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Tsali MTB Trails North Carolina
Wednesday, September 9th to Saturday, September 12th, 1998

On the evening of September 9th, Colleen, a good friend of mine, and I traveled to the Tsali trails in Western North Carolina for some hard core mountain biking.  Although my trip hasn't really "begun" per se (I.E. my rig is still in the works), I figured why not throw in this trip as part of my walk-a-bout.  Plus, I had to celebrate being able to go in the middle of the week without taking any vacation time.

We had absolutely beautiful weather.  Afternoons temperatures didn't get higher than say 85 and we had cool mountain evenings... perfect for camping!  The first night we got in around 12am or so (we probably woke half of the campground!)... The next day, we took a trip out to the Nantahala Outdoor Center to purchase a rear tire.  I had essentially been riding on a slick for the past year and realized I was about to burn through to the tube... not good!  Finally, we actually made it onto the bike around 2pm and rode the Mouse Branch Trail (6.5 miles).  This is probably the best trail if you are looking for views.  Apparently, the pine beetles had some fun taking out some of the pine trees... the forest service took a turn trying to "save" the rest of the trees by clearing out sections of infested forest.   You end up with some pretty stunning views, especially off of this particular trail.  Later that day, Colleen's friends, Dana and Luis from Ft. Lauderdale Florida showed up and joined us for the following two days.  Dana and Luis, not to be outdone by Colleen and I, hit Mouse Branch before sunset and joined us for a stir fry dinner followed by sleep.

The next day, we rode nearly 23 miles on the Tsali Left Loop (11.9 miles) and Tsali Right Loop (11 miles) trails.  These trails are the most challenging.   Each trail has some fairly long climbs and are about equal in difficulty.   Some of Dana and Luis's friends from Florida joined us for the left loop.  The Left Loop was a bit more scenic and had a nice optional loop up to an incredible overlook looking off into the Smokies and Fontana Lake.  We took a nice group shot up there and headed downhill.  Dana and Luis's friends from Florida left us after a quick rendezvous at the campsite and after a huge lunch, we headed off to do the Right Loop.   However, we all felt pretty good and finished this trail pretty quickly... we had just enough light to make hamburgers.  Our neighbors left us some spaghetti and sauce which we gobbled down as well...  Suffice it to say, we ALL slept well that night!

The last day... we simply had to finish out the Tsali trails by completing Thomson Loop.  We were pretty wasted at this point and I was just trying to enjoy my last few moments at Tsali.  After a quick lunch, we were on the road back to Atlanta.   A great trip overall.

AndrewMouseBranch-sm.jpg (31315 bytes)
That's me on the Mouse Branch Trail

DryFontanaLake-sm.jpg (9905 bytes)
One of the coves off of Fontana Lake's Mouse Branch
(near Campground)

ColleenMouseBranch.jpg (10914 bytes)
Colleen on Mouse Branch Trail

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The group at the Overlook on Tsali Left Loop

AndrewTsali-sm.jpg (17923 bytes)
Nice Pic of me at Tsali, NC

(Thanks Luis!)

More Information on Tsali

Perched right up against Fontana lake and the Smokies, the Tsali trails provide arguably some of the best mountain biking in the entire Southeast.  Four loop trails, nearly all single track, virtually no long climbs, and beautiful views.  The trails are not as technically challenging as many of my rides in North Georgia, but there were a few tough spots.  There is a $2 a day (at the time) day use fee.  The Forest Service also allows horses on the trails.  Mountain Bikers and horseback riders are kept separated by alternating use of the trails.  A schedule is posted at the trail head.

There is a campground at Tsali with 41 sites.  At $15 a night (at the time), this is pretty steep and the bathroom/shower facilities aren't very nice (although the water was hot).  On nice weekends, the campground is generally full.   However, you can camp in the National Forest for free and there is one campsite right near the trails (you'll be lucky if you can get this one!).  Because it is National Forest, you can "create" your own campsites anywhere, but we saw a couple of nice spots just off of the road.  Because I was with a group (4 folks), we paid the $15 a night ($3.75 a piece) and made good (and "legal") use of the showers.

The Tsali trails are located in the Nantahala National Forest.  The closest town is Nantahala Village.  For more information and a map:

Cheoah Ranger District
Route 1
Box 16-A
Robbinsville, NC  28721
704-479-6431

My E-Mail address is: andrew(at)koransky.com

Copyright (C) 1996-2008 Andrew Koransky

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