Grab your bike and head to Pisgah National Forest—the mountain biking capital of the Southeast, and home of “Beer City USA.”
Asheville, North Carolina, is the must-visit outdoor destination in the Southeast, if not the entire East Coast. Whether you prefer spandex and an XC rig, or a 6” enduro rig, you’re guaranteed to find a trail you’ll love. Western North Carolina also happens to host an incredible amount of craft breweries, topping the list with other west coast destinations like Boulder, Colorado and Portland, Oregon. Here are our top 6 trail picks and where to head for a beer after.
Possibly the most-ridden trail system in Western North Carolina, Bent Creek is home to endless miles of trail for all abilities. If Green's Lick Trail is on your to-do list, check out this loop to enjoy the fast, chunky descent that will leave you grinning ear to ear. For a more beginner-friendly option, try this loop instead. Just 10 minutes from the trailhead, Wicked Weed West opened up a small taproom in their brewing facility in 2019, or you could head south about 20 minutes to Sierra Nevada – one of the most aesthetically-stunning breweries in the region.
Just a short drive east of Asheville, Kitsuma is a classic Pisgah loop and some of the fastest singletrack in the area. Starting from the Old Fort Picnic Area, you’ll climb a paved greenway lined with plenty of views. Next, you’ll follow a short stretch of road to the upper trailhead, where you’ll continue to climb up a series of switchbacks to an impressive overlook to the west. After some rolling ridgetop singletrack, open up your suspension and hang on. The fast, flowy descent is lined with sweeping berms and optional jumps – and ends right at the lower trailhead. Afterward, head into Black Mountain and stop at Lookout Brewing, named after a nearby peak and popular hike in Montreat. As of 2020, Old Fort is a dry city, so don’t expect much if you have to drive through it on your way home.
About 30 minutes north of Asheville, Big Ivy is an increasingly popular ride area, especially among locals. If you don’t feel up for the pedal, a seasonal gravel road offers access to two of the best downhill trails around: Staire Creek and Walker Creek . Staire is a steep, technical trail with several water bars that will put your suspension through the wringer. Walker, on the other hand, is fast, flowing, and loaded with optional kickers if you want to get some air. If the trails are too wet or muddy to ride, you could opt for a gravel grind up to Douglas Falls – a popular winter option seen here. Afterward, drop into Weaverville and stop by Eluvium Brewing and pick from 10 of their in-house beers. If you catch them before they’re open, head over to Blue Mountain Pizza instead. They have a few beers of their own, plus some of the best pizza anywhere in Western North Carolina.
Turkey Pen is one of the wildest areas in the Pisgah District, and home to the South Fork of Mills River. The further you get from the trailhead, you’ll begin to appreciate the remote feel the area is known for. In 2019, the USFS approved a project to rebuild/reroute Cantrell Creek, an old trail that basically rode straight through the creek bed, affecting the habitat of native brook trout and the elusive hellbender. The result – a new-school, machine-built flow trail loaded with berms and jumps. This loop is one of the best ways to ride Cantrell Creek, and Sideways Farm & Brewery is just a few minutes from the trailhead. This also happens to be the most unique brewery to make the list, with both traditional and “sideways” menus to pick from. “At Sideways Farm & Brewery it’s about being small and agile, using what local ingredients we have during the season they are available," they write. "It’s about coexisting with nature and our surroundings, It’s about building friendships and community.”
Black Mountain Trail
About 30 minutes southwest from Asheville, you’ll find yourself in Brevard, the outdoor hub for the Pisgah Ranger District. The town is a world-class mountain biking destination, Black Mountain Trail being the most notable ride (not to be confused with Black Mountain the city). After your ride, stop by Ecusta Brewing in Pisgah Forest, less than five minutes from the bottom of the trail. The infamous The Hub & Pisgah Tavern is located across the street. In addition to branded swag, bike repair, and hiking gear, they have an extensive and ever-evolving draft list – plus a large outdoor patio to hang out on.
Just outside of downtown Brevard, Bracken Mountain Preserve is a fun, flowing singletrack ride that you could even begin in town. It’s loaded with switchbacks, so the climbing is never too difficult. Adventurer Greg Heil even highlights its “great rolling grade reversals, rollers, tabletop jumps, and berms.” Afterward, stop by and see the crew at UpCountry Brewing. Our pick is the Isoprene Hazy IPA, aptly named after the isoprenes that add layers of haze to the Blue Ridge Mountains – especially during the warmer months.