Tsali Left Loop and Tsali Right Loop Trail is a 33.6 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Bryson City, North Carolina and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and mountain biking and is accessible year-round.
Tsali's Left and Right Loop trails can be combined to make a great ride. Loop can be ridden either direction, but I have ridden both ways and prefer to go clockwise to hit the best downhills. First pay the (small) trail use fee. Ride past the bike washing station and make an immediate left onto the Left Loop trail. This is a very short climb that soon levels out. At the intersection with the gravel road (which is County Line Road), ride straight across and pick up the Left Loop trail again on the other side. The trail is immediately tight singletrack and it quickly descends on a great downhill (a taste of things to come!). After a few more short climbs and descents, you will ride into a cove, pass an old chimney, and then begin following the lakeshore. The next several miles are all rolling singletrack along the lakeshore, with a few creek crossings, many banked curves, and a few relatively technical spots (though not extremely so), as you dip into cove after cove. The trail will eventually round a ridge that extends out into the lake, which forms a long peninsula or two small, neat islands, depending on the lake's water level. It will then begin a long, gradual uphill climb. The mostly sidehill climb is not steep and and the trail remains fast, with banked turns. The trail gets a little steeper just before it passes over a small ridgetop, which is a well used resting spot. A particularly steep, fast downhill section follows. It bottoms out and immediately begins up another another short, relatively steep climb (keep your speed up and avoid some huffing!). Another steep downhill follows, with several jumps. This levels out some, travels through some beautiful, steep mountainside forest scenes, and then heads downhill again (not quite as steep as the last drop). At the bottom of this downhill is a very muddy creekside climb. The trail will cross the creek and get considerably steeper. Rounding a switchback left, it moderates some but still climbs. It then becomes a rolling cruise taking you to the only intersection, where a trail comes in from the right and behind you. As area all intersections at Tsali, this one is signed. Continue straight. Left Loop ends and you are now on Overlook Loop. This is a steady climb to the top of the ridge and the overlook. A switchback to the right means you're almost there! The climb is all worth it, though, as you ride out onto the overlook and see the incredible view of the Great Smoky Mountains with Fontana Lake hundreds of feet below in the foreground. Continue on past the overlook onto a downhill which has a couple of technical, rocky switchbacks, and eventually back up some more. The next intersection is a 4-way with the Right Loop trail, County Line Road, and Left Loop. Continuing straight would take you to the parking lot via County Line Road. Both the Left and Right loops share County Line Road to complete each loop, but forget the gravel road and make a left here onto Right Loop for more of the same great terrain. A fast, winding descent will be followed with a ride along a creek. Watch as the forest changes from cool, moist hemlock-rhododendron coves, to open meadows and clearcuts, to lush hardwood forests, to hot, dry ridgelines. Rolling sections follow, where there are some very narrow sections. At an intersection with a connector trail, make a left and stay on right loop. You will eventually climb a steep-ish hill and come to intersection with the out-and-back trail to the Windy Gap "overlook". If you're up for some more mileage, this trail is worthwhile. Though the overlook is not that great, the trail is a bit more technical than most of Tsali and it's fun. After visiting the overlook (or not), continue along Right loop for some more up and down riding. Stay on Right Loop at any intersections. The trail will eventually commit a significant climb, then become a long, gradual, screaming fast downhill and emerge near the lakeshore. This downhill is one of the highlights of the ride. At over a mile long, it will surely get your adrenaline pumping, with its banked curves, sidehill sections, rocky sections, dips and straight-aways. The downhill ends at a creek crossing, and then there is one more long but gradual climb (on which you can keep in the middle/big rings) as you watch the milepost signs count down to your destination. You will emerge tired (and happy!) back at the familiar parking lot.
It was a good learning trail
If you want to get some miles on your mnt bike this is the loop for it. Great views and lots of different types of terrain. This trail has a bit of everything, climbs and downhill runs. It's a few hours outside of Asheville but is worth it.
Some of the longest flowing singletrack in western, N.C! Super fast, fun and flows well. Great parking and bike wash at put-in. Nantahala area has great fun for any outdoors minded person. Visit the N.O.C. and check out the restaurant there...great food and watch the kayakers! Nantahala Cabins are great place to stay when visiting Tsali. Hit the trails right there at Nantahala Outdoor Center...short but fun! Cant give it five stars because I ruined my expectations after visiting Dupont!!!!
great hike, very buetifull. lots of fun with waterfront access and much to do nearby including whitewater rafting. a bit short though for my taste.