Tsali features four singletrack loops that hug the banks of Fontana Lake. The trails are super fast and flowy singletrack with mostly moderate climbs and amazing scenery.
Daily usage alternates between horses and bikes so you don't have to worry about running into spooked riders (check local park maps and signage). The trailhead features a bike wash station and there's also a nice campground with showers and flush toilets. Tsali is an IMBA Epic and with good reason!
Review: I had heard many great things about Tsali, but had also heard that it could be boring to ride. Here are my thoughts:
BEAUTIFUL views throughout
Trails are in great shape and fun to ride
Easy with not much technical
Great length for a weekend worth of riding (about 45 miles total)
Can get boring. Same type of trails throughout
Hunters allowed in the area
We spent a weekend out at Tsali recently. We rode Mouse and Thomspon Loop on Saturday and the Right and Left Loop on Sunday. I was underwhelmed by Mouse and Thomspon on Saturday as it was pretty much the same exact type of trail the entire time. The view were good on those trails, but not as good as Sunday. I was disappointed that I had driven so far for an "epic" trail and that is what I got.
Left and Right loop (Sundays) is still pretty much the same type of trail riding all day long, but it does have a couple of slightly technical areas to keep things interesting. The views from the Left and Right loop are STELLAR though, and well worth the drive.
We combined the weekend riding with staying at Cherokee Casino, which is about 30 minutes from Tsali. Luckily we didn't lose all of our money on Saturday night at the casino, and didn't gamble our bikes away. 8-)
Tsali is definitely worth checking out. It would be great for a beginner/intermediate rider but advanced riders may get bored.
Similar Trail: FATS with views/Lake Norman State Park with views
Review: Just got back from a 3 day trip to Tsali with my teenage daughter who is a novice. Rode about half of the Right loop day 1 and all of the Mouse Branch loop day 2 with my daughter.
Right loop starts off very smooth and great for novice riders, and gets a little tougher as it goes, with a couple bail outs along the way. Mouse branch has some awesome sections, but starts off very rough, climbing a long, rocky fire road. My daughter did make it all the way around Mouse Branch, but it was pretty tough for her. After the ride, another rider told us that Thompson loop was the best for beginners, but unfortunately that was the only loop we didn't get to.
Day 3 I rode the Left Loop solo, and it was one of my favorite rides of all time. Long, fast flowing downhills, with a few moderately tough climbs. Left loop is not overly technical, but it is super fun, and has some of the most unbelievable views you will ever see on a bike, at least in the Eastern US. The Overlook loop adds an extra mile or so to the loop, and is an absolute must. The view from the top is amazing.
We camped at Turkey Creek campground, a mile down the road, which was very nice, clean, and affordable. Day 3 we went over to Nantahala Outdoor Center and rented a 2 man inflatable kayak called a "duckie" and rode the river, which was also a blast.
Overall, I LOVED Tsali and will be back for sure. My only gripe might be that the trails were a little over-grown in areas, but I suspect I might have caught them before a maintenance cycle as I have heard they are pretty good about doing trail maintenance there.
Review: Wow what a fun trail system. Everything here is awesome!! I drove up on a Saturday night and crashed in the camp ground which is put together very well, clean, and the spaces are spread apart far enough so that you're not squished up against the sites to your left and right.
The trails are put together very well and maintained with pride. Next time I come up it will be for two or three nights of camping and at least two full days of biking along with a possible kayak trip in the nearby river.
I highly recommend this place to anyone and everyone.
Review: As someone who has ridden all over the country, I wouldn't even put the Tsali Trails in my Top 10. That is not to say it isn't a fun place to ride but 1. It is relatively flat so not only are there no extended climbs, there are no extended DHs either; 2. The mileage is limited unless you just want to keep going around the same loops all day. Those two things alone are the reasons I wouldn't rate this area as high as many others that I have ridden. It is a nice place to camp and ride for a couple of days though and compared to much of the Eastern riding. it is pretty good. It is a really good area for beginner/intermediate riders.
Review: This is the best East Coast riding there is. These trails are in excellent condition, well maintained and offer some spectacular scenery. Make sure ride to Windy Gap off the right trail. Ride the right loop in the Counter clockwise direction jumping over to the Left Loop without taking the road back to the parking lot in-between. These trails were fast and flowing and not technical but very challenging. Next day we did Thompson. Didn't get to do Mouse. Thompson has a fast and very fun downhill fo the last 1.5 miles. We stopped in Bryson City Bicycles for info, excellent shop, very friendly and good selection, next door is Iron Skillet - good food. Want to give a shout out to Jim Freeman who own Freeman Motel just up the road from the Tsali Trail head. We stayed in one of his rooms, rustic but everything you need for mtn biking. He also has cabins - and a pool. We will be back!
There was camping at Tsali but it closes for the winter. recommend you check in with local shop and get some of the background on Tsali and its rich Indian heritage. Make sure you know what days to ride what trails as they alternate with horse access.
Similar Trail: Angler's Ridge without the scenery.
Review: What a great trail system. I have ridden Mouse Branch Loop as well as the Left Loop. Both trails were very well maintained and very considerably challenging based on my Florida level of fitness. I would recommend these trails to anyone looking for a trail system that will get your heart pumping while being near some incredible views!
Review: Wow. I am shocked at all of the Tsali bashing. Tsali isn't just a trail, it is an experience. It's camping in the lot and waking up with your bike next to you and hitting the trailhead right there. It's the deep emerald NC forest and the wet ocre earth that is perfect singletrack winding around endless corners with the Blue Ridge Mountains calling in the distance. It is mist so deep you don't realize your are on islands surrounded by large, ameobic bodies of water with miles of smooth, yet often unpredictable singletrack. It is a place where mobile phones don't get signals and there are no late night fast food runs. Tsali is not an after work ride, or lift served park that requires pads. Tsali is an idea that helped build and fuel interest in mountain biking on both the East and West coast. Tsali is not 'the everything trail' but it is ranked high for a good reason. If you don't get Tsali, you definitely don't get mountain biking.
Review: funny how your list says "best trails in the world" and there are only american and canadian ... your view of "world" is twisted...if you state "of the world" then be prof. and post international links...
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Review: This series of trails is a must do on any serious mountain bikers list. Do yourself a favor and visit during the week and have the trails to yourself. Gets very crowded on the weekends. Parking area is well defined with a wash station. A $2.00 per day fee is well worth it. Trailhead has a bike cleaning station, a water point and a latrine. Trails are well marked and there open on alternate days to accommodate horse riding as well. I didn't see a lot of horse activity and only a few signs of horse manure along the trail. Beginners should ride Thompson first despite the trail literature. It is the easiest trail with a nice flow and minimal accents, but somehow have some great decent sections. A mix of single track and fire road, this is the trail to start off on. Mouse loop is another good trail for the beginner to intermediate experienced trail rider. The first section flows well until the two mile mark and starts to climb from there. It is pretty much all uphill to the lookout point with some very loose rocky terrain on climbing switchbacks. The views are well worth it and the ride back is an even better payoff. I started late , so my entire ride back was in the dark with a low powered set of headlamps. But the ride all the way back is a flowing downhill that is fun and enjoyable the whole way back to the trailhead. I managed to keep it a 8 mph the whole way with minimum effort and wish I had a chance to hit that section during daylight, because it would have been a blast! Right loop was a bit more difficult. Not your trail for a beginner. A fast start with the first mile in under 4 minutes, but met with a series of difficult long climbs that at times forced a walk due to rough terrain and steep incline. This 13 mile trail was well worth the effort due to the views, wildlife and exercise. Make sure you pack a snack and water on this ride it takes a lot out of you. We missed the opportunity to ride Left Loop.
Local bike shop in Bryson City was a wonderful surprise. Generally local outfitters and shops in high traffic areas are overpriced and unfriendly, but this shop had an incredible staff. Friendly, courteous and knowledgeable, they made the effort to make a visitor feel welcomed. And as always, I needed some last minute repair to my ride. I was taken right in, walked the strip while my bike was serviced and out and back on the trail in under two hours (that mainly has to do with the 20 minute drive to the shop). The price for repair was reasonable and the service was perfect. I really enjoy going to a new bike shop and being treated with such friendly service. A must stop on your trip at least to support them by buying a t-shirt.
Camp at a near by campground and enjoy the off site trails the locals are riding. I stayed at Tumbling Waters, less than 5 miles from the trailhead. The owners ride and were helpful in information as well as knowledge of other local trails that offer an added level of fun to the trip. This campground was really clean and friendly, a great location for a family and plenty of activities to do on recovery days if you have them.
Review: I've been going to Tsali for years. About 15 years to be exact. The campground is great and right at the trailhead. I really like the Thompson loop even though its one of the shortest. It's fast and flowy and has a great downhill at the end. Its always a good ride combining the left and right loop as well. Absolutely love this place and look forward to going every year!
Review: These trails are a little under expectations to be an EPIC ride bent creek and DuPont are much better. Still some good riding in the area left loop is really fast and fun, if your in the area already check out the left loop or Thompson depending on the day, but don't make the extra drive here over DuPont or bent creek!
Review: Tsali is and always has been a nice trail in a great location but
#4 in the world. YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING. It was all the rage in the South in the 90's but now I don't consider it top 4 in WNC. Dupont, Jackrabbit, Bent Creek, etc. are all better. Just my IMHO but I have lived in WNC 40
Review: Just went down from NY for the weekend and we were not disappointed the weather was perfect and the trails are fast and smooth nothing really technical a few climbs to keep you honest I believe Mouse is highly underrated here it's well worth the time however out of the 4 Thompson is the best loop if you can only do one. That being said park on the right side of the sign because they will write a parking ticket for a nice $75 ride!
Review: I came out here last May and rode the Left Loop. It had a lot of pretty scenery of Fontana Lake and I enjoyed the ride but it probably would have helped had I gone the right direction. It doesn't work very well when taken counter-clockwise, and the width of the trail makes it difficult to avoid other cyclists going the other direction.
Review: I've been looking forward to Tsali for a long time. We moved to Boone NC several months ago from Steamboat Springs, CO and I have ridden my fair share of trails. This to me, isn't close to epic. Sorta flowy, too often it's wider than single track, and the berms are weak. I always have a good time on my bike, so I still had fun. But I'd rank every mile of Kerr Scott and Warrior Creek trails above Tsali. I only rode half of it (right and left loops) and got a little lost at dusk on New Years Eve. My expectations were so much higher so I left a little bummed and spent my extra cash at Harrahs in Cherokee.
Review: Awesome trail! Very challenging inclines and descending fast, although alot of fun. Camping in the park was awesome. Just jumping on the bike from your tent site and riding to the trailhead was nice. Great place to hit 2 trails.
Review: 1st time to Tsali and not disappointed..the weather and scenery were spectacular. Rode Mouse on Saturday and Left Loop today. Extremely fast downhills with some grueling climbs..hope to be back soon
Review: I rode Thompson loop on Thursday 10/11 and throughly enjoyed it. It's in good condition for this late in the season and is well-drained except where it crosses small streams. But those were no problem and added to the adventure. Thompson loop is not as technical as some reviews describe it, but there are a couple a long climbs. After the last climb the descent to the trailhead was fun despite the rough trail surface due to tree roots. I hiked part of Right Loop that day and look forward to riding it on my next visit.* Review edited 10/15/2012
Review: Just arrived back home and still super stoked about the Right Loop!!! We woke up and picked a spot, drove to a beautiful place we had never been to and had no idea how majestic and exhilirating our day would be! We only were able to to do the Right Loop, but will be planning a trip back to explore the remaining trails.
Great downhills, great flow, super fun switch backs and again....the amazing scenery! It is rated as moderate due to the few steeper inclines, but well worth walking a few yards up for the decents. This loop is clearly marked with short cuts at 3 and 8 miles to give you plenty of options. One of the best we have riden!
Review: I live 20 miles from Tsali so the four trails are my main rides. I won't repeat what is all said below but was just there today. My message is watch for downed trees. Lots of twisty singletrack and they are diffificult to see.
Review: Great trail system with awesome views of the lake. The main trail is a fire road that branches off to several single track sections. This trail will test your technical skills and fitness level. A must ride trail for the Mtb fanatics!
Review: Camped near the NOC and rode Tsali for a couple days. What a great time! Trails are fun, flowy, and fast! If you like technical riding then Tsali is not for you. But if you like flowy fast descents then ride Tsali. The only down side is watch out for downed trees. Line of sight can be short and several trees obstruct the trails. Other than that I would recommend Tsali to all. Just the kind of riding my 29er HT was made for.
Review: Heavily used with great access from the adjoining campground. The trails are in good condition with fun berms a few whoop-de-doos.
There is quite a bit of variation in the style of trails - from narrow/exposed to wide-flowy doubletrack.
Windy Point off of Right Loop should not be missed.
Trails are heavily ridden with a large range of abilities - overall the condition is great but the many wet spots are being widened by riders trying to go around rather than through.
Worthy of a top 100 rating but definitely not top 10.
Review: We just don't get the high rating on Tsali. We've biked it several times. It's not a re-do for us unless it's a last resort. Nothing special, some washed out red clay trail areas that are extremely hot in the summer... didn't see any spectacular scenery at all. Fletcher Creek near Asheville, NC and Warrior Creek at Kerr Scott Dam in Wilksboro NC are far superior trails!! Actually, anything in Bent Creek Forest in Asheville beats Tsali hands down. Tsali is just boring.
Similar Trail: Fletcher Creek, Hard Times Trail in Bent Creek, Explorer Loop in Bent Creek.. Going south into Georgia we like Bear Creek in Ellijay.
Review: Tsali has a lot to offer... from grueling climbs to some pretty slick downhills... it's the Mecca of Mountain Biking, IMHO. I went after a week of rain, so it was a bit soaked with some puddles at least knee deep. These aren't obvious, so avoid them if possible. The trails are well marked, and it's pretty easy to get around, even without a map. If you can, go on a weekday because it can get quite crowded on weekends....
Review: Honestly not sure why this is ranked so high. After riding Pisgah and Dupont this place can not compare. It was well maintained but I would not classify it as an epic or destination trail. I think the IMBA is getting soft on what a EPIC really is.
Review: I've been coming to these trails for 20 years, and have always enjoyed the rides.
These trails are not like Pisgah or Dupont. Tsali is a ride that many can enjoy, while Pisgah and Dupont or for the more hardcore crowd IMO. To give these trails a poor rating is missing the point. Dupont and Pisgah are awesome, but should no be compared to Tsali, because they are so very different. Similar Trail: Chicopee Woods
Review: Great trail system with fantastic scenery. Lots of different trail types, climbs, sweet singletrack, switchbacks, fast downhill double track. Great trailhead campground and lake for that mandatory after ride dip!
Review: Good trail system. I did this with my family with an Ally-cat 3rd wheel on the back of my bike. We did two of the loops. Nice views. I want to go back and hammer on this trail. I'm sure it would have a different dynamic. I'm glad there were some wild berries for the kids during the ride to keep them going.
Review: Some of the finest riding you'll find in the area. I've ridden these trails multiple times and they've never let me down. Beautiful scenery, fast single track, and a serious workout for my suspension.
Similar Trail: I'm not sure anything compares to these trails. Maybe Bear Creek, but the rides not as long.
Review: Rode Right and Left Loops 3/28, the Mouse Branch and Thompson Loops 3/29. Conditions were perfect and trails were very good. I've not been on too many trails, but this is the best I've ridden so far.
Review: Rode Mouse, Thompson, Yesterday Really Liked them both, Rode Right Loop Today it was more flowy. Mouse & Thompson were a little more Technical. Enjoyed all 3 trails. Gotta go back and do Left loop Now.
Review: This whole trail system is a real treat. A few spots that will have all but the supermen and women among us walking our bikes to the top and some incredibly brisk downhills as a reward. Each day has a pair of trails open that will give you about 20 miles of peddling.
Review: Agree with the review below. Good trail, but not the best I've ridden (FATS is #1 to me). We went up here last summer and rode about half the trails here one day and all of JackRabbits another day. Solid, well groomed/marked trails that seem to get a bit long at times. Some of the climbs were long and fun, but no real flowy sections like FATS or JackRabbits.
Review: Every one i meet says this trail is the best. I think they could be better. As narrow as some of these trails are along the lake edge they should be rotation direction not bidiectional. They do rotate trails for horse and bike use . Whatever? trails are marked well, flow good , great views at overlooks, tend to get bored as each trail is long with little change up. dont mind the miles just when they all look the same and ride the same. Jack Rabbit trails are more fun than this one . if you want to ride all the trails here plan 2 days as they are on a rotation with horse use 4 trails total 2 avaliable every other day. Bottom line if you are in the area go ride here ,just dont make a pilgramage here expecting bliss
Review: See reviews for the 4 individual trails there. Left, right loop. Thompson and Mouse Branch loops. Ride different loops on different days. Campground on site to bike to trails. $2 entrance fee per day. Money goes to trails. Epic, multi day trip.
Review: Rode the right and left loops on 10/7/11 and ticked 20 miles exactly. The trails were in great shape. I always prefer the Thomson and Mouse days though.
Spent Saturday taking a flat bottom canoe down the Natahala with a buddy. Mtn biking and the reevur....good times.
Review: Riding Tsali this weekend and the Mouse Branch and Thompson Loops rode well today. The flow worked well and we ticked 20.1 miles after riding both trails plus the overlook. My gauge is prolly off since i got new rims though.
Review: My son and I rode both the right and left loops as Tsali back-to-back. This trail system is not especially technical, but is challenging to ride mainly because of the steady climbing to reach the overlook areas and the overall length of the loops when ridden in one day. We had a great time and would recommend it highly, but I think Raystown Lake in Pennsylvania is a better example of the same general concept -- long, flowy trails at a destination mountain bike network.
Review: Spent three days up there in May. What a great trip wish I could have stayed longer. Not very technical but fun and fast. The climbs were a little tough for a florida boy, but the downhill was worth it! Did I mention fast! Great veiws great trails will be going back for sure.
Review: These trails are simply great. No man made obstacles but I can do those in my back yard. A beautiful wilderness area. Fast tracks. I can't believe the nerds complaining about limbs and brush. If mountain biking is not considered a contact sport, it should be. Go bowling or man up.
Review: This is truly on of the quinessential east coast trail systems, which is great in the summer because it does not get quite as balmy here as it does in other parts of the south. There are a lot of good trail reviews (see below) but I want to reiterate that you cannot ride all 4 loops in one day because of alternating with horse traffic. Also, after it rains, there are a lot of holes on the trail that fill with water; be cautious because some of those puddles have rocks and roots in them. I busted it hard last year when it started storming...it is easy to get use to flowing, non technical trails for miles, bombing down a hill doing 25mph, then bam: big fat rock garden and a busted bike. I love Tsali, though, and find myself comparing many trails I ride to its simplicity and design.
Review: All 4 trails are great with variable difficulty but I have one major complaint shared by many riders and the topic is not on your questionaire. CUT THE WEEDS, BRIARS, POISON IVY, TREE LIMBS ETC. FROM THE TRAILS....I MEAN THEY ARE GROWING ACROSS THE TRAILS IN SOME PLACES. THAT IS NOT AN EXPENSIVE THING TO DO.* Review edited 4/28/2011
Review: These trails alternate horse/bike every other day , so you can only ride one side of the park on a given day. Tuesday, Thursday and Sat are Mousetail and Thompson which I think kicked total butt. Killer technical downhills on fast single track, nice short steep climbs. Excellent. The right and left are different but still fun and will wear you out as it winds around the lake twisting and turning. Really great trails, but you do need to spend 2 days here to get it all!
Similar Trail: Chicopee, but Tsali is tough on beginners...
Review: Another trail system well deserving of the IMBA Epic status. As Trek7k said, even the parking lot is top notch! The trails don't seem very technical but they will leave you smiling and ready to come back. Trails are closed to bikes and used by horses on alternating days but, unlike another IMBA Epic (Bull Mt), very few signs of their presence exist. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday are bike days for the Left and Right loops. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are bike days for the shorter and somewhat more technical Thompson and Mouse Branch loops. This is a great area for camping or hanging out on the lake, and it's pretty close the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well.