While the Athens Twilight and the Historic Roswell criteriums were going on in Athens then Roswell, I got a chance to get outta Atlanta to Bryson City, NC for the weekend of camping and Mt biking at the Tsali trail system and campground.
If you are a Mt biker and have never been to Tsali, then you must find out what your missing! The Tsali trail system is quite easy to find, it is close to Almond, NC. And the trails will overlook Fontana lake. From the Nantahalla Outdoor Center go about 4.5 miles North, and make a left onto Hwy 28. Go about another 3.5 miles and look closely for the brown sign that points to the Tsali trails and campground. Then you have about 2 miles off the main road to get back into the parking area and campground.
We camped within walking distance of lake, which was awesome for us and the dogs to take a swim. The camping area is primitive, but adequate. Although, if you want to upgrade the restroom areas, and don’t mind driving to the trails, then I highly recommend the Turkey Creek Campground – great people that are on-site – again, their only downside is the distance to the trails, about 3 miles.
We arrived by 5 on Friday afternoon to find friends already reserved a camping spot and pop-up, tarps erected. There was rain in the forecast for Saturday afternoon, so we built a canopy to keep our area dry.
We got out for the Left loop on Friday, a warm-up lap for the weekend to get the 3 hour car ride out of the legs and get the blood flowing.
On Saturday we got the whole crew together after breakfast and headed out for the Thompson and Mouse loop. Both trails were very flowy and mostly quite fast pace to them.
As I got back, another friend finally made it to the campsite & we headed back out for an additional loop of Thompson….. little did I know that this was going to be a lap of ‘race pace’. It was a good thing, get out and hammer some, I had a 12 hour race at Yargo coming up the following weekend.
The mouse and Thompson loops have some great sections of single track!! Some great burms in many corners assist you in keeping the flow going through the turns. The trails do have some puddles after rains in several sections & I always recommend doing a wheelie through them b/c there are some that are much deeper than you would expect.
On Sunday we headed back out for the Left N Right loops. I HIGHLY recommend the Overlook trails!!! Some of the views are just Spectacular! Although the overlook trails have the feel of being an out and back trail, they actually are loops, but it appears that most people ride them as out and back and miss the turn for the ‘loop’ part of the trail.
You can expect a little more water crossings and creeks on the right loop. This is the side that I have raced before (although I’m not sure if all races are on this side), and that does seem to keep this side of the trails beat up a little more. Although what I did like about the right loop is that the greenery did remind me more of Pisgah and less of the local trails around Atlanta.
Tsali is some great Mt. biking if you like groomed and mainly smooth trails that are wicked fast, and you don’t want to A) navigate B) stop to climb over downed trees or most any other kind of debris that may interfere with your ride. Most of the climbing isn’t very steep, but expect a couple climbs that will test your legs, and LOTS of single track to test your lungs!
Caution that because the trails can be so fast, they are multi-direction, and you may come across on-coming riders.