TRAVEL GUIDE TO BRYSON CITY AND THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
THINGS TO DO IN THE SMOKIES
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.
Each 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.
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.
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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
P.O. Box 158
Almond, North Carolina 28702
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Karen Proctor Wilmot