Mountain Biking the Nantahala National Forest
The Nantahala National Forest covers 1,349,000 acres acres across the Southwestern mountains of Western North Carolina. Stretching from the Pisgah National Forest to the north, to the Great Smoky Mountains and Tennessee line to the west, and south to the South Carolina state line, this is the largest National Forest in North Carolina. Nantahala is thought to come from a Cherokee word meaning "land of the noonday sun", which describes the conditions in the Nantahala River Gorge, a popular spot for recreation within this Forest.
Public lands within the Nantahala NF are fragmented, with large tracts of private and developed land scattered throughout. Many of the trails within Nantahala are closed to bikes, and many of the recreational opportunities in this forest occur off of a mountain bike. However, that's not to say that there's not great mountain biking to be found here. Many miles of scenic gravel roads offer appealing routes to mountain bikers, and the Tsali trails are 40 miles of nationally known, world class singletrack.
The Forest Service has recently completed a trail designation and maintenance project in the Panthertown Valley area. Although this process took years, the large, spectacular valley contains many rare and exotic plant species, beautiful waterfalls, rock domes, and great trails suitable for mountain biking, so the wait was worthwhile. We're hoping to add information about these trails soon. Two other areas for riding are located in this National Forest: Hanging Dog and Jack Rabbit Mountain. Both of these areas are located near lakes in the far southwestern corners of Western North Carolina.