If the day-to-day grind is wearing you down, a return to nature might be what you need to feel renewed and refreshed. According to the American Psychiatric Association, spending time in nature is linked to benefits like improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, and upticks in empathy and cooperation.
If that sounds like just what the doctor ordered, then taking the time to explore the beautiful Pisgah bike trails could be exactly the getaway that you need.
Pisgah Forest, NC, boasts a variety of trails for all fitness and skill levels. But before you start planning your mountain bike excursion, read on to learn some important details that you should know.
What to Know About Pisgah Bike Trails and the National Forest
Pisgah National Forest comprises about 500,000 acres of wild woodlands. Its many trails stretch for hundreds of accumulative miles, and there are activities throughout that are sure to please families and vacationers along with seasoned outdoorsmen.
The forest is so large that it needs to be divided into three districts.
The Appalachian District is home to one of the best sections of the beloved Appalachian Trail. This is the best district for Pisgah National Forest hiking. Home to gorgeous waterfalls, formidable cliffs, and the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, you should find time to explore the Appalachian District.
The Grandfather District is a great place for Pisgah forest camping. Here you’ll find a region full of mild hiking trails, streams and fishing holes, and scenic river excursions.
But for our purposes, the main attraction is the Pisgah district proper. This is where you’ll find the best-regarded bike trails in this part of the country.
That said, you can find trails for all experience levels throughout all three districts. Here are some of the best that Pisgah National Forest has to offer.
1. Bent Creek
Bent Creek is the main trail network for the greater Asheville area. Visitors to this trail should take some time to stop off in the city, where they can appreciate its deeply-ingrained biking and mountaineering culture.
Once you head out into Bent Creek itself, you’ll find yourself amidst a 30-mile network of trails. Some highlights include acclaimed descents like Green’s Lick.
But Bent Creek isn’t only for daredevil riders. Rather, the network is divided into two main components. One is much more challenging and caters to veteran riders, while a flatter area is accessible to all ages and skill levels.
The only downside is the high traffic.
Being both a beloved trail system and so close to Asheville, Bent Creek is swarming with riders on the weekends. Finding parking can become a challenge, with even the nearby Lake Powhatan Campground tending to fill up. To avoid the crowds, try to plan excursions to Bent Creek during the workweek.
Kitsuma is a venerable, 10-mile loop found in the Grandfather District. Its short length makes it an excellent choice for intermediate rider. And if you’re looking for a longer trek, you can combine Kitsuma with other nearby trails to increase your mileage.
Despite its modest length, Kitsuma isn’t a cakewalk. The total elevation change is around 2,200 feet, so you can still expect a solid ride. And the mix of switchbacks to the top and steep, rocky slopes to the bottom will keep you on your toes.
The exertion is worth it, though, as the Kitsuma trail takes you past some of the most beautiful views in the Grandfather District.
3. Black Mountain and Thrift Cove
Heading back to the Pisgah District, we have what might be the quintessential trail of the Pisgah forest.
The Black Mountain trail is easy to access, with its entrance right on the edge of the national forest. It’s only a few miles past The Hub bike shop on the highway, itself a great place to double-check your gear and pick up any last-minute necessities.
Black Mountain boasts a 1900-foot downhill. The slope is quite rocky and rooty, providing a thrilling challenge for most riders.
The Thrift Cove trail is often ridden in tandem with the Black Mountain trail due to its proximity. Between the two trails, you can chart a course that ranges anywhere from a dozen miles to thirty, depending on how bold you’re feeling.
4. Avery Creek
The Avery Creek trail itself is only about three miles long. It’s more of a modest footpath than a bike trail. However, it can be combined with nearby trails to produce an excursion of a dozen miles or more.
And you would be wise to do so because, despite its modest length, Avery Creek is one of the locals’ favorites.
The main trail takes you through plenty of technical, rutted-out singletracks. This is the type of trail that made Pisgah famous among riders. The trail is also dotted with stream crossings for those who don’t mind getting their feet wet. And since it’s adjacent to the Black Mountain trail network, you can roll it into that excursion to make a full day of your ride.
5. Bennett Gap
Bennett Gap is another network found near Avery Creek and Black Mountain. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could work all three trails into one large loop to maximize your mileage for the day.
But for the more moderate rider, Bennett Gap has plenty to recommend it on its own. It’s one of the fastest and roughest stretches of trail in the Pisgah forest system, so it’s great for a shorter, high-intensity ride. And there are plenty of scenic views and rock formations to reward the daring rider.
6. Laurel Mountain and Pilot Rock
If you don’t mind doing a bit of hiking along with your riding, then the Laurel Mountain/Pilot Rock loop is a must-see attraction.
Significant stretches of the loop are unrideable, so you will have to put in some work. But those with the patience and inclination will find one of the gnarliest stretches of track in the forest, along with some of its most picturesque views. Add Pilot Cove to your loop and you’ll enjoy a challenging yet rewarding 16-mile trek.
Finding More Things to Do in Pisgah National Forest
The Pisgah bike trails are indeed the premier mountain biking destinations in the southeastern United States. But there’s so much more to do in this unspoiled natural sanctuary.
If you’re ready to take some much-needed time away from civilization, contact us today to make your Pisgah getaway plans.