of Tsali Trails (pdf).

In recent years, the sport has grown to such an extent that now there is a series of annual races held in the area.

Oconaluftee River Trail, Cherokee. This flat, wide 1.5 mile (3-mile out and back) trail meanders along the river. It has a gentle terrain excellen for beginners and children. Advanced riders will enjoy it as well. Park at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Center on in Cherokee at the Transit lot on the left just as you leave the Reservation.

road bikes

There are many miles of uncrowded country roads for biking in Bryson City and throughout Swain County, many designated as bike routes. Lakeview Drive (a.k.a. "Road to Nowhere") is a lightly traveled road that winds six miles into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, north of Bryson City. It is a moderate ride with views of Fontana Lake.

Just west of Bryson City, bike trails include two moderate loops offer a variety of landscapes on lightly traveled roads. The 13-mile Lower Alarka Loop offers views of Lake Fontana and the Tuckasegee River, while the 15-mile Upper Alarka Loop offers a mixture of scenic flat farmland and steep mountain grades.

Bicycle Shops and Outfitters in the Bryson City Area

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Nantahala Outdoor Center

13077 Hwy 19 W
Bryson City, NC 28713
Local 828-488-6900
TF 800-232-7238
Fax 828-488-0301
Nantahala Outdoor Center Rated "One of the Best Outfitter's on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure, NOC has been the leader in the rafting industry since 1972. NOC offers family friendly adventures rafting and paddling the Nantahala River, as well as riverside dining, lodging, shopping, mountain bike rentals, lake kayaking, wilderness medicine training and our world famous Paddling School. There's something for everyone so come see for yourself why NOC is a legend in the outdoors!

Tsali Cycles

Contact: Chris Royce
35 Slope Street
Bryson City, NC 28713
View Additional Addresses
Local 828-488-9010
Phone 828-284-0516
Tsali Cycles bike shop offers local beer on tap and wine tasting. A full service, friendly repair shop with fair prices and an experienced staff. Trek bikes to rent and sell along with road bikes and used bikes for those just getting started.
Complimentary bike checks, maps, and advice that will provide you with all you need for a great biking experience!
Come have a cold one with us!

Bryson City Bicycles

Contact: Andy Zivinsky
157 Everett St
Bryson City, NC 28713
View Additional Addresses
Phone 828-488-1988
Bryson City Bicycles Bryson City Bicycles is 'Tsali's bike shop'. Offering rentals, same day repairs and gear, we're open year round for all your biking needs. We have a great selection of bikes, parts and accessories, gift items, books, maps, trail information, clothing, kids' products and more. BCB was named one of America's Best Bike Shops of 2014 and is conveniently located in downtown Bryson City.

For more information, we recommend Swain County resident Jim Parham's two excellent books about biking in the Smokies. These books are generally available at area bookstores and outfitters or may be purchased from the author.

Off the Beaten Track:
Guide to Mountain Biking in Western North Carolina / The Smokies

Road Bike in the Smokies

Milestone Press
P.O. Box 158
Almond, North Carolina 28702



Bryson City - Swain County
Chamber of Commerce

210 Main Street
P.O. Box 509
Bryson City, NC 28713


Karen Proctor Wilmot
Executive Director

800-867-9246 toll-free
828-488-3681 local
828-488-6858 fax