10 Top Mountain Bike Trails Near Asheville

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DuPont State Forest

Want to get out on the best mountain bike trails near Asheville? Whether you enjoy grin-inducing descents, smooth rollers, technical drops, punchy climbs or bermed flow trails, the Asheville area has a trail system for every type of rider. Tucked away in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, downtown Asheville is within an […]

The post 10 Top Mountain Bike Trails Near Asheville appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

DuPont State Forest

Want to get out on the best mountain bike trails near Asheville? Whether you enjoy grin-inducing descents, smooth rollers, technical drops, punchy climbs or bermed flow trails, the Asheville area has a trail system for every type of rider. Tucked away in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, downtown Asheville is within an hour’s drive of mountain biking areas like Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Forest, Bent Creek Experimental Forest and Fire Mountain.

Are you a beginner wanting to practice your skills or an experienced rider looking for your next mountain bike challenge? Check out these top rides for the best Asheville mountain biking as voted on by the MTB Project community.

Pisgah Area SORBA Beginner's Loop

  • Location: Bent Creek, NC, in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, 12 miles southwest of downtown Asheville
  • Length: 6.2-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy/intermediate
  • Best For: A beginner’s playground with a range of easy features

This ride is perfect for beginners who want to hone their skills. With off-camber turns, berms, small jumps, roots, rocks and creek crossings, the loop manages to pack a ton of variety into its relatively short length.

The terrain delivers a pleasant introduction to mountain biking with plenty of easy options, line choices and ride-arounds, making it manageable for most beginner and intermediate riders. The mostly hardpacked trail has some roots and rocks to navigate around and a few mellow climbs and descents, with only 654 feet of climbing in total. More experienced riders will enjoy the fast, flowy trails and climbs, which provide an opportunity to fine-tune handling and technique.


Lake James State Park

  • Location: Glen Alpine, NC, in Lake James State Park, 50 miles east of Asheville
  • Length: 12.9-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy/intermediate
  • Best For: The chance to build your own adventure on a non-technical trail system

The Lake James trails form a multiloop system of directional trails, allowing you to customize the length and difficulty of your ride. These groomed trails serve up pleasant backcountry riding with approximately 770 feet of climbing and descending in total. Beginners will enjoy the small rollers and easy grade reversals on the smooth, well-marked trails. The difficulty of each trail is progressive, with the mostly flat and accessible Tindo Loops being best for beginners.

From there, you can progress onto the West Wimba Loop, which offers added speed and flow. The East Wimba Loop throws in a couple of additional challenges with small ups and downs and tighter turns as it winds through the forest. If you are eager for another round, add on a second loop. Once you’re ready to call it a day, head over to the park's picnic area and swim beach for a post-ride snack or a dip in Lake James.  


Fire on the Mountain

  • Location: Cherokee, NC, on Fire Mountain, 52 miles west of Asheville
  • Length: 5.2-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: A flowy ride with features built for carrying speed and momentum

This loop hits all of the best beginner and intermediate trails at Fire Mountain, a shiny new trail system recently developed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. This five-mile bonanza rewards you with plenty of smooth-riding singletrack and flow trails with bermed switchbacks. The berms and rollers are designed to keep your momentum up, and rolling through the turns and pumping through the rollers is sure to put a smile on your face.

This ride features 737 feet of climbing and descending, making it an easy loop to lap for more experienced riders or a manageable option for advanced beginner or intermediate riders looking to hone their handling skills while simultaneously playing with a bit of speed.


Best of DuPont

  • Location: Brevard, NC, in DuPont State Forest, 35 miles south of Asheville
  • Length: 18.2-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: A loop of DuPont State Forest to hit all of the singletrack highlights

This tour of DuPont State Forest incorporates several flowy singletrack favorites. Rated intermediate due to its length and approximately 2,000 feet of climbing, this loop is best for intermediate to advanced riders who are ready to tackle more technical trails. Overall, the ride features an easy warm-up, some smooth singletrack and several fast descents punctuated by rock gardens.

Looking to add some additional spice? The ride offers three creek crossings. If you don't feel like braving the crossings, there are rocks that you can use to hike your bike across the streams without getting too wet. The trail ends on a fast rip down Ridgeline—one of the most popular singletracks in the area. For beginners wanting to explore DuPont, the DuPont Ridgeline loop offers well-placed berms and flowy corners and is a shorter, yet worthwhile option.


Green's Lick/Ingles Field Gap Loop

  • Location: Bent Creek, NC, in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, 12 miles southwest of downtown Asheville
  • Length: 13.6-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/difficult
  • Best For: A rewarding ride with plenty of speedy descending

Offering a satisfying seven miles of blazing descents—mostly on the second half of the ride—you’ll love the smile-inducing downhills on the Green’s Lick/Ingles Field Gap Loop. The ride’s first four miles involve a lengthy rocky ascent that will test your technical skills and quad strength with nearly 1,200 feet of climbing. The fast, two-mile descent on Green's Lick is all about speed and handling—and the the well-sequenced turns and lack of technical sections will put a grin on your face.

Inclined to get airborne? Keep an eye out for a few high-speed jumps. Another short but tough climb up Little Hickory Top Trail brings you to more singletrack descending on Ingles Field Gap and Wolf Branch. Although a bit more mellow, this final descent is still an enjoyable finish to your ride.


Spencer Gap - Trace Ridge Loop

  • Location: Avery Creek, NC, in Pisgah National Forest, 25 miles southwest of Asheville
  • Length: 7.2-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/difficult
  • Best For: A moderate climb followed by a fast, technical downhill

For riders interested in getting a taste of the technical Pisgah-style downhill riding the Asheville area is known for, this shorter loop delivers a mix of intermediate climbing and more advanced descending. The ride starts with about 1,000 feet of climbing in the first four-and-a-half miles. Although not easy, the moderate climb follows a wide, well-worn, mostly gravel forest service road, which makes the going a bit easier.

After the summit, you’ll be treated to a rowdy descent on mostly hardpacked clay singletrack. On the way back down, you’ll likely need to navigate around rocks and roots and, depending on recent precipitation, some washed out or eroded trail. Keep your eyes open for some small drops along the Trace Ridge Trail coupled with rocks of varying shapes and sizes. Although not as difficult as some of the other iconic Pisgah area descents, this ride is best for intermediate to advanced riders who are confident navigating technical descents.


Kitsuma/Heartbreak

  • Location: Black Mountain, NC, in Pisgah National Forest, 26 miles east of Asheville
  • Length: 37.4-mile multiloop ride
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/difficult
  • Best For: A figure-eight loop to get your adrenaline pumping

True to its name, Kitsuma/Heartbreak is a brutal ride that features a leg-burning climb up Heartbreak Ridge. The ride starts with gentle warm-up on Old U.S. 70—a relatively easy climb on an old forest road. Take your time and soak up the sights before heading into the first descent on Kitsuma Trail. This downhill is filled with water bars, drops and berms that punctuate the flowing, fast and—at times—narrow singletrack that twists through dense forest.

Next up is the ride's toughest climb, beginning on Star Gap and escalating on Heartbreak Ridge. Although you could choose to skip the additional out-and-back climb on Heartbreak Ridge, you would miss out on the views as well as the added bonus of an adrenaline-filled descent. This narrow, rocky trail features plenty of shallow drops, roots, off-camber areas, steep slopes and gnar to keep you entertained the entire way down. After completing the eastern portion of Star Gap, enjoy an easy cruise on a forest service road to wind your way back to the trailhead.


Daniel Ridge Loop

  • Location: Brevard, NC, in the Pisgah National Forest, 40 miles southwest of Asheville
  • Length: 4.3-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/difficult
  • Best For: A quick lap on a classic, technically challenging trail

The Daniel Ridge Loop is a well-known ride in Pisgah National Forest. Experienced riders will enjoy testing their mettle on this rocky, rooty downhill. A little more than four miles in length, the short loop is quick enough to lap on the weekends—or it can make for a fun post-work outing. The ride begins with a tough climb through beautiful, dense forest littered with rocks and roots.

Then, the ride heads past a large waterfall and onto a steep and rocky doubletrack. After this, the downhill begins a roller coaster of a ride that requires full concentration and more than a little technical prowess. About two miles into the ride, you will reach a junction with the Farlow Gap Trail. If you have the time, ambition and skill to add on this extremely difficult section, Farlow Gap is an out-and-back trail that offers some of the most technical riding in the area. Otherwise, descend along the Daniel Ridge Trail to finish out the ride.


Black Mountain Loop

  • Location: Brevard, NC, in Pisgah National Forest, 35 miles southwest of Asheville
  • Length: 12.2-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Difficult
  • Best For: A day trip to ride the iconic Black Mountain Trail

If you’re itching to ride one of the more famous trails in the area, a visit to the Black Mountain Trail will give you a taste of the full range of technical challenges for which Pisgah National Forest is known. The start of the loop features a long climb up Clawhammer Road, a fire road. After reaching the summit, get ready to descend on the Black Mountain Trail, which is lauded for its technically challenging, physically demanding terrain.

The way back down Black Mountain is memorable and not to be taken lightly with nearly 2,000 feet of descending packed into a little more than 3.5 miles. Along the way, you will be required to navigate around rocks, small drops and washed-out areas. The trail can get quite steep in spots with eroded waterbars that present their own unique type of challenge. The closer you get to the bottom, the more mellow the terrain becomes until the trail rejoins the main trailhead to finish the loop.


Pisgah Long Tour

  • Location: Mills River, NC, in Pisgah National Forest, 25 miles southwest of Asheville
  • Length: 26.6-mile one-way point-to-point ride
  • Difficulty Rating: Difficult
  • Best For: An all-day adventure tackling two of the most challenging downhills in Pisgah

This aptly named one-way tour takes riders on a 26-mile adventure through the heart of Pisgah National Forest and includes two iconic descents on Pilot Rock and Black Mountain Trail. The difficult ride challenges athletes with its distance, elevation gain, rock gardens, technical descents and lung-busting climbs. The rewards are equally diverse with stunning views, fast descents and beautiful scenery to keep you entertained.

In all, the ride boasts 4,198 feet of leg-burning climbing and 5,223 feet of gravity-aided descending. Pilot Rock features a notable boulder garden and stream crossing and is more generally known for its steep, tight and rocky switchbacks. The Black Mountain Trail has some hike-a-bike sections and what is known locally as a legendary descent strewn with memorable rocks, drops and challenging steep sections.

For an added adventure, there is an option to bikepack the route, overnighting at the Buckhorn Gap Trail Shelter on the Black Mountain Trail to break up the outing. Otherwise, leave a car or plan for a pickup at the southern end of the trail.


View more Asheville mountain bike trails

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