Western North Carolina is a mountain biker’s mecca. With hundreds of miles of preserved national and state forests, unique features like slickrock, plus our generally temperate climate, bikers from all over the states flock to Asheville and surrounding areas to find some of the best biking in the nation. 

Whether you’re visiting Asheville, are considering moving here, or are headed to WNC for the specific purpose of discovering the ultimate mountain biking trail, here are 5 of the best summer mountain biking trails near Asheville. For each trail, we’ll let you know how difficult it is, how far it is from Asheville, and how far you’ll be biking. 

Bent Creek Experimental Forest

The Bent Creek Experimental Forest is a local favorite since it’s only about a 20-minute drive from the city and features a number of trails suited to bikers of any experience level. Here, you’ll find well-maintained trails and miles of wide gravel logging roads perfect for a leisurely pedal on a summer day. If you bike at Bent Creek, remember that trails aren’t directional and they’re very popular. You’ll want to be careful to yield to hikers and dog walkers. 

Here are our top two trail picks at Bent Creek:

Pisgah Area SORBA Beginner’s Loop

 

  • Location: Bent Creek Experimental Forest, 12 miles southwest of downtown Asheville
  • Length: 6.2-mile loop
  • Difficulty: Easy/intermediate

If you’re just getting into mountain biking, and want a trail that will challenge you without throwing you to the wolves, the SORBA beginner’s loop is a great place to practice. The trail packs in only about 650 feet of climbing, and will throw you a few small jumps, roots, creek crossings, and berms, but is mostly well maintained and easy to navigate. 

This is a great trail for an easy Sunday morning ride for more experienced bikers and a bit of a challenge for beginners. 

Green’s Lick/Ingles Field Gap Loop

 

  • Location: Bent Creek Experimental Forest, 12 miles southwest of downtown Asheville
  • Length: 13.6-mile loop
  • Difficulty: Intermediate/difficult

If the beginner’s loop just wasn’t quite enough of a challenge, this loop is sure to satisfy. Starting with a quad-burning 1,200-foot climb, you’ll start to wonder if the entire ride isn’t all uphill. Once you make it to the top, however, you’ll be rewarded with a two-mile descent and a pretty fast, fun ride from then on. The second half of the ride is nearly all downhill. While there’s a bit of tricky handling, there are enough sections where you can rocket down the hill without a care to make this ride equally challenging and satisfying. 

Pisgah National Forest

The Pisgah National Forest is a mountain biker’s dream. For the most part, this forest is for serious bikers only, but we’ve found one trail that’s a little more beginner-friendly. What makes the Pisgah so gnarly? Jarring terrain, huge rocks, massive assents, roots everywhere, and generally just a wild ride no matter what trail you hit. Here are the faves:

Black Mountain Trail

 

  • Location: Brevard, NC in the Pisgah National Forest, about 35 miles southwest of Asheville
  • Length: 12.2-mile loop
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Quite possibly the most famous mountain biking trail in the East, the Black Mountain Trail is locally known as “Clawhammer”. This is not a trail for beginners. It is a trail for the extreme adventurer. The Black Mountain Trail starts with a long climb up an old fire road. Once you reach the summit, things get real. It’s a steep, technical descent like none other, and it’s what made the Black Mountain Trail famous. All told, you’ll descend more than 1900ft, and that’s packed into just 3.5 miles. It’s not one to be taken lightly, but the closer you get to the end, the mellower the trail becomes. Watch for small drops, washed out areas, and some pretty steep eroded waterbars on your way down. 

North Slope Trail

 

  • Location: About 3.5 miles from Brevard, NC, 35 miles southwest of Asheville in the Pisgah National Forest
  • Length: 4.6-mile loop
  • Difficulty: Beginner

The North Slope Trail is quite popular, which means it’s only open to mountain bikes between October 15 and April 15. It can be ridden either direction, but we’ll walk you through the counter-clockwise loop here. All in all, this trail only gains about 500 feet in elevation, and it’s pretty scenic. You’ll start by riding along the river, where an uphill climb starts after you walk your bike up a few massive log stairs. Your climb is rewarded by a steady downhill with a few roots to watch out for. Another short uphill and you’re taken back to the paved campground and out! 

It’s a simple, short workout perfect for beginners who want to explore the Pisgah National Forest. If that’s not quite enough riding for you, check out this Introduction to Pisgah ride that Roots Rated put together. It’s an intermediate ride that’s as close to beginner as you’ll get in this forest. 

Tsali

  • Location: 77-miles southwest of downtown Asheville, about a 1.5 hour drive. 
  • Length: 13-16 miles, depending on which trails you take
  • Difficulty: Beginner

The Tsali Recreation Area is another popular spot for Asheville locals. 3 of the 4 trails overlook the beautiful Lake Fontana and hook up with some of the best scenic overlooks in the area. At Tsali, you won’t find huge elevation changes or much of a climb, which is what makes this recreation area perfect for beginners. The trails are hard-packed and well-maintained, making for a fun, fast ride with some breathtaking views. 

Trails at Tsali are multi-use, which means that access alternates daily to keep horseback riders and bikers on separate trails. No matter when you go, at least two of the trails will be open for biking. This is a highly recommended spot for anyone vacationing in the area looking for a scenic way to catch some fresh air. 

Dupont Slickrock Trail

  • Location: About 40 miles south of Asheville in the Dupont State Forest
  • Length: 6 miles
  • Difficulty: Intermediate/Moderate

You might recognize the terrain here from The Hunger Games movies. The Dupont State Forest was used for filming the series back in 2012, and its gorgeous scenery, complete with waterfalls and roaring creeks, make the forest a destination for bikers and hikers from all over. The reason we picked this trail, in particular, is to give you a taste of the East Coast’s signature slickrock. Slickrock Trail offers a steady climb over exposed granite slabs paired with some panoramic views of the forested mountains around you. The best thing about this trail is that it’s easily paired with many of Dupont’s additional shorter trails, ensuring you can tailor your ride to whatever you’re looking for on the day you go. 

You’ll find some of the best mountain biking in the country here in Asheville. If you’re an avid biker looking to stay, check out High Hickory. A sustainable community in the mountains just outside of Asheville, High Hickory boasts miles and miles of pristine trails for our residents to use for biking or hiking. Learn more about our available properties and lots online today.