Tsali Thompson Loop

4.62 out of 5
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↑ 1,000 ft
↓ 1,200 ft
elevation (ft)

Trail Description
About this trail
Thompson Loop, like Mouse Branch Loop, is more technical than the Right and Left loops at Tsali. Thompson has a lot of tight twisting singletrack and like all the trails at Tsali is fun to ride at warp speed. There are a couple of uphills that might sneak up on you though. The overall elevation change is approximately 300 feet, so riding the loops backwards is still fast and equally challenging.
Find out about camping at Tsali.
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Trail Features
Trail features
  • Lift Service
  • Drinking Water
  •   Night Riding
  • Pump Track
  • Restrooms
  • Winter Fat Biking
Directions to Trailhead
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Trail Q&A
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Recommended Trails
Recommended Trails
Tsali Left Loop
Tsali Mouse Branch Loop
Tsali Right Loop
Local Info & Nearby Trails
Trail Check-ins
Trail Check-ins
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Recent Trail Check-ins     (156 total check-ins)
  Kristie Murdock   on Sep 28, 2019
  Kerry   on Sep 28, 2019
  Kristie Murdock   on Sep 27, 2019
  KHipp590   on Aug 10, 2019
  caleslie   on Jul 21, 2019
Photo & Video Gallery (80)
Trail Photos & Videos (80)
Reviews (35)

Granny Gear

July 18, 2019
Review: Thompson Loop Trail is great for intermediate riding with scenic, rolling single track by Fontana Lake with climbs that won't kill you. Very fun trail!

Granny Gear

October 10, 2018
Review: Loved this trail. Highly recommend. One tree was across the trail, but it was immaculately well maintained. Will come back for sure

Granny Gear

September 4, 2018
bkadkins Granny Gear  
Review: Been cycling for years, but relatively new to mountain biking. Had a blast here after a 2 year break and found what I've been missing really quick! Great trail that kept me on alert and didn't disappoint. I felt like an Imperial biker scout on Endor. (Final descent, Thompson loop????)Had a few good challenging climbs and and even more challenging 1.5mile descent on the Thompson loop. Trail well maintained, maybe two or three narrow stretches to keep you guessing briefly, but more of a challenge than hindrance!!!! Ample rocks, roots and a few streams with rocks, and and switchbacks to keep things exciting. Several scenic spots to stop along the way. Close to several campgrounds. Highly recommend. Simply beautiful.

Bunny Hop

October 15, 2017
pttlennon Bunny Hop  
Review: Great trail conditions today. Dry and fast. Only 2 trees down.


October 26, 2016
Review: Great trail


April 13, 2016
djcmmoore Gnarly  
Review: Tsali Trails rotate use with horse traffic. Schedule for bikes:

Left Loop and Right Loop: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Mouse Branch Loop and Thompson Loop: Tueday, Thursday, Saturday

Camping is available within Tsali Recreation Area where you can ride in/ride out to the trails. Sites contain water and electricity, and showers also available. Tumbling Waters Campground and Freemans Motel and Cottages are also popular accomodations.

These loops are signed well with an encouraged direction, which this review follows.

Tsali has a $2 user fee, which you must pay in cash at the main parking lot before riding.

Description - From the main parking area, start with the Mouse Branch Loop. Head out the main road and continue in a clockwise direction. Many riders consider Mouse the most technical of the Tsali trails, but overall it is very similar to the others. There are plenty of loose rocks in places, and many fast, fun sections.

When arriving with the the overlook section, stay right on Mouse then head left on the overlook trail which follows back around counter clockwise to the same spot. The overlook is a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding mountains, and very close to the highest point of the Mouse Loop. After snapping some photos, get ready to descend the fastest part of trail back down. Take a left again on and overlap the same small section of trail you used to pass through the first time. This time at the top of the climb, stay right on the Mouse again.

Following the lakes contours for another 3.5 miles will take you back to the intersection with the entrance road and the Thompson Loop at Murphy Gap.

Stay straight on Thompson and follow this loop in a counter-clockwise direction. Thompson has some ups and downs early in the ride, but generally has little elevation gain until you are a little over 2 miles in when youll begin a climb that gains about 350 ft. in 3 miles. After that, youll have about a mile of descending to complete this sweet ride.

History & Background - Tsali is managed by the Cheoah District of Nantahala National Forest. It has been a well known destination for mountain biking for a long time. It still has a solid reputation for weekend getaways, and has held up well to the tests of time and traffic.

The trails are maintained by Nantahala Area SORBA, an organization that contributes hundreds of volunteer hours per year to maintain the system, and also sponsors some cool rides and outings ( nantahalaareasorba.org/).


Land Manager: USFS - Nantahala National Forest Office

Local Club: SORBA - Nantahala Area


February 10, 2016
MTBCrash29 Doubletrack  
Review: Part of the Tsali trail system. A great trail! this loop offers plenty of fun for all levels. This was my wife's first ride. It had some long climbs and mixed with a forest road that helped in the experience, but a great downhill fast trail near the end of the trail. A must for anyone in NC, 1 of 4 trails in the Tsali Recreation area.


August 10, 2015
Lee Harris Gramcounter  
Review: This is the Best loop at Tsali. Full review and video here.


Granny Gear

July 20, 2015
Alexxxx Granny Gear  
Review: Thompson loop is probably the best loop at Tsali in terms of longest running downhill. If you ride it the suggested direction, you begin with a great flowing section with some tight spots in and out of trees.

The middle portion of Thompson is where you gain elevation during an easy uphill climb on some double track.

Once at the final third of the trail, it is all downhill from here! The first downhill is straight and wide open, so let go of those breaks!! The second part ducks into the trees where you will find some fast and tight berms, plenty of roots, and tons of speed if you have the courage. This is my favorite downhill at Tsali, and for good reason.

Cheers from The Singletrack Sampler


October 26, 2014
Review: I think this is my favorite trail of the Tsali system. Nothing technical, just gentle ups and downs through the contours of the hills next to Lake Fontana. Beautiful scenery. Have to ride this counterclockwise to take advantage of the fun descent in the last couple of miles of the trail.

Trail Conditions
Trail Conditions          < / > embed
Feature Article
Love for the Newbies: 8 Easy Mountain Bike Rides in Western North Carolina