North Carolina is among the best destinations in the US if you’re looking for a surreal outdoor experience. With a mild climate, 300 miles of shoreline and a coastal plain filled with beautiful beaches, North Carolina promises an all-around fun experience throughout the year.
Mountain biking is among the popular activities you can enjoy all year round in North Carolina. The state is considered the up-and-coming MTB epicenter of the East Coast — all due to its incomparable downhills and streamlined trails studded with exhilarating bumps and jumps.
Whether looking for a leisurely ride through the woods or more challenging tracks with jumps and drops, North Carolina has trails that will make your heart race.
From Smooth to Narrow: Exploring the Best Mountain Biking Trails in North Carolina
From the great singletrack trails in Pisgah National Forest to the exposed granite and beautiful waterfalls in Dupont State Forest, here are the best mountain bike trails in North Carolina.
1. Dupont State Forest
Dupont State Forest is a popular mountain biking destination in North Carolina. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, western North Carolina, DuPont State Recreational Forest offers trails for mountain bikers of all skill levels.
The trail system features over 100 trails, ranging from easy to expert. The trails are well-maintained and challenging, providing a fun riding experience. Novice riders can take advantage of the easier trails, while intermediate riders can check out the advanced trails. Popular trails here include:
· Buck Forest Loop
One standout trail is the Buck Forest Loop, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding forest and waterfalls. Mountain bikers can enjoy this trail year-round except for winter because they are closed to motorized vehicles.
· Fire Mountain Trail
The Fire Mountain Trail is a fast, flowy singletrack that offers technical features and smooth riding. The trail has several steep climbs and descents, jumps, and berms. This trail is ideal for novice and experienced riders and is a great option for those looking for a challenging ride in a beautiful setting.
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Western North Carolina is hard to beat when it comes to mountain biking. This park is home to more than 500 miles of singletrack trails, which wind their way through the forests and up the mountains.
The trails here are well-maintained and offer a great challenge for riders of all levels. You’ll find a mix of smooth, flowing trails and technical, rocky sections that will test your skills.
One standout trail in the Great Smoky Mountains Park is the Cades Cove Loop. This singletrack 11-mile loop is paved all the way and offers a mix of rolling terrain and stunning views of the surrounding mountains. You’re also almost guaranteed an animal sighting!
3. Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest is the place to be if you’re looking for a challenging mountain biking trail in NC. The forest features over 500 miles of trails, mostly switchbacks and steep climbs ranging from easy to expert.
The best part about Pisgah National Forest is that some of the original logging infrastructures have been transformed into trails. These include old road beds that follow the contours of the mountains and skidder pathways that go straight down the slope.
However, most of the trails here will challenge you on the descents. Popular ones include:
· Black Mountain Trail
One standout trail is the Black Mountain Trail, which offers a strenuous climb to the top of the mountain, followed by a thrilling downhill descent.
· Mills River Trail
Mills River Trail is a technical singletrack that winds through a mix of hardwood forests and open meadows. The trail features a series of rollercoaster-like descents, challenging climbs, and several stream crossings.
· Avery Creek Trail
The Avery Creek Trail offers a mix of singletrack and double-track trails. The trail features several technical rock gardens and stream crossings. The Avery Creek Trail is a popular destination for advanced riders looking for a challenging ride and is known for its stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
4. Lake James State Park
Lake James State Park is a great place for recreational mountain biking. It’s located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, north of Asheville and Banner Elk. The park has over 40 miles of trails to explore on your bicycle or foot!
The park is open year-round, but it can get crowded during peak season due to its proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway and other popular tourist attractions like Mount Mitchell. One standout trail is the Catawba River Loop, which offers stunning views of the nearby lake.
Lake James State Park also offers rentals for both road bikes (electric) as well as mountain bikes (internal combustion). If you’re looking for a quiet ride through some beautiful scenery, consider staying at one of the many lodges within walking distance of this serene location!
5. Tsali Recreation Area
Tsali recreation area in Bryson City, western North Carolina, boasts some of the best MTB trails in the region. The area features over 40 miles of easy and intermediate trails along the edge of Lake Fontana.
You’ll find four main loops that you can explore. The first two are easy and good for beginners, while the last two are more difficult, with narrow trails and more obstacles.
One standout trail is the Right Loop, which offers a mix of technical challenges and stunning views of Lake Fontana and the mountains. The Left Loop combines with the Right Loop to give you 25 miles of singletrack trail systems.
Overall, Tsali has something for everyone, which is why it’s one of the most popular mountain biking areas in North Carolina. And the beauty of it is that you can make your loop by choosing which trails you want to ride.
6. Bent Creek Experimental Forest, Asheville
Bent Creek Experimental Forest is a great place to mountain bike. It’s located in Asheville, NC, and is part of the Pisgah National Forest. The forest has over 50 miles of trails for you to explore. You can ride a single track or double track, depending on what kind of riding you want to do.
The area has various trails that suit all mountain bikers and their riding styles. Beginners and intermediate mountain bikers, both in groups or single persons, can have a great time on these trails. Advanced riders will enjoy the challenge of the Bent Creek trail system’s big climbs and technical sections.
7. Grandfather Mountain State Park
This is a popular park for several reasons—it’s got stunning views and a variety of trails, and it’s easily accessible from several cities.
The park has two loops—one 4.5 miles and the other 7 miles—both are considered to be intermediate in terms of difficulty. The terrain is mostly rolling with some rocky sections, and the elevation gain is around 1,000 feet.
One thing to note is that there are no water fountains in the park, so make sure to bring enough water for your hike. And since the park is so popular, it can get crowded on weekends, so try to go during the week if you can.
8. Rocky Knob Bike Park, Boone
The Rocky Knob Bike Park is a mountain biking destination in Boone, North Carolina. The park features a variety of trails, including easy, flowy trails to more challenging, technical trails. The park is known for its beautiful mountain scenery and popular destination for riders looking to experience the thrill of mountain biking in a natural setting.
Rocky Knob Bike Park’s system consists of seven trails, including the Rock Trail and Green Trail. The park also has many amenities to help make your visit enjoyable. These include a bike shop, a rental center, a skills area, and a pump track. There is also a food truck on site that serves up a variety of tasty treats and drinks to refuel after a day on the trails.
Mountain Biking Is Alive and Well In North Carolina.
Mountain biking in North Carolina offers a diverse range of terrain and landscapes, from the rolling hills of Piedmont to the rugged peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The state has more than 500 miles of trail for riders to enjoy. If you’re looking for a challenge, the Bent Creek Experimental Forest in Asheville is a great place to start. This 16,000-acre forest is full of twisty singletrack and technical descents.
Head to the Pisgah National Forest for a more relaxed and enjoyable ride. This forest is known for its long, flowy singletrack. No matter where you go, make sure to bring your camera – the views in North Carolina are some of the best in the country.
Looking for an adventure that’s as unique as your personality? Worry not; a mountain bike trip in North Carolina is something to consider. There are so many trails to choose from, and deciding where exactly you want to go can be challenging! But we hope this article has helped narrow down the options for your next mountain biking adventure in the Tar Heel State.