Hiking and biking in North Carolina

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 3-9, 1997
Hiking and biking in North Carolina
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Planning an adventure trip with a toddler
Rock-climbing schools in New Hampshire
Choosing an outdoor education course

Hiking and biking in North Carolina
Question: Could you name some adventures for the western mountains of North Carolina?

David Shuford
Chapel Hill, NC
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Where to begin? Hiking, mountain biking, rafting — take your pick. Bryson City-based Nantahala Outdoor Center has opportunities for all three. They run half- and full-day whitewater trips on the Nantahala, Ocoee, Chatooga, Nolichucky, and French Broad rivers. The decision is in the details: How much foam you can handle (sections of the roiling Chatooga have hair-raising, Class IV+ rapids) and how far you're willing to travel from Bryson City. Regardless of which trip you choose, though, the paddlers at NOC are definitely local experts.

Fortunately for you, they also offer one-day mountain bike trips for an introduction to fat-tire riding, as well as bike rentals for exploring the miles of singletrack and forest roads in Nantahala National Forest and nearby Pisgah National Forest. Also ideal for knobby tires is the Tsali Trail system in the Nantahala Cheoah Ranger District, which'll take you along the shores of Lake Fontana for terrific views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Speaking of which, from Bryson City you'll be a stone's throw from dozens of choice day hikes in the park. Try the 5.7-mile trek through blinding stands of azaleas on the Forney Ridge Trail (from the Clingmans Dome parking area) or the 4-mile Chasteen Creek Trail to the top of Huges Ridge.

Outside the park, a good bet is the more challenging 3.5-mile climb up the Wesser Creek Trail for views of the Nantahala Range; pick up the trailhead on Route 1107, south of Bryson City. Because there are more than 800 miles of foot trails in the park, it's probably a good idea to pick up a map or guidebook at one of the visitor centers before you go. For info, call headquarters at 423-436-7318.

Finally, if you're partial to rainbow trout and small-mouth bass, consider casting a few lines while you're in the neighborhood. Endless River Adventures in Bryson City offers guided fly-fishing trips for bass, walleye, and trout. Call 704-488-6199. For rafting and biking information, call the NOC at 800-232-7238; they also offer whitewater kayaking workshops for paddlers of all abilities.

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