Near the begining of the Left Loop
Just over the hill in North Carolina Tsali offers great trails for us Mountain Bikers. The lake views from the Left Loop, Overlook and Mouse Branch Overlook are nothing short of spectacular. I took my family for a long weekend. We rented a cabin near Bryson City just a few miles down the road from the Tsali Recreation Area . Most of the reviews I read before going talked about the challenging trails and indicated that they were not for beginners. After riding the trails I disagreed. Both my son and I were a little underwhelmed. We did however still have a great time and I would recommend the trip. The Tsali trails alternate horse/bike every other day , so you can only ride one side of the park on a given day. Tuesday, Thursday and Sat are Mousetail and Thompson while the remainder of the week is Left and Right loops. On any day you can ride 20+ miles of good to great trails regardless.
More Difficult, 11.9mi, Hilly, Some Obstacles
Longest Tsali trail. Starts with a roller coaster ride along the lakeshore that you can control! Trail dips into a cove, crosses a creek, then emerges to zoom along the lakeshore time and again. Toward the overlook, the trail moves into the interior hills of the peninsula. Here, there are rolling sections, and 2 relatively long climbs, followed by 2 steep downhills; the second downhill has several great jumps. Further on, a very muddy creekside climb is followed by a fast, rolling cruise that connects to Overlook Loop (see top of map). The Left Loop is completed with a ride along County Line Road (doubletrack/gravel) which is shared with Right Loop. This part can be a bit of a yawn. The good news is that it is mostly slightly down hill and has intermitent water bars that make for good jumps.
Mouse Branch Loop
Moderate, 6.5mi, Hilly, Some Obstacles
Has one long, fast singletrack downhill, with a gradual climb up to it. Good views, trail passes over neat clearcut hills–in one spot, you can see the trail snaking over on the next ridge. Watch how quickly the forest can change as you go in and out of coves and along ridges. Connects to Mouse Branch Overlook Loop
Mouse Branch Overlook Loop
Moderate, 2.5mi, Climbs Moderately, Some Obstacles
A new addition. One way trail (counter-clockwise). Good view from the overlook, not as spectacular as the one from Overlook Loop but well worth the ride out there. You can see some neat islands down in the lake. This extension also has some great downhills, which makes it even more worthwhile.
More Difficult, 11mi, Hilly, Few Obstacles
Shorter loops possible using connector trails. Some lakeshore riding, lots of hilly interior riding with a few steep, challenging spots. Has lots of great jumps. Has a few creek crossings, one of which is done on a brand new bridge. Sections are fast, buffed, winding, narrow, sidehill singletrack that clings to the side of a mountain. Be sure to keep a finger on the brakes in those outside curves–to avoid a trip off the side of the mountain! Intersects a side out-and-back trail to Windy Gap overlook–worth riding for the trail itself, not really the “overlook”. Also intersects Overlook Loop and Left Loop (see descriptions below). Loop is completed with a fast, smooth ride along County Line Road (doubletrack/gravel) which is shared with Left loop.
Moderate, 7.7mi, Hilly, Few Obstacles
Some stream crossings and old logging roads. Mixed pine and hardwood forests at Tsali are easily recognized on this trail. Some old homesites. Neat part of forest with tall hemlocks and rhododendron, not typical of the heavily logged areas at Tsali. More great lakeshore singletrack riding with long, gradual hills. Some really great fast gravel road sections.
Go to the picture section of BikesNBeers Facebook link to see more photos of Tsali. Happy trails!