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North Carolina Mountain Biking & Hiking Trails

Top Smoky Mountain Mountain Biking Destinations

Some of the most impressive mountain biking trails on the east coast of the United States can be found in Western North Carolina.  Everyone from professional athletes, to retired seniors and families with young children will have fun cycling North Carolina. We’ve got broad scenic byways, curvaceous mountain roads, and steep ascents rewarded with spectacular mountain views. Discover the joys of soaring through the mountains on two wheels.  Check out the amazing North Carolina mountain biking trails listed below.  Find more information on the best biking trails and biking vacations.

Best Hiking Trails in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains

Hundreds of miles of trail winds through thousands of acres of pristine wilderness in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. The rewards of hiking North Carolina are many: heart-stopping views, swimming holes and everyone’s favorite, waterfalls. Several waterfalls are also handicap accessible including Nantahala Forest’s Bridal Veil Falls and Dry Falls, and the Cullasaja Falls are viewable from the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway.  Learn more about Hiking Vacations.


Hiking and Mountain Biking Trails

Appalachian Trail to Charlie's Bunion

Trailhead: Newfound Gap parking area. This four-mile stretch offers spectacular views of the Smokies. Hike Distance: 4 Miles

Appalachian Trail to Wesser Bald

Trailhead: Wesser Gap. This scenic portion of the Appalachian Trail is perfect for day hikes. Hike Distance: 2 miles

Bartram Trail

Trailhead: The trail enters North Carolina just south of Highlands on Highway 106 and joins the Appalachian Trail at two points. The trail ends on Cheoah Bald. Hike Distance: 37.7 miles

Big Indian Horse Trail

Trailhead: Big Indian Creek. The Standing Indian Recreation Area west of Franklin offers many excellent hiking trails and lies in close proximity to the Appalachian Trail. The Big Indian Trail is designated for both horseback riding and hiking, and there is a horse camp close by at Hurricane Creek. Hike Distance: 8 miles

Big Snowbird Trail

Trailhead: Big Snowbird Road. The first four miles are recommended for day hikers. Hike Distance: 12.7 miles

Fires Creek Area Trails

Trailhead: Fires Creek Recreation Area. Offers a number of excellent trails, including a designated horseback trail and horse camp. Cover Loop is an easy 0.3-mile trail that is handicap accessible. Other popular foot trails include Leatherwood Loop Trail (0.7 mile), Leatherwood Branch Access (3.5 miles) and Cover Trail, which follows Fires Creek for approximately five miles. Hike Distance: 0.3 - 5.4 miles

Jackrabbit Mountain Trail

Trailhead: Jackrabbit Recreation Area. Located next to the huge Jackrabbit Campground at Lake Chatuge, this 14-mile trail system is gaining popularity fast. Mostly flat with rolling dips and berms and just a few technical areas. One of the newest North Carolina Mountain Biking trails. Trail offers amazing views of Lake Chatuge and provides lake fishing access as well. Hike Distance: 2.5 miles

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Trail

Trailhead: Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest parking lot. Joyce Kilmer Forest offers a spectacular two-mile loop trail. Hike Distance: 2 miles

Mallonee Trail

Trailhead: Balsam Lake Recreation Area. The Mallonee Trail provides barrier free access, with three wheelchair-accessible fishing platforms located along the trail. Hike Distance: 5 miles

Maple Springs Observation Point

Trailhead: Maple Springs Observation Area. Maple Springs offers an unparalleled view of the Smokies, especially during the fall color season. Hike Distance: 800 feet

Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Trailhead: Old Bald Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Highland's portion of North Carolina's Mountains-to-Sea Trail traverses breathtaking stands of forest and plenty of wildlife. Trail Distance: 8.75 miles

Santeetlah Bike Trails

Trailhead: Long Hungry Road and Carver Cemetery. Although riding the entire 15-mile trail might be too much for a beginner, short out-and-back sections from trailheads and the four-mile-long Hungry Loop will provide a good introduction to trail riding. The trail is open to mountain bikes, horses and hikers. The Connector Trail, a quarter mile section of technical single-track, is the perfect place for beginners and intermediate riders to practice your skills. The trail follows a number of open and grated Forest Service roads with a short portion of single-track. Large sections of the trail hug the shoreline of Lake Santeetlah offering beautiful mountain lake views. You can access the Connector Trail from the Long Hungry Road and Carver Cemetery trailhead. Trail Distance: 15 miles total

Whiteside Mountain Trail

Trailhead: Whiteside Mountain parking area. The loop trail features a view of the highest vertical drop in the Eastern US at 750 feet. Sheer rock faces are popular for rock climbing and rappelling. Hike Distance: 2 miles

Yellow Mountain Trail

Trailhead: Buck Creek Road (SR 1538). Traverse three of Highland's most scenic mountains. This trail features beautiful views and a diversity of plant life. Trail Distance: 4.8

Tsali Recreation Area

Explore 40 miles of gorgeous trails at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains right next to Fontana Lake. Thunder down hardpacked singletrack trails, and then refresh yourself with a swim in clear blue mountain waters. Trailhead: Off N.C. 28 past Bryson City, or if coming from Robbinsville N.C. 143 until you reach N.C. 28, go east. Entrance on north side of N.C. 28, well-marked. This is the granddaddy of Western North Carolina mountain biking, boasting 40 miles of trails on four loops. Rates as one of the top 10 places to ride in the U.S. Fast, hard-packed single track, and you can't go wrong with any of the loops. Trail Distance: 7.3 - 13.9 miles (varies by loop)

Fontana Village Trails

Trailhead: While traveling west on US Hwy 74, take a right onto Hwy 28 towards Almond. Follow Hwy 28 for about 22.5 miles, and then take a left into Fontana Village Resort. The individual trails vary widely in their width, steepness and technical difficulty. Describing one distinct route here is impossible because this network of trails crisscrosses all around the village and totals about 20 miles. Hike Distance: 5 - 6 miles (varies by loop)

Western Carolina University Trail

Trailhead: The trail system has two trailheads. One is located near the softball field and picnic area on WCU main campus, east of N.C. 107. Trail users then travel through the pedestrian tunnel under 107 and access the trail on NCCAT property. The second trailhead is located at the parking lot of the Health and Human Sciences building. Recently opened 6.6 miles of single track across the street from the main WCU campus in Cullowhee. Challenging but relatively short. Trail Distance: 6.6 miles

Hanging Dog Campground Area

Trailhead: Hanging Dog is on Hiwassee Lake in the Nantahala National Forest, five miles northwest of Murphy, NC. The Ramsey Bluff Bike Trail System is located at the Hanging Dog Campground area, and offers under-utilized adventure in mountain biking. The eight mile labyrinth of trails is a group of connected loops, allowing an interesting variety of combinations for repeat visitors to explore. The trail difficulty ranges from easy to moderate and range from 1500' to 1900' in elevation. Trail Distance: 0.8 - 2.1 miles (varies by loop)

Fire Mountain Trails

10.5 miles Trailhead: Oconaluftee Indian Village parking lot in Cherokee. This multi-use trail system is flowy, features fun berms, quick hits of elevation, tables, rock gardens, blinds, single-track, wider sections and spots smooth and fast. The trails interlace through nearby Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Piney Knob Bike Trails

2 miles are complete and open, with 7 mile loop opening soon .A wonderful spot for cyclists and hikers.

Panthertown Valley

Nearly 30 miles of trails branch off from the area's old main roads, 21 of which are open to bikes. And the roads are becoming fun single and double track in many places. Shorter and longer loop options are available from either parking area. A few of the more popular destinations within the valley (such as Greenland Creek, Schoolhouse, Granny Burrell, and Wilderness Falls) are accessible by short sections of hiking-only trails, but are worth the diversion.

Fire Mountain Trails

Oconaluftee Indian Village parking lot in Cherokee. This multi-use trail system is flowy, features fun berms, quick its of elevation, tables, rock gardens, blinds, single-track, wider sections & spots smooth & fast. The trails interlace through nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Benton MacKaye Trail

300 miles, the southern terminus trailhead is 0.2 miles down the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain GA. This trail travels North through TN and NC. The trail features many scenic views of surrounding mountains, waterfalls, streams, and wildlife. For more information visit bmta.org