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In the Western North Carolina mountains, the word “flat” is seldom used to describe the landscape. So, needless to say, biking these hills can be a challenge for road bikers and off-road bikers alike.

Mountain Biking — Each year, Swain County attracts thousands of mountain bikers to the world-famous Tsali Recreation Area Trail System, 15 miles west of Bryson City. Pronounced “SAH-lee” and named after the 19th Cherokee Indian martyr, the 42-mile network of multi-use trails is consistently rated one of the top ten riding destinations in the United States. The four-loop system offers a variety of landscapes and trail types from single track to old logging roads. Hikers may use the trails any day of the week, but mountain bikers and horseback riders are kept separated by alternating use of the trails. A schedule is posted at all trailheads. To download a Tsali Map/brochure (PDF), click here.

In recent years, the sport has grown to such an extent that now there is a series of annual races held in the area. The NOC Knob Scorcher races are scheduled each spring, summer and late fall; and attract some of the best bikers in the country. These races are sanctioned by the national Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) and are included in the Western North Carolina and North Carolina State Championship point series.

Road Biking — There are many miles of uncrowded country roads throughout Swain County, many designated as bike routes. Lakeview Drive (a.k.a. "Road to Nowhere") is a lightly traveled road that winds eight miles into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, north of Bryson City. It is a moderate ride with great views of Fontana Lake.

Just west of Bryson City, two moderate loops offer a variety of landscapes on lightly traveled roads. The 13-mile Lower Alarka Loop offers views of Lake Fontana and the Tuckasegee River, while the 15-mile Upper Alarka Loop offers a mixture of scenic flat farmland and steep mountain grades.


Bryson City Bicycles - Full service outfitter that offers many recreation opportunities in downtown Bryson City. Bike rentals, trail shuttles for hikers, nature tours, rafting on the Tuckasegee River, tubing, and team building.

Nantahala Outdoor Center - Private instruction, rentals, Knob Scorcher race series, one-day samplers, and a "Week of Trails," are some of the options. The bike shop, located in the Outfitter's Store, is available for repairs, parts, energy foods, magazines, guide books and advice.








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