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Exploring Western North Carolina: Mountain Biking in Pisgah National Forest

April 10, 2024 4 min read

Located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest offers an unparalleled playground for outdoor enthusiasts, especially mountain bikers and gravel riders alike. With its rugged terrain, diverse ecosystems, and extensive network of trails, Pisgah beckons riders from across the globe seeking adrenaline-pumping adventures amidst beautifully diverse scenery. This guide explores the top mountain biking trails in Pisgah National Forest, providing essential tips and highlighting why it's a must-visit destination for biking enthusiasts.  

Discovering Pisgah National Forest Trails

Pisgah National Forest boasts an extensive bike trail network that caters to riders of all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned pros. Here are some of the top trails and trail networks worth exploring:

  1. Black Mountain Trail (Black and Blue Rated Multi-Use Trail)

Black Mountain Trail is a must because it will challenge you no matter how many times you ride it. The Black Mountain Trail, designated by three sections: upper, middle, and lower, offers an adrenaline rush for all rider types with technical features, steep descents, and rocky terrain. This trail demands skill and nerve, rewarding riders with an unforgettable experience. More information about The Black Mountain Trail.

  1. Sycamore Cove Trail (Blue Rated Multi-Use Trail)

If you just spent a day riding the Black Mountain Trail, you are next to some of our favorite beginner-to-intermediate riding on Upper and Lower Sycamore. If you're looking for fun riding roots, rocks, twists, and turns close to the front country, this is the trail for you. More information about Sycamore Cove Trail.

  1. Bent Creek Experimental Forest (Black to Green Multi-Use Trail System)

Bent Creek Experimental Forest is a recreation area within Pisgah National Forest. It features a network of well-maintained trails, ranging from easy to challenging, ideal for riders of all abilities. There is very little signage, so be sure to carry a phone with trail maps like AllTrails. The forest surroundings, creek crossings, and scenic views at the top of the Five Points trail intersection make it a favorite destination for riders looking for diverse terrain and natural beauty. From Green's Lick to Wolf Branch Loop, there is something for everyone. More information about Bent Creek.

  1. Pilot Rock Trail (Advanced Black Trail)

Looking for a classic Pisgah route? Laurel Mountain to Pilot Rock has got you covered. This route delivers rugged terrain and challenging climbs. This iconic trail offers rocky sections, rooty descents, tight switchbacks, and some exposed areas, requiring advanced riding skills and a full-suspension mountain bike. More information about Pilot Rock.

Essential Tips for Riding in Pisgah

Before embarking on your mountain biking adventure in Pisgah National Forest, consider these essential tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:

  1. Check Trail Conditions: Due to Pisgah's ever-changing weather and terrain, trail conditions can vary significantly. Always check local trail reports and weather forecasts before heading out to ensure a smooth ride and avoid unexpected challenges. Get more information about WNC trail conditions.
  1. Gear Up Properly: Proper gear is essential for mountain biking in Pisgah, including a well-maintained bike, helmet, protective gear, water, snacks, and a map or GPS device. Dress in layers and be prepared for variable weather conditions, including sudden changes in temperature and precipitation. Pisgah National Forest is our playground, checkout our MTB apparel for everything you need to stay performance ready. Head over to the Cognative MTB website to shop apparel.
  1. Respect the Environment: Pisgah National Forest is home to diverse wildlife and fragile ecosystems. Practice Leave No Trace principles, stay on designated trails, and avoid disturbing wildlife or damaging vegetation. Help preserve this natural treasure for future generations to enjoy. What are Leave No Trace principles?
  2. Know Your Limits: While Pisgah offers trails for riders of all abilities, it's essential to know your limits and choose trails that match your skill level. Be honest about your abilities, and don't hesitate to walk challenging sections if necessary. Safety should always come first.

Why Pisgah National Forest?

So, why should mountain bikers choose Pisgah National Forest as their next riding destination? Here are just a few reasons:

  1. Unparalleled Scenery: From dense forests and cascading waterfalls to sweeping mountain vistas, Pisgah's scenery is simply breathtaking. Every ride offers a feast for the senses, with stunning views around every corner.
  2. Endless Adventure: With hundreds of miles of trails to explore, Pisgah offers endless opportunities for adventure and discovery. Whether you're seeking heart-pounding descents, technical challenges, or just riding through pristine wilderness is your thing, Pisgah has it all.
  3. Sense of Accomplishment: Conquering Pisgah's rugged terrain and challenging trails is a badge of honor for mountain bikers. The sense of accomplishment that comes from mastering technical features and completing epic rides is unparalleled.
  4. Community and Culture: Pisgah's vibrant mountain biking community is welcoming and inclusive, with riders from all walks of life coming together to share their passion for the sport. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a novice rider, you'll find camaraderie and support on the trails of Pisgah.

In conclusion, mountain biking in Pisgah National Forest offers an unmatched blend of adventure, natural beauty, and camaraderie that keeps riders coming back year after year. With its diverse trail system, stunning scenery, and sense of adventure, Pisgah is a must-visit destination for any mountain biking enthusiast. So grab your bike, gear up, and prepare for the ride of a lifetime in Pisgah National Forest. Happy trails!


Need a place to stay while mountain biking Pisgah National Forest? Check out The Cognative Ride House. A convenient location to all of WNC's best trails! We'd love to have you stay with us!

Cognative Ride House: A place to stay when visiting Pisgah National Forest and the greater WNC area.