WNC has Great Road Cycling and Off-road Mountain Biking
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.
Bryson City is centrally located to ride sixteen great trails in the mountains. Whether you are a beginner, an adventure racer or somewhere in between, off-road bicycling in far western North Carolina offers something for everyone. PDF of Area Trails
No bike? No problem. All of Bryson City's bike shops have rentals.
Check out our "Think Outside the Gym" 2-day vacation itinerary that includes biking at Tsali.
Tsali – 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 century 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 'flowy' 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. There are signs at the trailheads that clearly list which trails are available. Tsali trails schedule.
There are also color trail map signs at each trail intersection to help with navigation and emergency response. In addition to a “You Are Here” designation, each map has a unique number that can be used by rescue and Forest Service personnel to pinpoint location.
In recent years, the sport has grown to such an extent that now there are a series of annual races held in the area. Read what riders have to say (Raleigh News Observer, June 2016). In 2015 Outside magazine named Tsali as one of its “10 Great American Mountain Biking Trails.”
Deep Creek / Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City. Bicycles are allowed on the Deep Creek and Indian Creek trails only. There are no loops to ride; these trails are out and back only. Deep Creek area trail map (pdf). Deep Creek Trail may be ridden from the parking lot to the fourth bridge (at the Loop Trail); this is about 1.7 miles each way (1 mile beyond the junction with Indian Creek Trail). Indian Creek Trail may be ridden from Deep Creek Trail to the intersection with the Deeplow Gap Trail; this is about 2.9 miles each way.
Oconaluftee River Trail / Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee. This flat, wide 1.5 mile (3-mile out and back) trail meanders along the river. It has a gentle terrain excellent 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.
Fire Mountain Trail System (Mt. Noble), Cherokee. 10.5 mile miles of smooth, machine-cut trail with sections ranging from beginner to advanced. Solid climbs are rewarded with curvy, flowing descents. Mixed-use trail for walking or riding. Trailhead is at the Oconaluftee Indian Village.
Other trails close by include: Jackrabbit, Hanging Dog, Stecoah Gap, Fontana Village, Santeetlah Lake Trail, Meeting House Mountain, Cheoah Bald, Upper Shell Stand, Calf Pen Gap, Western Carolina University Trails, Moses Creek and Panthertown. (pdf of area trails)
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 to strenuous 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.
Bike Shops & Outfitters
Bryson City Bicycles
Contact: Diane Cutler or Andy Zivinsky
157 Everett St
Bryson City, NC 28713
With a fun friendly staff, local trail knowledge, and expert mechanics, Bryson City Bicycles is a fully stocked shop for all ages and skill levels. Rent and buy bikes, get top-notch repairs and service while you wait, hear the scoop on trails, races and rides, and shop for fun gifts including the largest selection of exclusive Tsali products. Named “One of America’s Best Bike Shops” in 2014 - 16 and awarded the InterBike Award for “Best Mountain Bike Shop of 2015”
Nantahala Outdoor Center Biking
13077 Hwy 19 W
Bryson City, NC 28713
Grab some accessories, rent a mountain bike, get a quick repair or ask a question at NOC’s Bike Shop in the Nantahala Gorge. NOC provides the closest bike shop to Western North Carolina’s Tsali trail system as well as access to our onsite Flint Ridge Trail. Our guides know about the best local rides, from family-friendly excursions to heart-pounding, technical trails. NOC’s expert mechanics are there for all your repair needs while the shop offers entry-level to high-end bikes for rent.
Contact: Chris Royce
35 Slope Street
Bryson City, NC 28713
Tsali Cycles is a family friendly, full service bike shop offering everything from expert repairs, trail info, bike rentals, and custom bike rebuilds to retail gear and bike sales. Join one of our weekly group rides, open to all skill levels, and after your ride enjoy one of our six local craft beers on tap in our taproom. Or take a break from pedaling and relax in one of our professionally led yoga classes; visit our website for our weekly schedule.
Riding in Deep Creek
Guidebooks for Biking
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, and Road Bike in the Smokies.
Jim also has a great Tsali Trail Map (waterproof and tear resistant). Available locally from Bryson City Bicycles on Everett Street and at Parton's Trading Post on US 19/74 as well as from the publisher.
P.O. Box 158
Almond, North Carolina 28702