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The North Carolina side of the Smokies offers excellent cycling, and bicycles are permitted on most roads. However, you have to be selective about where you bike. Vehicular traffic on the main roads, especially Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441), can be very heavy. Steep terrain, and curvy, narrow back roads with narrow shoulders and blind spots make biking difficult or unsafe in some areas.
Two good places for biking on (mostly) paved roads are Lakeview Drive—the so-called Road to Nowhere near Bryson City—and in Cataloochee Cove. Also, Balsam Mountain Road and Cove Creek Road offer pleasant biking with very little auto traffic. Since these roads are unpaved, with mostly gravel surfaces, you should use a mountain bike or an all-terrain hybrid. Helmets are not required by law in the park but are strongly recommended.
There are no mountain biking trails in the Smokies. On the North Carolina side only two hiking trails, the Oconaluftee River Trail, which begins near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and the lower Deep Creek Trail near Bryson City, formerly a road, allow bikes.
Tsali Recreation Area. Near the Smokies, the Tsali Recreation Area in the Nantahala National Forest, about 15 mi west of Bryson City, is a popular area for biking. With about 40 mi of trails with four excellent loops, it has been rated one of the top places for mountain biking in the country. Tsali Recreation Area, NC Hwy. 28 N., Nantahala National Forest, Bryson City, NC, 28713. Tsali is on a hilly peninsula reaching into Fontana Lake, at the base of the Smokies. From Bryson City, follow U.S. 19/74 to the intersection with NC 28. Follow NC 28 north about 3 mi. Look for a sign for the Tsali Recreation Area; turn right. Follow paved road to the campground and trailhead parking lot; park in the lot with the sign "Bikers park and pay here.". www.fs.usda.gov. Closed Nov.-Mar.
The Pisgah National Forest also offers many opportunities for cycling.
Nantahala Outdoor Center Bike Shop. Watch river rafters swoosh by on the Nantahala River as you get your bike tuned up or rent a bike at this friendly outfitter. Avid bikers on staff will give you tips on the best biking spots. Mountain bikes rent for around $35 to $50 a day. Off-season discounts are sometimes available. All bike rentals include a helmet and a bike rack to transport the bike on your car. During busy periods you should reserve a bike in advance by calling or visiting the website. 13077 Hwy. 19 W, Bryson City, NC, 28713. 828/785–5082. www.noc.com. Daily 11–5.