“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a bicycle, and that’s pretty close.” – Anonymous
No one knows who coined the sentiment, but biking enthusiasts know it’s true! Especially those living in the mountain towns in North Carolina, land of the best mountain biking anywhere.
Okay, cyclists, have we got your attention? Good! Now, before you gear up and get ready to hit the trails, we’ve got a few tips on how to handle the curves ahead – not to mention the thrilling elevations –for your ultimate off-road adventure on the mountain bike trails in North Carolina.
Did you know the state is divided into three distinct sections according to its changing terrain from east to west? Biking buffs abound on the Western North Carolina (WNC) side, known as “the mountains section.” This is thanks in no small part to the more than 3,400 bike trails in Asheville, WNC’s largest city and the heart of the region.
The tree-lined trails in scenic Asheville take cyclists for the ride of their life along gravel roads that wind through forested valleys, past lazy streams, and up steep mountainsides. All these elements, plus the year-round mild climate, make this area perfect for exploring on two wheels.
WNC is known for three main trail systems – Pisgah National Forest, Dupont State Forest (DSF), and Tsali. These are the three cyclist meccas traditionally featured in cycling magazines and on social media, and here’s why:
Pisgah’s trails are described as some of the most challenging because of their wet, rocky, and rooty terrain. But they’re also well maintained and frequently traveled by fellow cyclists.
DSF trails also make for some tricky riding over plenty of bumps and hills. And keep an eye out for that slickrock! Many DSF trails cross over large expanses of solid granite, a unique feature that can make for some smooth maneuvering.
Tsali trails are more hardpacked and make for exceptionally long and extremely fast riding along flat, level pathways. Tsali’s hills can be long, but they’re not very steep, and they offer gorgeous views of Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
These trail systems are all located within a short driving distance of downtown Asheville, a lively city with a vibrant night life and dynamic art scene. All of this makes Asheville a must-see-must-do town on the Blue Ridge bucket list of WNC visitors with a passion for cycling. And Asheville’s ranking on so many “best places to retire” lists has been known to inspire cyclists – and mountain lovers in general – to settle in to a dream home of their own in one of the many gated communities near Asheville NC.
But Asheville isn’t the only game in town for mountain lovers and avid cyclists. In recent years, a slew of new hiking and biking trails have opened up in and around the towns of Boone, Banner Elk, Blowing Rock, and Lenoir. The trails in these towns grace some of the most majestic mountains in Western North Carolina, and they’re quickly growing in popularity. From the breathtaking highs of the 3,600-foot Blowing Rock elevation to the sweet Sugar Mountain valley down below, these trails are attracting cyclists from far and wide. Here are a few of our favorites:
Beech Mountain Trails
What sets Beech Mountain apart from all the rest? It’s the highest town in Eastern America with elevations at 5,506 feet. It’s not only high off the ground, it’s also high on our list of places for best biking adventures. If you’re looking for an unforgettable ride, you can’t beat Beech Mountain. Casual cyclists will enjoy the easy scenic routes, tailor made for cruising a summer day away. Advanced cyclists will find their fill of challenges here, including climbs of 1,400 feet in only 3-1/2 miles! Professional road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong covered many if not all of Beech Mountain’s 51 miles of biking routes, so you know this place has true cycling appeal. And there are plenty of events held throughout the year, including regular Beech Mountain Bike Club rides, guided group rides (third Saturday of the month, May through October), and the annual Beech Mountain “Beest” Weekend Cycling Time Trial held each May.
Sugar Mountain Trails
It may be best known for its fabulous ski slopes, but this mountain has year-round appeal with runners, walkers, hikers, and bikers. Life is sweet on Sugar Mountain, with its welcoming landscape and far-reaching views. Just minutes from Grandfather Mountain and Linville Gorge, Sugar Mountain has 11 trails of varying difficulty to suit a variety of outdoorsy types, from the gentle walkers who enjoy the quiet of the woods to the adrenaline seekers who prefer a heart-pumping trek along the higher elevations. Mountain bikers love the network of trails that weave their way throughout the Village of Sugar Mountain. And when they’re ready to practice their downhill cycling skills, they can catch a lift to the top of the slopes on Sugar Mountain Resort’s chair lifts. All visitors can enjoy free trail access during daylight hours from May through October. And cycling fans will be the first in line when May brings The Showdown at Sugar Mountain, a NORBA (National Off Road Bicycle Association) National Championship Event that showcases both professional and amateur cyclists participating from all 50 states.
Zack’s Fork Mountain Trails
It may be only three miles long, but this single-track loop in the center of Lenoir NC is built for fun. It opened in 2014 and has since become a favorite among beginners, advanced riders, and everyone in between. It’s short and sweet with a nice curvy downhill descent that makes it a must-ride for Lenoir bike buffs. Zacks Fork Mountain Bike Trail has been described as “flowy and impressive with lots of berms and bumps” and – spoiler alert! – there’s a quick elevation change (250 ft) for an added thrill at the end of your energetic ride.
Yes, it’s true! The mountain towns in North Carolina really do have the best mountain biking anywhere. And these days, we’re seeing more and more enthusiasts making the move to the mountains, where they can enjoy year-round hiking and biking.
At The Coves Mountain River Club in Lenoir NC, neighbors not only have plenty of trails to traverse, they even enjoy the invigorating hike – or bike! – up to their neighborhood clubhouse, Pisgah Mountain Lodge, which takes them to elevations ranging from 1,000 to 1,700 feet. You get quite an endorphin boost making your way up the paved roads to the lodge. And once at the top, you’re treated to spectacular views of Grandfather Mountain, Johns River, Wilson Creek, and beautiful cascading waterfalls that can be seen in all directions.
Whether you’re an avid mountain biker or a gentle cruiser who appreciates the slower rolls, or even just a fan of beautiful mountain living, The Coves offers a full schedule of year-round recreational activities and relaxing opportunities. This variety of amenities is just one small part of what attracts so many people to this fabulous gated community in one of the most charming mountain towns in North Carolina.
Come on out to The Coves Mountain River Club and see what we mean… and be sure to bring your mountain bike so you can try our trails!
Call us at 828.754.0700 to schedule your visit.
If you’re exploring the area for the first time, as for our 84-page complimentary Western North Carolina Visitor’s Guide, which gives you more information about living in the foothills.