Ride Like a Local is a podcast and article series dedicated to exploring the best mountain bike destinations in the world through the eyes of the riders who call these places home. We’ll find out about the must ride trails and the groups that maintain them, and also where to find pizza and beer after the ride.
Todd Branham had lived, worked, and played in the Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina for 22 years. He’s a professional trail builder and also directs the Pisgah Stage race, a 5-day, fully-supported mountain bike race that showcases 140 miles of the best singletrack in the forest.
In this episode, we ask:
- How did you end up in western North Carolina?
- What makes Pisgah National Forest and the surrounding area stand out among mountain bike destinations?
- For someone visiting for the first time, what are 2 or 3 must ride trails or trail systems?
- Are there any family-friendly rides?
- Which trails are the most challenging?
- Who builds and maintains the trails in your area?
- Are there tour operators or clubs visitors can connect with if they want to ride with locals?
- Where can visitors rent decent mountain bikes for the day or even for the week?
- Where do people hang out after the ride? Are there any bars or breweries that tend to attract mountain bikers?
- Do many visitors choose to camp when visiting Pisgah? For those who prefer a dry bed at night, where else can folks stay?
- What is the best time of year to visit?
- MTB races and festivals seem to be a big draw for visitors. Tell us about some of the races you help organize during the year.
- Are there plans to expand or improve trails in the area?
- Is there anything else mountain bikers need to know before visiting Pisgah National Forest?
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Hey everybody, welcome to the Singletracks podcast. My name is Jeff and today my guest is Todd Branham, Todd has lived, worked and played in the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina for 22 years. He’s a professional trail builder and also directs the Pisgah stage race, which is a five day fully supported mountain bike race that showcases 140 miles of the best single track in the forest. Thanks for joining us, Todd.
Thank you. Glad to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Well, tell us a bit about your background. How’d you end up in western North Carolina?
Well, I started mountain bike racing back in college, and I found some of the races that were near Pinzgau were amazing. But wondered why no races were in his gear. I was in love with the Pisgah and came up every weekend from South Carolina to Toronto in trained here, you know, fell in love with it. So I applied for a permit with the US Forest Service for the swing 65 in 1998. Oh, wow. Yeah. So after gaining a permit with the Forest Service, I ran the first one grace and Pisgah while I was living in Columbia, South Carolina. Okay, which is a little challenging. Yeah. What that set me up to transition to Brevard to dig into the racing a little bit more in western North Carolina.
Yeah, yeah. Why do you think nobody was running races in the National Forest? Was it just like too hard to get the permits, or just nobody even thought of that,
but no one had thought about it. And just, you know, you got to remember and 95 they just put a sticker on the trails go. And I mean, I think this would be good for mountain biking. So, you know, it was all really new to Pinzgau. Mountain bike racing was fairly new at that point. I mean, we’re only going into 10 years of organized races in the United States and being a fairly new sport still at that point. So we’re still kind of figuring it out.
Yeah. Interesting, right. I mean, 95, late 90s. That doesn’t seem that long ago, to me, seems kind of interesting to think about that mountain biking was so new, then, at least in that part of the country. And the people hadn’t really thought a bit about mountain biking in a place like Pisgah. And to see where it is today. I mean, it’s it’s changed a ton.
You know, the funny part, Jeff is I still have my old. It’s from 99 racing bike. And the interesting thing is I wanted to town and when I throw myself over that bike, the first thing that I noticed is the geometry and how thin the bars are, how long the top tube is how uncomfortable it is. The gears are big, even the industry mountain bike that you know, you look at today’s technology. Yeah. And it’s just spot on. I mean, the gears rubber or the suspension, the geometry, everything is so nice. It doesn’t surprise me these new riders are setting amazingly new fast paces. It was the technology training. Everything’s come so far with the mountain biking. And you’re right. It’s wasn’t that Farrago. Yeah. This all happened. It was new. So yeah, that’s interesting. Cool.
Have you? I mean, have you ridden that bike? Then? Would you write it on the trails in Pittsburgh today? I mean, do you think that’s why more people are riding there? Because it’s like before, you had to be pretty tough. And you had to really want to ride there with those bikes. And on today’s bikes, is it do you think maybe it’s a little easier, and that makes the trails feel a bit more accessible?
It’s a little bit I mean, you know, you can’t change the grades, the rise to the runs are always going to be hard. I mean, you got to have the power in the lungs to do all that. But it definitely has opened up the sport to people makes it feel a little more comfortable. Especially Pisgah coming from the low lands to Pisgah, you with suspension, you can let it all dialed in to where fully works and feels good is a little bit more manageable. But you know, it’s it’s definitely not going to pedal your bike for you. It makes it manageable. But you know, that comes with a price too. And the prices of bikes nowadays are unbelievable, right? Yeah, they’re top notch prices, but a top notch bike as well. So, you know, again, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come.
Yeah, yeah. And we should mention too. I mean, we did in the intro that you’re a trail builder, and, you know, even the style of trail building has changed over the years and have a lot of ways it’s probably brought people into the sport and has gotten people out riding places that maybe they couldn’t ride before you say, say that’s part of it.
Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think some of the reroutes is new in particular in this game that we’re playing when you look back, people wrote them but they weren’t real popular and Now that they’ve been reworked, super popular, a couple of reasons are they’re not in the water anymore. They’ve avoided streams, which people actually enjoy. I like going through water, but not so many water crossings. We want to keep them clean. Right, just the education of trails has come so long, a long way as well, you know, the great depths, the erosion control the contouring of land. It’s interesting to look at that and look at his good. There’s a lot going on in his gear that could use some work. But as you see, the trails are slowly getting reworked. So it’s
Yeah, that’s cool to see a lot, a lot of knowledge. I feel like we’re gaining over the years about how to do those things sustainably and like what makes a good trail? And so yeah, it’s always changing. Well tell us what makes Pisgah National Forest and sort of the surrounding area as well, standout among mountain bike destinations.
Well, I think one thing, in particular, the temperate rainforests, writing, combined with big mountains that offer writing all winter long makes Pisgah unique in itself. Not many places, do you have this much elevation game that you can play around with and not be covered in snow? In the winter months? Yeah, you know, then you top that off with one of the most densely packed and connected trail systems within the United States. I mean, it’s a must ride destination for any riding enthusiast. For sure. Yeah, it’s a bucket. You gotta come taste.
Yeah. And you called it a temporary rainforest. I remember, I was saying something to my kids about that saying, like, oh, you know, this is a rainforest. And they were like, they’re like, what, like, this is a rainforest. You know, I mean, it sounds like so exotic and wild. And it is, I mean, it’s, it’s a really cool environment to be riding bikes in. And there’s not, you know, a lot of places around the country where you can do that.
Yeah, most of them do not allow bikes. And so it is good is super unique. And when you go, you get back in there, you see, you see how unique it is in the plant life and the amount of water and the moss and the trees. It’s very unique. Yeah, for sure. And then and that label comes from a certain gauge or water, rainfall that we get each years where that temperature or as label comes from, right under a tropical rainforest, but it is very exotic and quite, you know, quite frankly, not, but a handful of temperate rainforests, or even within the United States. Interesting, global warming. It’s not they’re not abundant. So it’s nice to have that and be able to explore inside.
Yeah, yeah, that’s cool. And so many of the destinations in the US, you know, the best known ones tend to be like in the desert or like, you know, these drier environments. So, again, yeah, that really makes Pisgah stand out for people who haven’t written in that kind of environment. So let’s talk about specific places to ride in Pisgah National Forest and then maybe just outside as well, we could expand the area. So for someone who is visiting for the first time, what are like two or three must read trails or trail systems that they’re going to want to try out? First time, you
definitely want to start easier, only easier trails and Pisgah because the easy and physical is typically the moderate and other places, right. So I would recommend the trails around the fish hatchery or gray, Bent Creek or North Mills River area for first timers. Okay, those are a bit more gentle. It’s a good warm up, you know, to the next level of his gear.
Yeah, that’s good. And then for people who maybe are a little more experienced, or who have been there a few times, what’s kind of the next level trail system that they’re going to want to run.
I think, you know, the newer stuff around the ranger station, Bennett gap, a recreate Black Mountain, those I would say next, because they’ve recently had some trail work. So while they’re normally the elevation gains are big, you’re gonna feel the pinch of steam from that. But you know, they’re not so rough, like some of the other trails, Farlow gap, or some of the pilot or the ones that haven’t been reworked quite yet. That are good. They’re just raw, you know. And what I mean by that a better definition would be something that’s gnarly, but predictable. You come around the corner, you’re not going to see a two foot travel, right on the trails, just where sometimes in his good, you know, erosion gets to things and you might come along and there might be a five, four foot drop off out of knowing, so you have to be super alert. So I think those trails, you know, again, back to North Mills River, those were reworked five to eight years ago, they’ve gotten quite chunky, even though they’re built by a machine, the rocks have come out quite challenging, you know, not not the big physical climbs, but definitely some climbing that and a network within North Mills river that will wear you out and give you a taste of, you know, what’s next, what’s bigger? What’s the big stuff? In the big stuff? Very challenging, you have to be quite fit both technically and physically to tackle those things.
Right, for sure. And yeah, I mean, you mentioned like Black Mountain, I feel like that’s the one that people talk about the most. And, you know, if you’ve ridden it, you’re gonna brag to your friends and say, Oh, if you go, you gotta write that. But because of that, it seems to be one of the more busy trails to where you’re going to see a lot of people out there. So yeah, are there are there trails where maybe you can get a similar experience, but it’s not going to be as crowded.
Yeah, I think if you’ve started to go up towards the cradle of forestry up in that area, you can access some of the stuff like Laurel mountain pilot rock from that in avoiding parking at North Mills river campground. That’s one of my favorite places to start to finish your ride. There’s so many options, you can go over towards the fish hatchery. And what you’re doing Jeff is you’re hitting the upper parts when you really look at it the upper parts of where everybody’s parking to the fish hatchery. They’re doing this to close to the fish hatchery you’re doing this or this away from the fish hatchery closer to pink beds. And then on the other end, you’re doing just that tip of Laurel mountain and you can drop into Turkey pin, you can drop it in all those areas, but you’re doing the backside of all those areas you kind of in that right where the forest, there’s some good stuff there that you can rally for hours and not seen anyone?
Yeah, that’s cool. I remember we did a ride up there on Laurel mountain. And, you know, you mentioned like, for people who are coming from outside the area, you know, like a moderate Pisgah ride is going to be a difficult one. And you’re not exaggerating, right? Like people are going to hear that and say, Oh, but you know, I’m really good. And so moderate to me is moderate. But I just remember on this ride, we had a guide that was taken us up Laurel mountain, and she was saying, Yeah, you know, this loop we’re going to do are probably take us like five or six hours or something. And we’re all like, Okay, sounds good. And we said, how far is it? How many miles we’re going to ride? And she said, Well, she she said, I don’t want to, I don’t want to tell you. And we’re all like why that’s weird. Like, why don’t you want to tell us? And she said, Look, you know, if I tell you, you’re gonna say, oh, that that’s not very far. Well, we’ll do that quick. But out here, rights are measured in time rather than distance. And, you know, I found that to definitely be true, because some of those rights are really tough.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. It’s a good measurement. That’s a very smart way to run a tumor is to not tell distance just to
Yeah, yeah. And I’ll know, right? Yeah, we didn’t even ride 20 miles. Yes. Lee said it might have been closer to 15 or something. But, you know, we felt it. We’re like, Yep, that was far enough.
Yeah, and what you can’t change is that rise to the run that elevation game. That’s what gets people is technicals fun. You know, it’s great. People come up here and they’re ready for that. But so much technical, Lee becomes physically challenging going up or down at some point because you just get so worn out. And then if you talk about being out there four or five hours by and if you don’t have your nutrition dialed in, you can really start to suffer, right. It’s challenging, you know, you really have to be over prepared for Pisgah and even in the summertime, you know, it’s great 90 degrees, you get up to the top of Laurel mountain, and what happens are rains. And man, it’s 60 degrees, and it’s cold. Yeah, you’re not prepared. It’ll it’ll have you have a bad experience. But it’s good. Definitely. You again, you gotta be uber prepared and almost over prepared.
Yeah, that’s, that’s so true. Well, before we scare everybody off, and they say, Well, I can’t go to Vegas. That sounds sounds scary. Are there some family friendly rides in the area like you’re traveling with, with kids? Or maybe beginners? Are there? Are there some good places to write as well? Yeah, absolutely.
And the Forest Service is currently working on doing more of this, but at the entrance of the forest, you can park at the ranger station and there’s something called the east to toe trail that connects to north slope. And then north slope has just a very bottom section that’s really cool goes along the river. So like zero elevation gain on all this I’m talking about, it’s really not. And then those trails, you know, good sight lines. They’re like gravel trails are not raw, natural surface trails. Well, the bottom of our slope is a natural surface trail, but it’s an old Forest Service road, but they’re fairly why, you know, at least five foot wide so you can see they’ll get passed or pass. Pretty easy. Yeah, but then those trails go all the way out to Lowe’s, which is just on the outside of the forest. And then the pathway continues from there which is six foot wide and paved, very little elevation gain and goes all the way into Brevard. Oh, cool. Five mountains. So you know, certainly something that’s open to family. You get a little bit of forest you get a little bit of urban riding, but that’s a great I see families on that all the time.
Oh, yeah. Yeah, another one that I’ve heard. I haven’t been in years but it seems like DuPont. I mean, DuPont State Forest is not part of fisca. But it’s it’s close by to Brevard, and some of the Pisgah Trails is that a good spot for more beginner riders or people who want something that’s a little bit more like flow? Trail style?
Absolutely. And what a beautiful place DuPont is. Yeah, it’s really close. It’s 20 minutes from his go. And again offers 140 miles of trails. I mean, there’s no Wow, yeah, there’s no lack of trail in there. And all connected super nice. Mostly machine built trails, very different than his go in the technical aspect. And the climate aspect, I would say that if you come up for the first time to the Brevard area, I would actually recommend going there first, just so you can see. You know what it’s all about how you feel they definitely more flow trails, and then jump into physio. Yeah. When I’m doing my training for races I do that I train all and do PA and slowly work my way up to Pisgah because Pisgah can it can be really hard, right? You’re doing that all the time. You’re climbing all the time. It’s tough. You can tackle a little more, I do find big waterfalls that do pop that you can go explore.
Yeah, super beautiful and much more
friendly loops over there. smaller loops.
Yeah. And you mentioned the paved path that goes into town that connects people to the forest. There’s also a trail, I believe that your trail building company helped build Bracken Preserve. Is that right? And that’s one that that starts right in town. And you can also connect to the forest via single track, right? Yeah,
exactly right out of the back of the Music Center. Its itself got 10 miles of trail with an bracken. And then you connect over the hill. And you can end up at the fish hatchery or the ranger station.
So really nice connectivity from town into the forest.
Yeah, yeah, that’s great. Well, let’s talk a little bit about the organizations and the folks who are building and maintaining trails in the Pisgah area. Is there like one main trail group that does this? Are there multiple groups that kind of work together? Well, all
the new trails are built by members of the professional trail visitor Association, and the transit put out for the bidding process to the professionals, but they are designed by the US Forest Service. Interesting. Yeah. And the overall type of trail is also designated by the Forest Service. So whether it’d be an easy trail or we won’t this technical or we will horses on it. There’s certain prescriptions for that, that that make the trail a little different. And then I always love telling people this because it’s it’s just a great fact that people really, all of the trails and the Pizzo district are maintained by volunteer groups. Oh, wow. That’s right. 100% of the maintenance on the trails in the forest, are done by volunteers, which is Wow, AZ Pinchgut. Area SORBA. The back country Horsemen of America and Pisgah conservancy are the main groups that currently conduct the most volunteer work. Okay. These are all nonprofit groups, and are open to the public to join them.
Cool. Yeah. And so are a lot of those. I guess a lot of those folks are local. It seems like that’s a lot of work to maintain all those trails, especially since you’re getting people from all over the country, heck, all over the world that are riding there, does that get to be kind of overwhelming for those groups to keep those trails maintained,
very overwhelming. And what’s happened is, is, you know, of course, each group wants a particular trail. So then there’s some crossover. So what the Forest Service has done, is actually assigned trails to different groups, okay, to work on, so we can divide and conquer. And occasionally, you’ll get some maintenance stuff as a professional trail builder, but on some trails that most of us just rework, but in a nutshell, what you’re gonna get and CMPs gait as a default of what you just mentioned is that’s a lot of work. It is a lot of work. And what you’re going to see is unless it’s a vital connector that connects two trail systems together, you You will not see any new trails built in business, you will only see reworked trails. And for the most part Interesting, yeah, for this reason, because if we produce more trails, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot, we can be painted, right. And in fact, thinking in a different vein, reworking, when you step into a maintenance position, what you quickly see is, the newer trails that are being built, have less maintenance, not because they’re because of the way to design and build, the older trails require a lot of maintenance. Oh, right. And I think, quickly see the difference in technical and erosion. And those two are similar, but very different. Yeah, that happens by default is all the volunteer efforts go into fixing erosion on the old trails and tooling and get filled. So you know, everybody’s hands are full. And with that being said, no new trails will really happen. Again, unless they’re vital connectors from one system to another.
Yeah, I mean, that makes sense. For the reasons that you mentioned, are there ways that visitors can sort of give back and contribute and make sure that those volunteers are supported and that the trails continue to be maintained?
Yeah, any of those groups I talked about, I mean, you can just jump in for the weekend, sign a waiver. And, you know, if you’re in town, you can always pop into the physical ranger station, and they can direct you to do things, you know, what groups going on. But you know, one thing to understand is, you have to be associated with the group to do any kind of maintenance in the forest or, because they like to account for you, they like to account for what works going on. They like to know so if one of these groups show up, you know, there’s a report, a couple of trees down on a trail, somebody didn’t go out and do it already. And then these guys spent all this time going into get these trees out. But the easiest way to give back is this. If you’re out exploring appears, you’re having a good time. And you take note of trees now. Go to the forest ranger station and report those where they’re at on the on the trail and those give back to these groups, and then the group’s gonna take care of.
Yeah, interesting. I always feel bad about doing that. I mean, not bad, but I feel like, Am I really doing much by reporting it? Right, because somebody’s got to do the actual hard work of it, but sounds like yeah, that is, that is a helpful thing to do. So I’ll probably probably try to do more of it.
Yeah. Well, you know, you’re talking about big trees that are a mile. I mean, stuff that you have to have a chainsaw for. I think, you know, brushing out trails with a little salt or folding hands. I mean, that’s just mountain bike culture, man, everybody’s gonna be there. There’s nothing wrong with that. But yeah, but, you know, totally chainsaw out totally tools out and clear in your brain. That’s more of what I’m talking like, that kind of needs to be accounted for.
Right? That makes sense. Well, we’re gonna take a break real quick. But when we come back, we’re going to talk about tours and places to stay and events to attend. All in pitka. Stay tuned.
And we’re back. So Todd, who are some of the tour operators or clubs even that visitors can connect with if they want to ride with some of the locals.
There’s several in the area you can you know any of the bike shops have organized bike rides, you can always look at their website and figure it out. If you’re looking for a tour, pay tour. There’s plenty of those Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures is one red wolf mountain bike tours. The bike farm is another blue wall adventures has some pretty cool tours. And then for mountain biking, rock climbing water and everything. Pura Vida adventures at a physical force. Nice little program that they offer as well.
Okay, cool. Are there many shuttle rides available in Pisgah? I know, I know, I’ve seen some signs out there. I don’t know if they’re official or not. But they’ve got a little picture of the shuttlecock from badminton, right in it’s got like a line through it. No, shuttlecocks Yeah, and I assume that means people don’t like people shuttling certain trails. So are there though, like, officially supported shuttle rides that people can do in the area?
There are, you know, you could do with any of these companies I’ve just mentioned. And it’s not, they don’t like to offer too much, you know, it happens. But it’s going on all the time. And when we see it all the time, there’s certain trails that you know, there’s certain riding styles, that’s what people want to do. And there’s no rules like they can’t do that. One thing to notice in physio, though that it’s on the same vein is you won’t ever see a downhill race in Pisgah. From the management standpoint, when you’re doing test runs, you got 200 People would be the limit test runs. And then actually probably two runs, let’s just say on that gap, if you could shuttle that. And think about the wear and tear and the nature of that type of racing skidding in the corners and out because you’re looking for the fastest time Pyzdek doesn’t accept that. They’re not going to have an organized event that does that they already had to accept the people are already doing that writing. But think about how quickly that would bring the trails out.
Yeah. And it seems like a lot of them too. Even if you could shuttle them, they’re still going to be a fair amount of pedaling. I mean, you mentioned Bennett gap. I feel like that one you gotta climb a little bit from the road even to get to the start of that. And it’s pretty short to I mean, that would be a lot of work to like shuttle up for, I don’t know, 20 minute descent maybe? Yeah, or less. So. Yeah, that’s interesting. What about E bikes? Are our E bikes allowed on any of the trails in the forest?
Not in the forest for in Dupont. Okay, you can ride him on the forest service roads, and appears good, but and do pi. Since it’s a state forward to get it all the way around? You can either be on service roads, or the state.
Oh, wow. So I guess the rule if it’s open to vehicles, that’s where you can eat bike, but otherwise you can
correct? Yeah, so the provider pathway in town, you could use that on anyway.
All right. Yeah.
Yeah, that’s yeah. And I think, I think that’s going to change in the future, they’re going to figure out some trails that are ebike. And some of them because I don’t feel like it’s going away. Right. And it’s not necessarily bad, the ebike it’s the nature in which you ride the bike. I think they’re, you know, if you get out there and thrust it, it could, it could be problematic. If you had to go high speeds on certain trails, and you’re passing people that can be problematic, right. I don’t think it’s going away. I think we’re gonna find a way to work with the bikes and all get along,
right. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Yeah. Once there’s more rules around it, in terms of Yeah, making it clear where you can and can’t ride them and, and having some places available, so people don’t feel like they have to poach trails or a ride where they’re not supposed to. It’s a good point. So are there shops or places in town where people can rent decent mountain bikes for the day or even the week? Do you see people coming who are like Multisport and say, oh, I want to want to try mountain biking is that a thing and can they rent bikes?
They can Yeah, and I do see that you know funny thing here you know when I see a lot of those people come into his game and going back to being prepared they’re prepared but their bikes man and they need a bike that’s what I see a lot of animals coming from so there’s four bike shops in town. Oh wow. At the entrance at the entrance is the hub of the forest and then just outside the entrances Sycamore cycles, which they are getting ready to add a new shop downtown Brevard to Oh, wow. So they’re going to locations here. And then downtown Brevard proper you got Squatch by except the newest one or the mountain bicycle. It’s downtown. Okay, in all those places rent bikes,
oh, yeah, one of the things that I hadn’t thought about, we were just talking with someone in Moab and they were saying how the shops there are really good about turning around repairs, because the reason that you’ve mentioned you know, you bring your bike and you break your bike, and, you know, you don’t want that to ruin your vacation. So is is that a thing in Pisgah as well? Are the shops good about doing that? I mean, I know right now, they’re probably slammed with work. But is that something people can expect? Or are they going to need to rent a bike, like you said,
now they’re pretty, you know, there’s certain things that you’re going to tear up here, you’re going to tear derailleur up, you’re going to go through your brake pads, you know, cleats on your shoes, stuff like that. All the shops are pretty stocked up with that. And there’s certain times of the year that you see that stark increase. One interesting time that I find interesting that Sycamore cycles were two of those for the Pisgah stage race. And you got people coming in from out of town all over the country, and the world that have different types of bikes and equipment. Yeah, you should see what they started before that arrays because, you know, you leave somebody hanging, when they’ve come for a five day event, and they need a piece or derailleur or something. You got to have Yeah, so it’s it’s an overstock during that event. Because those people who were I mean, they want to keep writing. Yeah,
yeah, they want to ride their bike. They don’t want to have to get on an unfamiliar bike on day two or day three. That’s fascinating. I wonder too, if they’re, like you said there’s certain parts like tires, maybe you know, people show up and after day one on on your Pisgah stage race, they’re like, oh, shoot, like I need I need a much burlier tire here and so they’re upgrading and that sort of thing. Yeah, interesting
thing that and dropper posts, believe it or not the amount of people that come here and go do I don’t have a dropper post, everybody has a dropper post, and I knew why. Yeah, and then relation to the shop and they buy a dropper post right so and again you know we’re in a good situation to have those in any size any bike on the fly because Fox it just doesn’t run for us now. Right there. Yeah, just write up an actual so
that’s that’s awesome. Yeah, the the shops there are definitely well stocked much better than my local bike shops are for sure. And it’s always a surprise to because, you know, Brevard is a small town, Asheville. Asheville is a decent size, but you know, for the size of town, they’ve got way more bike shops, and they’re way better stop and then what most of us are used to. So that’s, that’s really good to know. So where do visitors tend to stay when they’re visiting Fisker? I know there are a number of campgrounds that are in the area. Is that a pretty popular option for people?
Yeah, you know, currently right now, roadside camping in Pisgah is closed due to the overcrowded sites and the understaffed
personnel. Oh, wow. All roadside camping, all roadside
camping and Jay Davis campground is now the most popular place to camp and is here, because it’s really the only place in who’s going to camp. Wow, prominent in a situation, but I think it’ll change hopefully summer of 2022. But, you know, between that and COVID when they shut down they just they have never opened back up. So yeah, they’re they’re posted, you know, no camping. It’s interesting time for that. But dry beds are very popular in town.
Yes, it’s a rain forest after all. Yeah. And
I think people, you know, I mean, again, going back, I mean, I’ve been here a long time and have watched the forest grow. And, you know, a lot of people used to camp and ride out and demographic demographics have changed. The bikes are more expensive. People want to hotel, they want to really bury themselves in Pittsburgh and come home and take a shower and sleep in a bed and then go hard again the next day. You know, I don’t think we’ve seen year after year at the pinnacle stage race five days in a row. There’s no one that can really, everybody. I mean, and that’s tough five days, you got to give yourself a little luxury in life. You know. Ben is one of them. So yeah, but I’ve seen that trend more and more in Brevard. And people think because there’s more hotels now too. We just had a new one build a new Holiday Inn Express that just opened up and there’s big plans of another one coming in. So I mean, it’s it’s great. Oh, wow. But the coolest one by far close to the entrance of the fork is pilot code. Those are like tree house. units with flow trails out of the back big wouldn’t burn. Really cool. But you You can ride it’s located just behind the hub and you can ride from there into the forest.
Yeah, I’ve stayed there. That place is really nice. That’s, that’s my ideal situation. Because yeah, you’re close to the trails, you could ride to him if you didn’t want to get in the car. And, you know, like he said, it’s a bed and a dry place to be at night. So yeah, that’s a great option. Yeah. Yeah, like that place a lot. Yeah. And then there’s also some other kind of unusual, not unusual, but unique places you can stay like the bike farm. I believe they do. They still do like platform tents that you can camp on. Is that their thing?
So they’ve moved locations now and they’re really close to pilot Cove. And I think they just do camping now just flat camping. I don’t think it’s a little bit smaller facility. I know they do the guided rides and the clinics. And they do offer camping, but I don’t. I don’t think it’s quite what it used to be on that things.
Interesting. And then obviously, I guess there probably Airbnbs in town that people can find. So yeah, a lot of options there for places to stay.
Yeah, in the in any of the Airbnbs. They’re pretty good. As far as letting bikes in the house and having a wash outside of the house. It’s amazing to see that. That group of people cater to the mountain bike crowds. It’s very,
yeah, that’s, that’s awesome. That’s a funny thing that I don’t think about, right? Because to me, it’s like, yeah, of course, I bring my bike in my house, but then you stay certain places, and you read the fine print. And it’s like, no bikes inside. Like, what my bike is part of my family and needs to be in here. But yeah,
yeah, yeah, the signs here. Just say please don’t leave your bike inside.
Got to draw the line somewhere. So yeah.
Cleaning your bike. Yeah.
So you mentioned that Pisgah is unique, because you can ride there year round. I mean, there’s not going to be like snow on the ground for much of the year. So what are the kind of the best times of year to visit if you could choose, choose your moment to hit the trails there?
I think definitely spring and fall, because the crowds aren’t so bad. Summertime, it’s amazing. It’s definitely the best time. But you’ll need to hit the trails early pretty early to beat the crowds on that. Yeah. You know, something that people don’t realize. And the district of Brevard is the Forest Service does not allow any of the events to take place in the summer months. In the Pisgah, third district here in Brevard, because it is super busy. Really, the other so you’ve got all the visitors coming in here, you got all the waterfalls, and on top of that there’s 17 camps within the counties, three counties around us
all like summer camps,
summer camps, and they’re all in his gear. So you know, if you want to apply for a running event, horseback event, mountain by cycling event of any type any event in PES Ghana, in June, July or August, they would not even look at it for that reason.
Wow. Makes sense.
Yeah. Because it? Yeah, there’s a whole management behind that forest. You know, again, that’s the trails need to be reworked. We need to control how many people were coming here. It’s it’s tough man, Hannah, it’s interesting to see their management program, the Forest Service’s because it’s a big picture planning, and it’s small pieces that add up to make a bigger picture of things. But yeah, a lot of people don’t realize that just how busy it really is in the summertime here.
Yeah, yeah. I didn’t realize that myself. I mean, for me, it’s it’s sort of hot. Like, I don’t really think I mean, it’s cooler there than then here in Georgia for sure. In the summer. I always imagined that like leaf season was like the big time like September, October, what what’s kind of your, I mean, you live there so you can ride whenever you want. What’s your favorite time to hit the trails? When are they like in the best shape? Would you say?
Yeah, I like him in the spring just because of the flora. You see the flowers that color and you can still see across the mountains, right. You can see how big they are, which you know, and a couple of months after that, it’s just covered, you can really get the big news. But it’s just there’s, there’s, you know, back to the temperate rainforest. There’s such a sign of life in the forest and spraying with all everything blooming and the smells. It’s just in the sunlight that time of the year. And no one’s here. So you know, the trails are vacant, no one’s around. And you’re starting to see the trees during so you’re starting to see the trails dry out from the winter months and it’s just spectacular to see all that happen. And then right when it all happens, you know, sure enough, everybody starts coming in. It’s like, man, it’s just so cool to see the forest prep itself. For all the vacationers coming in the traffic, it’s gonna have to it’s a hard month.
It’s neat. Yeah, you’ve inspired me and hopefully your secrets not out now, and you’re not going to just get overrun with people in the spring, but I’m definitely putting that on my list to do get up there that time of year. That’s awesome. Cuckoo. Well, it seems like mountain bike races and festivals are also a really big draw for visitors to the forest. So tell us about some of the races that you help organize there during the year.
Okay, the Pisgah stage race is definitely our biggest show. It’s International and base out of reward here, and it showcases five days and Pisgah. So five days in a row, and it’s about 30 miles a day. So, you know, it’s enough that it’s gonna hurt that you can recover and do it again. But me intrigued to stage racing. And as everybody knows the Tour de France and you scratch your head, how these guys do that day in and day out. And then this is this is a great way if you’re from out of town or international, and you keep hearing about his good. Well think about it this way that stage race is a five day organized. Tour, right? Basically, to see the best of his go with rest stops camaraderie of people, you can get your fastest time because when you show up, you’re not training anymore. You already trained around five days in a row, you’re setting their hands, you’re doing your best effort that you can. And wherever you end up, that’s where you end up. Yeah. And most people aren’t racing it. They’re just having fun, and exploring pizza and enjoying it. And I think that’s, that’s her funnest event. I really like that one. And then we’ve got more grueling ones that really let you taste a whole area and one day such as the off road assault, not Mitchell. Yeah, one’s 60 miles, 10,500 feet in one day. Oh, man. I just went through the course of my head. That one though, is if you’re in the mountain bike race world, you’ve heard of it, no doubt. And yeah, it is a must do. Every year, we get a fresh crop of people that, that do this. And it’s tough. I mean, it starts at a lower elevation of 1200 feet and goes all the way up to 5800 feet. So it’s
Wow. And you can’t do that kind of elevation anywhere else on the East Coast that I can think of, you know, a bike race that goes that high and starts that low to I mean, that’s, that’s huge.
It’s huge. It’s amazing. And I think that’s the whole drawl to western North Carolina, is that is that you can come in the wintertime. And you can do these big climbs, and they’re not covered in snow. Very rarely are they covered in snow. And if they are, it’s a couple of days. And I think our coolest event, you know, one day event is definitely the swing 65 which is the longest running mountain bike race in Pisgah and the first permitted mountain bike race in Pisgah back in 1998. Right. But you know, we’ve got a new course now after years of the winner of the fish hatchery, we’ve moved to the trails by the ranger station, and it’s nice, it’s those trails have come a long way. They’ve got a lot of work done on they’re really fun. It’s easy to get in and out of the forest for people coming to and then you know, picking it mid November. It’s not real busy anymore in the forest. So you know, all materials are open. No traffic. It’s really nice.
Yeah, yeah, that sounds awesome. Yeah. And, you know, thinking about the Pisgah stage race, you’re doing 30 miles a day, roughly for five days. I mean, that race covers so many trails. And you know, I’ve been I’ve been coming up to Pisgah for years, and I’m sure I haven’t done half the trails on that race. And so yeah, like you said, that’s such a great opportunity for someone to go basically get to sample you know, some of the best of the trails in the forest and kind of come away with saying, Yeah, I’ve written there. I know it. And yeah, that’s that seems really cool. And then oh, RAM, the off road assault on on Mount Mitchell. That’s in kind of a different area to write for folks who are familiar that’s like, on the other side of Asheville, right, so it’s kind of a different set of trails over there.
Yeah, it’s like North Asheville and then the trails are they’re a little different and they’re a little more rocky. Not so much on undulation up and down. Just more. You’re going up. You’re going down. Yeah. Pretty rigid over the mountains. It’s
yeah. Yeah. Are there other events that tend to draw mountain bikers to the area there during the year?
Yeah, you know, what’s big now that mountain bikers are doing the gravel rides on a gravel bike, and they’re doing it with the mountain bike and some of the ones ran in the dirt Diggler gravel grinder. The Belgian waffle ride is a new one that just came around the Boxster cross, those are all ones that take place near kids get her in physio. super popular. Yeah, and just a lot of mountain bikers that don’t rode by, but have a gravel bike that want to get that expert fitness level. It’s it’s an amazing, I’m blown away how quickly that discipline
has grown. Yeah, yeah. What are the courses? Like? I mean, I’m imagine it’s a lot of climbing. I mean, when people say gravel, that’s like a big range, right? You got like, gravel races in Kansas, where there’s not a lot of climbing. But then I imagine one in the Pittsburgh area is going to be a lot different from that.
Yeah, you know, and there’s in the ones I just mentioned. You gotta be careful about that. Because yes, you can like like the Belgian waffle ride, it is made to destroy you. It is, I mean, it’s 90 or 135 miles of, you know, 10 to 15. It’s super hard, but it is a it’s something that is super popular. And I think people love that. Monster crawls is super hard to do, it goes through pezzillo a climbing were dirt Degler is a little more tame. And there’s a 27 mile version and an a 42 mile version. And a little smoother, you know, I think the cool thing about dirt Diggler at the end though, it ends on single track, which a lot of Wait a minute single tracks. It’s four foot wide machine built, but it’s interesting because it mixes it up and it’s not so long. In fact, a mountain biker on a mountain bike one this year, is there a particular gravel ground? Wow. Wow shows you you know, like, I mean, the efforts this guy did to hold on to the road sections that are in the gravel. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing from our vehicle driver was like, you know, because a gravel bike I mean is definitely faster than mountain. Yeah, for sure seas and watch the tactics of this guy unwind at the end. Run on the single track and win just by seconds. I was like, Wow,
that’s awesome. Well, yeah, it sounds like that one is more of a mountain bikers gravel race. And, you know, you mentioned the other ones monster cross. Obviously, that’s gonna be a tough one. Scott monster in the name. Belgian waffle. I always think of that, like, oh, it’s, you know, sweet and delicious and warm and fluffy. But it sounds like no, it’s it’s a sufferer fest.
That waffles got teeth. Yeah, man. That’s, that’s a tough one. Yeah, that’s, that’s man’s contest there. But it’s well organized, has a great mix of gravel and road. You know, there’s always people like, I mean, there’s tons of people that like to do. Just super long days in the saddle. And
yeah. Well, you mentioned that. Generally, there aren’t plans to expand or add new trails within the forest. Other than maybe some connectors here. There are a lot of rework being done. So what are kind of the plans to expand or improve trails? And are there trails being built outside the forest, maybe on private land or other areas like that in the future?
Yeah. So they’re definitely some it’s interesting. You asked that because there is a big push in Transylvania County in particular, to go to our western part of the county to gorgeous State Park, which is another fantastic car has no trails in it. And there’s been a big push to put trails in there over the years to give some relief to DuPont and Pinzgau. Okay, but nothing happened. So recently, there’s a private owner that backs up to gorges that owns 92 acres that has trails in there that wants to improve them and then donate it to the Conservancy for public access. So, you know, because again, over in that area, there’s just not a lot and there needs to be there. So that’s exciting. Tons of private stuff going on. Tons. I mean, everywhere. But But man, the most exciting thing And that I think is going on is over in the old Ford area. There is a collaboration between the US Forest Service and something called the G five collective that is put together and been working on now for five years, a master plan for trails in the Old Fort area. And I hope everybody sitting down through this but the master plan calls for 42 miles of new trail in the Pittsburgh
national tours. That’s incredible.
40 Miles Yeah. So it’s interesting again, if you stand back and look at the management of the Forest Service, and look at everything we’ve been talking about today, and how Brevard is a hotspot and then there’s three districts of Pisgah there’s you’ve got the his good district which is Brevard up to the parkway, Bent Creek dash row and then you’ve got the district we’re talking about now to grandfather district which is old for in towards the day and then you’ve got Ben which is Appalachian district in that area. Okay. Okay, so the three different districts in the grandfather district it’s interesting that the Forest Service looks at what’s going on with vervoer has nothing to do with Brevard says you got a lot of problems with like just we work together but you know the Forest Service is not Brevard. But yet everybody’s coming to the Forest Service. So by default to the lands the play so by default, Brevard has this economic boom all of a sudden of like, how do what do we do with all these people? Where do they stay? How do we what do we do? Oh, my God, the roads are falling apart. Oh, my. Yeah. So So it’s interesting to me to see the forest service kind of come to the rescue in the lonely town of old for which is deprived of any business and has nothing but is rich in the fact that they’re close to Forest Service lands. Listen up, folks, if you want to buy any property, Biden Oh, four, because it is going to be the next Brevard, you’re going to be able to ride out of all four into the forest service, and have 42 New miles on top of the 12 that are already there. Wow. Yeah, that’s awesome. And three and a half of this has already been built. And the next phase will be done in 2022. Supposedly,
wow. That’s That’s awesome. Then old fort. That’s where kits bow is right.
That is kits Bo Hillman brewery just opened up there. All four is changing at an unbelievable rate. I can’t believe it, there’s a place called the Pisgah ride room or ride house that has great food down. Hold Ford has changed so much in the last three years. It’s it’s amazing to see what it’s gonna become. Because it blows my mind.
Yeah. That’s awesome.
That’s very exciting news. Because it’s new trail in the Forest Service. Yeah. And the key is this, it goes back to a question you asked earlier. What type of trails are they building? For the 42 miles? 20 of it is beginner intermediate. Wow. Yeah,
that’s really different.
And in fact, optimize for hand bikes, which is the bikes you sit on in use with your hands. Yeah, yeah. So and then they have all the way up to downhill specific trails all the way to stuff connecting up to Heartbreak Ridge Parkway. That’s going to be uber gnarly. Wow. So it is It’s a masterpiece.
Yeah. Wow. That’s, that’s exciting. And it sounds very, really progressive as well in terms of thinking about all the different user groups and, and taking all the spin learned over the years about what mountain bikers want, what they need, how to build this sustainably. Yeah, that’s super exciting. I can’t wait to see what they end up doing there.
Yeah, it’s super exciting. I really pumped for that area and for service what they’re doing.
Yeah, that’s great. Well, is there anything else that mountain bikers need to know before visiting Pisgah National Forest?
And no, I think just come prepared and think bigger than normal. Pisgah has a reputation for being hard. So make sure you have a solid plan and which route you want to ride and which direction you want to ride it. Start small and get a taste of the biggest trails before diving in, you know, even into a 20 mile loop. Because the you know, the Pisgah national forests, deliver some of the best mountain bike in the US. But that’s if you’re looking for big Times and technical. Sorry, I just come prepared.
Right? Definitely. That’s great advice. Well, Todd, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us and sharing a bit more about Pisgah National Forest and all the great mountain biking that there is. Absolutely, I enjoyed our chat. Yeah, thanks for having me. Well, you can get more information about events in the forest at Blue Ridge adventures.net. And you can also visit the National Forest website to learn more about the Pisgah national forest and the recreational opportunities there. That’s all we’ve got this week, and we’ll talk again next week.
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