Whether you’re planning a vacation around gravel riding or looking to avoid the often-muddy Pisgah trails, these seven must-do gravel rides will fit the bill!
Pisgah National Forest has developed a reputation as one of the top outdoor destinations east of the Mississippi River. As the oldest National Forest in the east, it’s home to world-class mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, and camping, and it includes a large portion of the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway. Whether you’re planning a vacation around gravel riding, bikepacking, or simply looking for an alternative to the often-muddy singletrack, this guidebook includes seven of the must-do gravel rides between Brevard and Asheville, NC.
If you’re not sure where to start, the Bent Creek Gravel Loop is just minutes from Asheville and a great introduction to the area’s incredible gravel riding. Other than a one-mile stretch of pavement, the entire loop explores well-maintained gravel in both Bent Creek and the NC Arboretum. Established in 1925, the goal of Bent Creek Experimental Forest was "to conduct research on forest regeneration and erosion control, and to demonstrate forest management practices," according to the USFS. What originally began as 150 acres has now expanded into 6,000 and has since become the home of some of the most coveted mountain biking, trail running, and hiking in the region.
Slightly southwest of Bent Creek, North Mills River hosts two classic gravel rides, both perfect as day trips or overnight bikepacking routes. The first, Neverending Road, is a long out-and-back on a gated forest service road with plenty of camping opportunities. It’s also a great alternative to Spencer, Fletcher, or Trace ridge when the singletrack is too muddy to ride. The other ride in North Mills pairs a scenic stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway with Yellow Gap Road (1206). Even better, the river and its tributaries are home to brook, rainbow, and brown trout – so grab a license, pack your Tenkara Rod, and set aside some time to stop and fish along the way!
If you’re planning a visit to Brevard, head over to The Hub & Pisgah Tavern, an iconic bike shop and outdoor outfitter with a large selection of local beer and branded gear. From their parking lot, Cathey’s Creek and Avery Creek offer two excellent gravel rides that loop back to where you start. If you’re running wide enough tires on your gravel bike or want to take your hardtail out for a rip, this loop is a longer variation to the traditional Avery Creek Loop and passes a few breweries through town on its way back to The Hub.
Last on the list, this ride tours remote gravel roads with epic views and multiple waterfalls in Courthouse Valley. While it is doable on a gravel bike, parts of this loop are chunky and may be difficult to ride on narrower tires. With half of the route on gated and unmaintained roads, this ride is also a great option for a hardtail or XC rider looking for a change in pace. The best part of this route is the mapped side trip to Courthouse Falls. This 45-foot waterfall is described on Wikipedia as “a narrow chute into a natural amphitheater of bedrock,” and a perfect summer swimming hole for the entire family.