Mountain Biking the Pisgah National Forest
The Pisgah National Forest covers over 500,000 acres across Western North Carolina. This large area includes tracts surrounding the town of Asheville and the French Broad River Valley. Recreational opportunities, including mountain biking, abound within its boundaries.
This forest is divided up into three Ranger Districts: the Appalachian, Grandfather, and Pisgah districts.
The western part of the Appalachian ranger district stretches along the NC-TN line from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park north to Hot Springs. A few trails, including Mill Ridge and Laurel River, are open to bikes in this area.
The eastern part of the district stretches east to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and includes the watersheds of the Toe and Cane rivers, Roan Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, and the Big Ivy (Coleman Boundary) trailhead.
The Grandfather district lies in the eastern mountains of NC and includes areas along the Blue Ridge, such as the Linville Gorge Wilderness, Wilson Creek, and areas near Grandfather Mountain itself. A handful of trails are officially open to bikes in this area (including Heartbreak Ridge, in the video below), with many more miles of gravel roads available to cyclists.
Many of the trails used for mountain biking, and the trailheads Bent Creek, Mills River, and Davidson River are located in the Pisgah Ranger District, which lies on either side of the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville, along the Pisgah Ridge and Balsam Mountains.
Choose a Pisgah National Forest trailhead from the list at the left for all the mountain biking information!
Important Information about National Forest Trails
Here are some things you should know about signed, multi-use trails open to bikes in the National Forests, and how we post information about them on this site.
Trail names shown National Forest are the official Forest Service trail system names. Trails are usually signed at the beginning and end, and at important intersections, with a vertical fiberglass stake. High use areas sometimes have fancier signs, with maps or information boards at the trailhead. However, signs are sometimes vandalized, and not all trails are signed to begin with, so don't rely on them entirely.
The Forest Service assigns each trail a unique number, and that is the number we use. These numbers are used on the old USGS maps modified for Forest Service use, and have been adopted on the newer Trails Illustrated maps and most other maps as well.
The Forest Service uses three levels of difficulty to describe trails: Easiest, More Difficult, and Most Difficult; a simple Green/Blue/Black system. Ratings for Easy trails can be deceiving, though - especially to beginners, since they're usually tailored to the hiking experience more than mountain biking. I have chosen my own ratings of Easy, Moderate, More Difficult, and Most Difficult, which just adds an additional level to make it more precise. Under my system, many Easy trails become Moderate. Admittedly, these are fairly subjective, even under the Forest Service's standards.
I tend to describe trails in the direction I happened to ride them last, but trails are open both ways. Try both directions!
A few trails are designated as "seasonal", meaning they are only open to bikes during the less crowded winter season. Seasonal use for bikes is from Oct. 15 to Apr. 15 only!
Assumption of Closure
All singletrack trails are considered closed to bikes unless the bike symbol is shown on the trail sign and it is not crossed out with a red slash, as in the example to the left. However, all seasonally-gated gravel/dirt/logging/fire/forest roads are considered open to mountain bike use, unless specifically posted otherwise. This does NOT include permanently gated "Linear Wildlife Openings", which are specifically closed to bikes.