42 miles of the best singletrack on this side of the Mississippi. 4 trails, 2 open per day. All four are low technical but are fast, twisty, and fun. Expect puddles and water bars, lots of rideable water-crossings. Very little you have to dismount to get over. You ride along the lakeside, deep in the woods and out in the open. Trail maps are available at local shops. $2 per person per day, pay at the honor box. Lots of camping and cabins nearby.
In the early 1800s a Cherokee Indian named Tsali escaped into North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains, fleeing the US Army's attempt at a forced relocation. He bargained with his life so that his people could remain in the region.
Today, one of the Nantahala National Forest's greatest recreation areas is named after the brave man. Mountain bikers have been tested on Tsali's Left and Right loops for years - even if their situations are seldom as perilous as that of the defiant Cherokee's.
As the trails swoop through the verdant North Carolina forests, riders are rewarded with beautiful views of Fontana Lake. The Left and Right loops are mostly singletrack, with plenty of climbing and fast corners. There's good reason why Tsali has been a classic Southeast ride, and now it takes its rightful place among IMBA's Epic Rides.
Location: Bryson City is approximately 1.5 hours west of Asheville, NC
Length: The Left Loop is approximately 12 miles, and the Right Loop is approximately 11 miles
Climbing: About 1,000 feet per loop.
Terrain: Fast, smooth, rolling singletrack.
Notes: There is a $2 per-day trail use fee, and the trails alternate between horse-only and bike-only use.
Tsali is certainly the most beautiful and challenging trails I have ever been on. It lived up to all the hype. Hard packed single track with challenging climbs and white knuckle downhills surrounded by breathtaking views.
Plenty of parking and camp sites near the trail head. Dinning and shops are about 10-15min away at Nanatahala outdoor center.
If you can possibly get yourself here, do it. You won't be disappointed.
The first thing to note about the Tsali trails is that certain loops are only open on certain days. The Thompson and Mouse Branch loops are open to mountain bikers on Tues/Thurs/Sat as of this writing, and the Right and Left loops are open to mountain bikers on Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun. The loops are open to horses on alternate days, so you will have to dodge a few equine excreta (AKA "meadow muffins.")I was there on Saturday and only had time to ride Mouse Branch, so that's the only loop I can comment on. It was mostly non-technical, dirt and gravel track with a lot of climbing and descending (2500' over 9 1/4 miles) and excellent flow. None of the climbs are particularly steep, and the non-technical nature of the trail means that you can get away with using your granny gear if you need to. The downhills are typically long, swoopy, and very fun. These trails are designed such that you can carry a lot of speed, since there is very little (apart from trees) to slow you down. Definitely beginner-friendly (if you are in good shape), but more experienced riders can challenge themselves by simply riding the trails faster.If you're looking for a technical challenge, this ain't it, but it's still a great trail system. Beautiful views to boot. It does get super muddy after a rain. While I was riding the back part of the loop, an isolated thunderstorm actually passed over the front part that I had already ridden, so the last half mile was pretty sloppy. Fortunately, there is a bike wash station adjacent to the parking area.
09/13/2012View from Mouse Branch Overlook
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