Don’t tell me I can’t do something. That is only going to make me want to do it even more, mostly out of spite. So, when the woman at the bike shop outside of Pisgah National Forest in Brevard, NC told me I shouldn’t try and ride 25 miles in Pisgah, that I “would be destroyed”, I knew that was going to be my unofficial goal for the next two days. I ended up destroying that goal, so suck it!
Pisgah is some seriously world class riding, situated just outside of Asheville, NC, and a stone’s throw away from the Smokies. Pisgah offers miles and miles of natural trail, featuring massive climbs, gnarly descents, rocks, roots, drops and everything in between. There is mellow, relatively flowy trail, and white knuckle, sphincter clinching downhill goodness. With a trail map and a little bit of beta, you can ride for days. It is simply awesome.
I only had 2 days to ride, so I wanted to ride as much as I possibly could, linking up all the most popular trails and descents to get a solid sampling of what Pisgah has to offer. I think I was able to do that pretty successfully. I ended up riding over 60 miles in those two days, with around 12,000 feet of elevation. If you’ve got the fitness and will to do some bigger rides, I think this is a pretty solid two day itinerary, so get ready to dominate Pisgah in 2 days!
DAY ONE AT PISGAH: CLAWHAMMER RD-BLACK MOUNTAIN TR-AVERY-CLAWHAMMER-BLACK MOUNTAIN: 25 MILES, 6,500′
I’m not entirely sure I believe those elevation numbers, but most of the climbing is done on gravel roads. Start at the bike shop in town, ride up 276 towards the Pisgah Ranger Station. Turn right on Avery Creek Road (towards the horse stable). At the horse stable, take Clawhammer Rd (unmarked, behind the stables, there is a gate there). Turn right on FS 5098. Turn left on Black Mountain Trail, and Hike a Bike for a bit. Follow this all the way to Avery Creek, and bomb the descent! Do the climb again, but go right on Black Mountain Trail. There’s a bit of singletrack climbing before what may be the most fun descent I’ve ever done in my life. Eat Mexican food. Sleep, get ready for the Big Momma tomorrow.
DAY TWO AT PISGAH: TURKEYPEN-LAUREL-PILOT-SQUIRREL GAP: 37 MILES, 8,000′
Technically, according to the folks at the bike shop, you “CAN’T DO THIS RIDE”. Be ready for a long day (at least 5 hours of riding), but it’s well worth it. There are places to refill water, provided you have something to treat it. You could likely get away without treating, but that’s up to you. Starting at Turkeypen trailhead, take the South Mills River Trail, to Mullinax trail. Right on Squirrel Gap and continue on Bradley Creek. Turn right on the unmarked Bradley Creek Road, and start climbing. Turn left at the gate (after 4 miles or so), then right on Laurel Mountain and keep climbing. It is fairly mellow for quite a while, then turns sharply up towards the end. It is about 6.5-7 miles to the top. Take the connector trail, then left on Pilot Cove, and hold onto your butt. A long, very technical descent follows. Turn Right on Yellow Gap Rd, then left on 476, which turns into South Mills. Cross the swinging bridge, and turn left onto Squirrel Gap, a technical trail that meanders along the base of a ridge. Follow that until it meets Mullinax, and retrace your steps out. Eat more Mexican food.
I highly recommend making the trip to Pisgah, the riding is truly top notch, and there is also Dupont Forest, and tons more trails I didn’t even touch! Here are a few more pics from the trip. Thanks for reading.