Searching for Beginner Trails in Brevard to Avoid East Coast Gnar

Rider: Leah Barber. Photo: Jeff Barber
Rider: Leah Barber. Photo: Jeff Barber

Brevard, North Carolina is the only destination east of the Rocky Mountains to make our Top 10 Destinations in North America list… but we didn’t put it in there as an eastern consolation prize. Instead, we truly believe that the quality, intensity, and sheer volume of the singletrack riding in Brevard can go toe-to-toe with any place on the continent.

One of the factors that makes riding in Brevard so epic is the incredible difficulty of the singletrack. Nearby Pisgah National Forest is home to some of the most punishing backcountry trails I’ve ever ridden–Colorado, Montana, California, Utah, Alberta, etc. etc. included. The trails in Pisgah are brutally-steep, unrelenting, unforgiving, and largely untouched by trail tools.

There is nothing easy about riding in Pisgah.

So, I found myself in a bit of a bind recently, as I was in North Carolina for the annual Singletracks Gathering, but prohibited from riding technical singletrack while recovering from an ACL repair surgery. However, as I tried to plan personal rides for myself that would be fun but non-technical, I realized that I was getting a unique glimpse at what it’s like to travel to a world-class, uber-challenging mountain bike destination as a beginning rider.

If you’re a beginner and you still want to travel to Brevard to ride, fear not! There are trails you can still enjoy! While you won’t be able to experience the very best that Pisgah has to offer (unless dying at a young age doesn’t concern you), there’s still plenty of pedaling to be done that’s relatively non-technical. And thanks to my learning experience as a pseudo-newbie, I’ve uncovered the three trails that you can’t miss.

I do have one caveat, though. Of these three key trail selections, only one is anywhere close to flat–the other two still contain some significant climbing. This article assumes that the beginner is new to the technical side of mountain bike handling, but not to aerobic exercise. A relatively high level of base fitness, from running, road biking, or similar, is still required to survive North Carolina’s steep climbs

Trail #1: Bent Creek Trail System

Beginner riding in a green tunnel.
Beginner riding in a green tunnel.

Without a doubt, the easiest singletrack located anywhere close to Brevard that’s still worth riding is in the Bent Creek Trail System. While it may be located 25 miles from Brevard, this well-built singletrack network is well-worth the effort to get there. As a bonus, Bent Creek is located right on the outskirts of Asheville, so you can experience the “big city” during your jaunt north as well.

It doesn't get much easier than this: The Explorer Loop
It doesn’t get much easier than this: The Explorer Loop

Bent Creek is a complex network, but you can think of it as having two distinct halves: the flat half, and the steep half. If you’re a true beginner, piecing together a loop on the singletrack in the flat half is your best bet. The Explorer Loop, Pinetree Loop, Deerfield Loop, and all of the associated connectors are easy, flat, flowy singletrack trails.

Wolf Branch is steeper, but still smooth and flowy.
Wolf Branch is steeper, but still smooth and flowy.

While the other half of the network is steeper, many of the trails with more climbing and descending are still quite achievable by the physically-fit beginner. While Green’s Lick should be avoided by beginners, Boyd Branch, Wolf Branch, Ingles Field Gap, and a few other steeper trails could well be within the realm of a fledgling mountain biker.

Due to the complex nature of the Bent Creek Trail System, you can easily construct a route that’s as short or as long as you want to ride.

Trail #2: Ridgeline at Dupont State Forest

Rider: Libby K
Rider: Libby K

Dupont State Forest is located roughly 12 miles from downtown Brevard, and it is a truly massive forest with 80 (or more) miles of trails. While many of the trails in Dupont are beginner-friendly, they are interspersed with numerous advanced trails, making it difficult to plan a true beginner singletrack route in this complex trail network. However, one trail that’s a must ride–whether you’re a beginner or an expert–is Ridgeline.

Ridgeline is a classic beginner flow trail, with incredible berms, rollers, and swoopiness that riders of all levels can enjoy. In fact, it’s so good that it was voted the #2 flow trail in the nation in our recent poll.

It’s also possible to create a 7-mile loop that includes Ridgeline from the Lake Imaging Trailhead (or 5 miles if you cut off the optional Hickory Mountain Loop). To complete this loop, head down the gated dirt road from the trailhead, passing the bottom of the Ridgeline Trail, and turning left to climb Jim Branch (hint: there’s an easier ride around of the initial rock garden if you bear hard left). Take a left on Buck Forest Road, a left on White Pine Trail, and a left on Hooker Creek Trail, and you’re at the top of Ridgeline. Add on the entertaining Hickory Mountain loop at the top for some bonus miles, then bomb down this excellent, beginner-friendly flow trail!

Trail #3: Bracken Preserve

While beginner riders can roll all the features, advanced riders can catch some air at Bracken. Rider: Jeff Barber.
While beginner riders can roll all the features, advanced riders can catch some air at Bracken. Rider: Jeff Barber. Photo: Leah Barber.

Bracken Preserve is actually rideable from downtown Brevard–it’s the single closest trail to town. Located mostly on city land, the trail does actually connect into Pisgah National Forest, but for a beginner ride, doing a 5-mile lariat in this network is the best option. We tacked on a little extra after the lariat as an out-and-back to the top of the ridge, and our ride was still only 7.4 miles long.

While this trail is short, calling it “easy” would be an outright lie! The trail tread is overall relatively smooth and non-technical, but the climb right out of the parking lot is steep and intense! Even some advanced riders will struggle with the steepness of the climb–personally, I did some push-bike. However, steepness aside, this ride is relatively non-technical overall, and could well be within the comfort zone of a new rider.

To ride the 5-mile lariat route, head up the steep initial climb, then take a right at the first fork. When that side trail rejoins the main trail, bear left to head back down the mountain. Alternatively, you can keep climbing like we did, to tack on some out-and-back bonus miles. You’ll return to the same point to resume your descent back to the parking lot.

Brevard is undoubtedly a technical mountain biker’s paradise, but even if uber-techy trails are still way over your head, there’s plenty of beginner-friendly singletrack in the region to keep you entertained for a long weekend–or more!

Just be sure to turn around if you see any signs that say “Pisgah.”

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