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Tsali Trails Epic: Left and Right Loops

Bryson City, NC

In the early 1800s a Cherokee Indian named Tsali escaped into North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains, fleeing the US Army's attempt at a forced relocation. He bargained with his life so that his people could remain in the region.

Today, one of the Nantahala National Forest's greatest recreation areas is named after the brave man. Mountain bikers have been tested on Tsali's Left and Right loops for years - even if their situations are seldom as perilous as that of the defiant Cherokee's.

As the trails swoop through the verdant North Carolina forests, riders are rewarded with beautiful views of Fontana Lake. The Left and Right loops are mostly singletrack, with plenty of climbing and fast corners. There's good reason why Tsali has been a classic Southeast ride, and now it takes its rightful place among IMBA's Epic Rides.

Location: Bryson City is approximately 1.5 hours west of Asheville, NC

Length: The Left Loop is approximately 12 miles, and the Right Loop is approximately 11 miles

Climbing: About 1,000 feet per loop.

Terrain: Fast, smooth, rolling singletrack.

Shops: Bryson City Bicycles - Motion Makers Bicycle Shop - Nantahala Outdoor Center

Notes: There is a $2 per-day trail use fee, and the trails alternate between horse-only and bike-only use.

Directions: From Bryson City, NC, follow US 19/74 (Great Smoky Mountains Expressway) to intersection with NC 28 north. Follow NC 28 north about 3 miles to the sign for the Tsali Recreation Area. Turn right. Follow a paved road to the campground and trailhead parking lot; park in the lot signed "Riders Park and Pay Here."[Photos courtesy of Kent Cranford]

Host Club: Nantahala Area SORBA Chapter

IMBA Region: Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association (SORBA),