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Willow Winds, which is South of Asheville, is ideally located for mountain-biking enthusiasts. It is only a few miles from Pisgah National Forest (click here for a map), which has over 200 miles of mountain-bike trails. In fact, the Pisgah District has been rated one of the top five mountain-biking areas in the United States by USA Today and leading cycling magazines. Click here for a list of nearby bike trails.
For the less ambitious mountain bikers, the North Carolina Arboretum, which is only one exit away from Willow Winds on the Blue Ridge Parkway, has extensive biking trails.
There are so many different choices for mountain biking in the Asheville area. Some may choose to go into the national and state forests to find challenging trails, while others may want to stay in Asheville or nearby to sample some of these trails. Staying in or near town means that bikers can make the most of their vacation and have a choice of evening activities when they return from the trail.
There is definitely an advantage to selecting mountain biking trails in or near Asheville, especially if time is limited. “When it comes to mountain biking trails, the choices are numerous for people who enjoy the sport in the Asheville area. The urban trails or those near the city are not often crowded at all, like they are in other cities,” according to Youngblood Haske, owner of Youngblood Bicycles in North Asheville.
In addition to being the owner of a bicycle shop, Haske is also an avid mountain biker. The following trail descriptions are derived from an interview with Haske, who has traveled all of these backcountry bike trails many times and even helped to maintain some of them.
For the mountain biker who is looking for a challenging trail right in Asheville, or slightly outside, this article will give a great overview of choices available.
Just across the French Broad River from North Asheville is the Richmond Hill neighborhood, where this mountain biking trail is situated. Haske says that very few people ride at Richmond Hill, even though it’s in Asheville. The trail is five miles of tight and twisty turns and Haske describes it as a challenging, compact and rugged terrain. Some points in the trail will hold water after a rain, and it may remain muddy even a few days afterwards. The large parking lot at Richmond Hill’s trailhead makes it a nice trail for group treks.
Green’s Lick is a legendary mountain biking trail in Bent Creek River Park in South Asheville. Even experienced bikers have underestimated their speed on the seemingly smooth downhill run at the end. This is a challenging trail because of the one and one half hour climb up Green’s Lick at the beginning of the ride. Haske says “There’s a long downhill portion of the trail where bikers can go really fast. There are a lot of jumps and turns on this portion of the trail. So, if bikers don’t land it perfectly, they will be off the trail.” Bikers tend to get hurt because of the illusion of smoothness. “If you hit a bump at 30 miles per hour, it can be dangerous,” said Haske. Green’s Lick is an invigorating ride - but definitely not for beginners.
For those who want an intermediate level trail that is close to town yet seems remote, the single track Fletcher Creek trail just south of Asheville in Mills River is an excellent choice. The trail is accessible by two sides via fire roads. Fletcher Creek Road, also known by bikers as the “never ending road” is one way in. Some choose to take Hendersonville Reservoir Road in the other way. Parking is at the Trace Ridge Trail Head. Haske says, “This is a downhill trail. It’s not real steep, but it’s a fun, fast ride. There are some climbs on this trail. Once the river is crossed, expect a ½ mile to 1-mile ascent.” Take a break from crowded bike trails by choosing Fletcher Creek trail as a place to ride and spend the day.
Just north of Asheville on Route 251 is the Alexander Mountain Bike Park. This trail was originally built for the Cane Creek Cup Finals, a race that does not take place anymore. There are different trails to choose from and some bike jumps near the beginning. According to Haske, “This mountain bike trail is filled with tight turns on a ledge. Missing these turns could lead to a drop of 6-10 feet from the trail. This is a challenging trail with short steep little climbs that come after a hairpin turn. It’s hard to get momentum.” Climbs, ledges and jumps make this an intermediate level biking trail. A bike club cares for Alexander Mountain Bike Park and it is an active trail.
For the mountain biking enthusiast seeking a choice of trails - Asheville provides many thrilling opportunities and challenges. Many enjoy the physical exertion of mountain biking and the adrenaline rush of conquering a trail. The natural beauty of the wooded areas in and near Asheville, combined with a rugged terrain with varying altitudes in the Western North Carolina area, makes this a truly unique place to experience the adventure of mountain biking.