Tsali (sah’ lee)n. An epic mountain bike trail system in Western North Carolina consisting of 42 miles of grin-inducing intermediate singletrack.

Tsali Recreation Area is home to the famous Tsali trail system within the Nantahala National Forest.  This group of intermediate levels trails has been the Mecca of mountain biking this side of the Rockies for over 20 years. It is known for its 42 miles of beautiful, fast, flowing single-track located on the shores of Lake Fontana. There are four loop trails (Mouse Branch, Thompson, Left and Right) with two open each day for bike riding; they alternate with horse traffic so make sure you ride the correct trail!

Mouse Branch and Thompson Loop are available to bikers on the same day.  On alternating days, Right Loop and Left Loop are both available to bike riders.  Check the signs at the trailhead for biking schedule. 

All four trails have a suggested route of travel.  We recommend you follow the suggested route for best flow and to reduce the chance of head-on encounters.  There are many blind corners on the trail so use caution

Thompson Loop: Intermediate (7.3 miles) The shortest and mildest of the four trails. Enjoy roller-coaster ups and downs and a handful of shallow water crossings.  The mid-section of the trail offers a moderate but fairly steady climb on singletrack and old logging roads.  The last mile plus is everybody’s favorite -  a fun, fast downhill spree all the way back to the parking lot.

Mouse Branch: Intermediate (8.7 miles) Take in lake views, an overlook and woodland trails as you travel around Mouse Branch.  Expect a few steep climbs, switchbacks and a rocky descent from the overlook. 

Right Loop: Intermediate (5, 8, or 13.9 miles) Start with a gentle two mile warm-up and then get your blood pumping for some respectable climbs.  The ride out to Windy Gap Overlook is rooty and narrow in places but worth the effort to see the view.  Right Loop has two alternate trails so you can choose a 5 mile, 8 mile, or do the entire loop.  For those fairly new to mountain biking, the first alternate (5 miles) will give you a great flavor of the trail system.

Left Loop: Intermediate (11.9 miles) The most scenic trail of the four, Left Loop hugs the outside contours of land around miles of lakefront.  Pay the gravity tax and be rewarded by the lightning fast descents over and over.  The overlook loop is a must-do as it provides you with great views of the lake and Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the northern shoreline.

tsali schedule









Tsali Brochure & Map


Tsali Info:

  • Check the trail use schedule at the trailheads to make sure you’re on the designated bike trail on the correct day.
  • There is a $2 per person/per day trail use fee. Bring cash, it is not an automated collection system.  Yearly passes are sold at Bryson City Bicycles for $15.
  • Drinking water is available at the pay station from April – October.
  • A bike-wash station is available from April – October.
  • Camping is available at Tsali from April – October. 41 sites.  No hook-ups. Hot showers.  First-come first-serve basis. 

Schedule of Events - 2017

January 7, 2017: Frosty Foot.  Sponsored by Foot Rx, Asheville

TBA:  Knobscorcher.  Sponsored by GoneRiding

June 24, 2017:  12-Hours of Tsali.  Sponsored by GoneRiding

June 25, 2017:  Tsali X-terra.  Sponsored by GoneRiding


 NAS Logo



Nantahala Area SORBA (Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association) or NAS for short, is the primary custodian of the Tsali Trails.  Their members and dedicated board log hundreds of volunteer hours every year to keep the trails groomed for riding.  NAS is always looking for donations and/or volunteers to assist in their ongoing efforts in maintaining the trails.  For more information or to join or donate, visit nasorba.com.

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