Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tsali: Right Loop, Bryson City (Almond), North Carolina

The Right Loop was all that I'd come to expect from Tsali!  Many of the classic characteristics of Tsali singletrack hold true for the Right Loop as well:
  • smooth, narrow singletrack
  • moderate climbs
  • sweet descents
  • awesome views

Because of that, I'll focus on the differences.  The Right Loop seemed to contain a lot more climbing than any of the other trails in the system.  There was a fair amount of alteration between climbing and descending, especially towards the overlook. Some of the climbs on the overlook trail were actually pretty aerobically challenging, especially on the way back.

Zeppelin Elite at the Overlook
The tough climbs to get there are totally worth it, because the overlook is phenomenal!  The views of the lake and the mountains in the background just can't be beat!  After riding down from the viewpoint to rejoin the small loop, if you hang a right and ride the outside of the loop the trail emerges from the forest high on the same ridge providing even more generous views of beautiful Lake Fontana (see the photo at the beginning of this post).  Keep your eyes on the trail though: it's narrow and overgrown due to the ample amounts of sunlight.

One last factor that sets the Right Loop apart from the rest of the trails is the amount of navigation required.  While most of the trails are pretty well signed, there are way more options for bailouts or alternate routes on the Right Loop than on any of the other Tsali trails.  This can be really beneficial for a beginning rider in case they get in over their head, but it could also be bad for a beginning rider, as they might make a mistake reading their map or the signs.  Still, the signage is really good, and it is almost impossible to get genuinely lost out there.

Bottom Line
Sweet singletrack with awesome views and enough length to provide a good workout?  Yes, yes, and yes!  Tsali is tough to beat!

Blurry Photo of Patrick Railing a Berm.  There are many such berms spread throughout the trail system.
Getting There
Head West 8 miles from Bryson City, North Carolina on Hwy. 74.  Hang a write on NC 28 and go about 3.5 miles past Freeman’s Motel.  The turn off onto the Tsali road will be on the right with a sign.  Head down that road about a mile and a half, and there will be big signs for the parking lots (on your left).

The Route
I decided to take the advice that Timm Muth left in a comment, and combined the Left and Right loops into a big 20 mile whopper of a ride.  The Right and the Left loops can both be ridden as a 10 mile loop with the gravel road that goes straight through the middle of the big loop.

As I mentioned in the review above, there are two different bailout options along the way, which can be really good if you're in over your head, or can be really bad if you are navigationally challenged.

Navigational Resources

Timm Muth has written an awesome guidebook with detailed statistics and directions.  It includes almost all of the worth-while trails in North Carolina, and features a big section on the Tsali trails.  If you're planning on spending a lot of time in NC, this is a great investment!

The maps that I have come to live by are all a part of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated series.  Easy to read, almost always up to date, tear resistant and water proof, these maps are designed to ride in your Camelback months on end! #784 contains the Tsali Trail System:


Additional Information
  • There's a $2 per person fee for riding the trails.
  • The Right and Left loops are open to mountain bikers on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.
  • Camping is available in the adjacent Tsali Campground.  Primitive sights start at $15 a night, but there are facilities with running water, flush toilets, and hot showers.

All the Tsali Trails

View of Fontana Lake from the overlook on the trail.

    2 comments:

    Anonymous,  September 15, 2010 at 1:32 PM  

    Hey Greg!
    Glad you came back to tackle Left/Right Loops. That one will leave ya butt-sore, but the sweet berms and tunnel runs are more than worth it!

    I'm impressed that you found the alternate leg back from the Right Loop overlook. probably only 1 in 1000 even know it's there. next time, catch it on the way IN for some excellent high-speed contour running (Fall and winter are definitely best).

    btw, I'm permanently camped in Sylva now, about 1/2 hour east of Tsali. next time you're out this way, look me up. I've got an unknown descent just behind my house that drops 2600' vertical in 4 1/2 miles, with about 120+ waterbars to jump on the way back down! Hoo-whee!

    Ride on, bro.
    Timm

    Greg September 16, 2010 at 8:16 AM  

    Hey Timm, thanks so much for the comment dude! I thoroughly enjoyed the left and right loops... some great singletrack! I'll definitely look you up when I'm up that way again. 2600', 120 waterbars... sold!

    -Greg

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    Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com. He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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