THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO RIDING IN
BREVARD, NORTH CAROLINA
Words, photos, & video by Brice ShirbachPresented by Explore Brevard
It's the isoprene that does it. Well, it's the trees that produce the isoprene that make the Blue Ridge Mountains blue. Technically, this physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Mountains extends from Pennsylvania to Georgia, but in my estimation, they're at their "bluest" in Western North Carolina. It's downright radiant along the western edges of the Tar Heel state, and the small adventure hub otherwise known as Brevard is situated squarely in the center of that blue glow.
My first ever trip to the heart of Transylvania County was nearly 6 years ago alongside my friend and PB compatriot Matthew Delorme, and it helped to set me on the path of which I am currently on as a professional storyteller and athlete. It opened my eyes to a scale of adventure and exploration east of the Rockies that I hadn't really seen up until that point. The terrain is beautiful and unapologetic in its ruggedness, and the opportunities for adventure are numerous and world class. Fly fishing, rock climbing, white water, hiking - it's all here and the town of Brevard is largely devoted to curating the best possible experience for locals and visitors alike in their pursuit of any of the aforementioned endeavors. Of course I'm really here for one endeavor in particular: riding my bicycle in these woods.
That trip from 6 years ago led to a story published here on this very site called "Brevard Calling". In the time since that chapter of East Bound & Down, I find myself returning a few times a year. Each trip brings with it a reunion of friendships I've had the good fortune to develop over the course of half of a decade, in addition to a few new ones with each adventure. In the end, anyone who has experienced Brevard firsthand understands "the call" of this place. Maybe it's the isoprene working its way into our veins. I don't really know, and I don't really care; once Brevard starts calling, the only thing you can do to quell the inevitable craving is answer it.
// Local FlavoursAge:
Wilmington, DE, USAIndustry affiliations:
Pivot Cycles, Maxxis Tires, Pearl Izumi, 9point8, Julbo, MRP, Deity Components, EVOC, Shimano, Dialed Health, Stan's No Tubes, Topeak, Leatt, Cane Creek Cycling ComponentsInstagram: @bricyclesFavorite Ride near Brevard:
Farlow Gap to Daniel's Ridge.Riding Style:
Brevard is perfectly situated at the mouth of Pisgah National Forest, much to the delight of 2 and 4-legged adventurers.
A Bit About the Region
The first inhabitants of Brevard were there long before the town was officially incorporated in 1868. The Cherokees called this land home for centuries, using the Estatoe Trail to link native communities in South Carolina and Georgia with what is presently Transylvania County. Brevard was established as the seat of Transylvania County, and was immediately recognized for its abundance of natural resources and rich soil, traits that do not go unnoticed even today.
Modern day Brevard is home to a community of artisans and artists, with dozens of restaurants, cafes, boutique shops, and galleries lining many of the streets throughout the area. Brevard College, home of one of the country's strongest collegiate mountain bike programs, was originally founded in 1853 and moved to its current location in 1934. The area has proven to be an attractive home to more than just artists and outdoor enthusiasts, with scores of craft breweries popping up throughout the region in recent years, with the likes of Oskar Blues, Brevard Brewing Company, and Ecusta Brewing all calling Brevard home.
To the west of town lies Pisgah National Forest, a venerable natural resource that is beloved by all walks of life. Hundreds of miles of singletrack are sandwiched between city limits and the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic byway several miles west and thousands of feet above Brevard. A 15 minute drive east will bring you to Dupont State Recreational Forest, a beautiful swath of land that is home to lakes, waterfalls, rivers, and rock slabs. Between them, riders have access to some of the very best trails on the continent, and a community devoted to cultivating access and a lifestyle rooted in the mountains and forests they spend so much of their time enjoying.
Getting to Brevard
While Brevard isn't particularly close to any major population center, it's also not terribly far or challenging to get here for many folks in the eastern half of the United States. Driving here is a breeze, with major interstate corridors including 81, 40, and 26 making easy work of the commutes from cities such as Knoxville, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Greenville. Asheville, the largest town in Western North Carolina, is only 40 minutes north of downtown Brevard. The drive time from Knoxville to Brevard is 2 hours. Atlanta to Brevard can be done in 3. From DC, it's an 8-hour drive. Philly is 10 hours away. It's said that 75% of the American population is within a day's drive of Brevard. I suppose that's all relative to what you're willing to drive in a day, but a road trip is something I'm always going to support as it's my own preferred method of travel.
While Brevard doesn't have an airport of its own you can use for commercial flights, Asheville does and it's connected to Brevard and Transylvania County via a 25 minute drive along State Road 280. The airport is serviced by 6 airlines, and offers nonstop service to cities including Chicago, Washington DC, Orlando, Denver, New York, and Newark (NJ). Charlotte Douglas International Airport is 2 hours east of town, is one of the country's busiest airports, which often translates into much cheaper flights compared to what you'll find when flying to Asheville.
The Best Trails to Ride in Brevard
If you ask someone who lives here what their favorite trail is, you'll probably get a different response every time. The selection in Transylvania County alone is massive, and in reality Brevard is close enough to trails in Mills River, Black Mountain, and Lake Lure that you could feasibly make this place your basecamp for an even broader Western North Carolina adventure. Hell, even just between Pisgah and Dupont I'm sure there will be folks who will wholeheartedly disagree with the trails we're going to outline below. But that's also a very good "problem" to have. For the sake of streamlining the information, we're going to focus solely on Dupont and the Pisgah Ranger District.Pisgah National Forest
These here are some of the biggest mountains you'll find east of the Mississippi. Pisgah is deep. Pisgah is big. Pisgah is beautiful. It's not a place where you should expect to find a bunch of purpose built, ultra wide corridors with gallons of flow oozing down the mountain. You should instead expect to find rocks, roots, and rhodos; the latter of which is short for rhododendrons and the tunnels they create across virtually every trail in the forest. The trails stretch from the mouth of the forest near The Hub and Pisgah Tavern several miles to the parkway, although I should note that dropping in on the trails that connect directly with the Parkway ain't exactly legal, so make sure you're checking Trailforks or with any of the shops in town for an up-to-date map of the trails as well as any seasonal restrictions that might be in place. There's a reason so many World Cup racers call this place home.Key trail - Farlow Gap: I suppose Farlow is the kind of trail that locals ride once or twice a year, if that. There is no quick and easy way to do a Farlow Gap ride. It's way out there and it's way gnarly. It's not a trail you should ride alone either; if something were to go wrong the extraction process would be challenging for al involved, and on your own it would be exponentially more difficult. That being said, it's my favorite trail in the region. The technicality of it, the various line choices, and the sense of adventure from start to finish is electric.
Key trail - Avery Creek: This might not sit too well with the "keep Pisgah whatever" crowd, but I love this trail. Avery was recently given a much needed facelift after years of erosion and drainage issues, and the results are reminiscent of what you might find in the PNW: a combination of natural tech lines with progressive and purpose built features. The primary highlight of this trail is a sizable gap 3/4 of the way down the trail close to 30 feet in length. It's buttery smooth and super fun. Keep in mind that there are no directional trails in Pisgah National Forest, so always ride in control.
Key trail - Bennett Gap: Easily one of the most heralded trails in any district throughout Pisgah National Forest, Bennett has been filmed on countless times, YouTubed to oblivion, and Grammed shamelessly. It's also still an amazing ride and deserving of all the "Hey, can you video this for me?" moments. It offers stunning views of Looking Glass Rock, Cedar Rock, and the Davidson River Valley, and provides riders with several steep and off camber sections that will wake you up if you weren't already.
Key trail - Sycamore Cove: While this might be the closest trail to the entrance of the forest, that doesn't mean it's any less awesome. In fact, a Sycamore loop will give you a perfect taste of what to expect in Pisgah without having to shuttle for an hour, or hammer up a gravel road for 2. It has interesting climbs, super fast and fun downhills, and plenty of roots and rhodos to keep you honest. You can have a blast riding it in either direction, and can keep your ride short and sweet or connect to Black Mountain and the rest of the PNF for a much bigger adventure.Dupont State Recreational Forest
Where Pisgah brings the technical heat to the region, Dupont is well known for what is typically a more flowy experience. You can still expect to find plenty of massive slabs to play on and rhododendron tunnels to nuke through, but the pitch here is a bit more mellow than what you'll find throughout Pisgah. There are a handful of trails that provide the kind of experience that will satisfy those looking to get loose on some rowdy and technical terrain, but by and large the trails in Dupont will be more appropriate for a broader range of skill levels and doesn't require the same kind of time commitment some of the best rides in Pisgah require. Also, the best sunrises and sunsets in the region can be experienced right at the intersection of Big Rock and Cedar Rock trails.Key trail - Cedar Rock: It competes with Heaven's Bench in East Burke, VT for the most photographed section of trail on the east coast (no need to fact check that...just take my word for it), Cedar Rock can and should be experienced in both directions. It's a trail that is loved by riders at an intermediate skill level and up as there are numerous sections of the trail that allow for some creative line and gap opportunities, while never getting especially hairy for those looking to keep things tidy on two wheels.
Key trail - Burnt Mountain: This is my personal favorite trail in Dupont, and specifically when riding it clockwise. This direction makes for a pretty enjoyable climb for the first 15 minutes, with a handful of sections that actually break up the climb with quick downhills and natural features. Once you top out in this direction, it is all downhill from there, starting with a few loose and flat corners, a handful of rocks to jump off and trees to jump between, before the final 300 meters get much steeper and much rowdier. That section is a glorious combination of thousands of roots scattered across a bunch of rock slabs, with a bit of dirt filling in the gaps.
Key trail - Ridgeline: Ridgeline is a fast and ultra flowy descent near the Lake Imaging trailhead of Dupont. It's devoid of any technical feature whatsoever, but does offer up some great corners and plenty of doubles and rollers to make some shapes on. A favorite among beginner and intermediate riders, it's worth a look if you've never been to Dupont regardless of your skillset.
Brevard might be in southwest North Carolina, but it's still in the mountains, so it's definitely subject to 4 distinct seasons. That being said, it's far more comfortable in the winter compared to the northeast and many of the western states. Summers here are warm, but the many water holes scattered throughout the area make for a fun and easy way to keep cool after (or during) a long ride. Spring and Autumn are when you'll find prime conditions, with tacky dirt, comfortable temps, and beautiful colors. You can call this place a year-round riding spot, but it is subject to occasional snow and ice storms, and definitely freeze-thaw cycles, so ask around and make sure you're not going to wreck the trails before you ride them.
This place gets a lot of rain, so always pack appropriately. It can get quite cool at night, even during warmer months, so a beanie and warm layer or two is never a bad idea.
You don't need a downhill bike here, but anything from a super enduro rig to a fully rigid decision is in play otherwise. For much of PNF, I think you'll want something that won't be a bear to climb with, and will allow for you to enjoy what can often be fast, rough, and rowdy descents. Most of Dupont can be ridden on a short travel rig or less, although a few lines and trails might warrant something with a bit more squish and forward thinking geometry.
I spent my week with just my Pivot Switchblade, a 29er with 135mm of travel in the rear, and 160mm up front. I wanted some efficiency for the many miles of climbing I would be doing, but also needed something that would handle man made and natural hits, high speeds over rough sections, and hundreds of off-cambered corners. I was really happy with my decision the entire week.
Local Clubs and Advocates:Pisgah Area SORBA
is a non-profit, volunteer based organization focused on advocating for quality trails while fostering relationships with various land managers in the Brevard, Hendersonville, and Asheville areas.
Elizabeth Jackson is a Brevard local currently working on something that will have a significant impact on the recreational landscape for Brevard and the surrounding area, and it involves a massive year-round covered bike park.
The views inside the forest are just as lovely as those outside of it.
Places like Squatch Bikes and Brews and The Hub combine top notch service with top notch beer selections.
Accommodations and Food:
I spent my week in town sleeping at the top of Pilot Cove, a beautiful collection of cabins situated at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest. They offer loads of space, fast wifi, full kitchens and laundry rooms, and perfectly compliment their stunning mountainside surroundings. These are a great choice if you've got a group of friends to help split the costs with or a family.
There are numerous hotel options as well, including the venerable Sunset Motel, a renovated property that pays homage to 50's and 60's era lodging while providing all of the modern amenities you could ask for. Airbnb properties are plentiful as well, and there are a handful of other bike-specific lodging options such as The Bike Farm, as well as camping opportunities galore.
The food in and around town is awesome. You can certainly feast yourself on southern staples and barbecue, but Brevard has much more to offer to people looking for clean and creative dining options.Breakfast: Crank Coffee
is located inside of Sycamore Cycles near the entrance to Pisgah National Forest. They offer up baked goods, coffee and espresso, and really tasty smoothies.The Velvet Cup Coffee Truck
offers amazing coffee and espresso, fruit smoothies, and crazy good, made to order doughnuts.Sunrise Cafe
is a Brevard breakfast institution.Lunch:Food Matters Market
is a perfect place to grab a fresh sandwich to-go if you plan on being out on an all-day adventure. You can also grab groceries if you need to stock up on supplies.
Carolina-style BBQ is my favorite kind of BBQ. Blue Smoke BBQ
is a must eat and you can check their Facebook page to stay up to date with their food truck location.Dinner:The Square Root
is a great spot to class it up a bit without feeling like you're taking out a second mortgage when the bill hits the table. Great drink and wine selection too.Jordan Street Cafe
has a great menu and drink selection, and is a staple whenever you're visiting.Magpie Meat and Three
will blow you away with their smoked meats and barbecue. Also their grits and their fritters. Also everything.
Local Bike Shops:
Brevard is home to three esteemed bike shops that will more than help to keep you rolling on your trip here:The Hub and Pisgah TavernSycamore Cycles and Crank CoffeeSquatch Bikes and Brews
1. Get ready for a year-round skills and dirt jump park
! Coming February 1st to the area is The Riveter
, bike park and climbing gym which will feature a nearly 19,000 square foot covered bike park which will open year-round! There is another 2-3 acres of land that will be utilized for progressive jump lines and trails to suit all abilities. The "bike park canopy" will feature 3 separate jump lines, a youth skills area, and more. In addition to all of this, there will be child care for members, a bar, a yoga studio, meeting space, and much more. This is going to change the landscape for much of the adventure and bike community in Brevard and beyond. The Riveter is the brainchild of Brevard local Elizabeth Jackson, and I'm excited to head south again this winter to check this place out firsthand!
2. Brevard offers much more adventure opportunities beyond the bike
. Brevard truly is a comprehensive outdoor paradise. Whitewater, rock climbing, waterfalls, fly fishing and more are all on offer, and are all presented in a first class manner. Build time into your trip to include a few adventures off of the bike. Here's a handy website
3. Check out the farmer's market
. This is an awesome way to support local farmers and artisans, while getting to sample some tasty local produce and goods. The Transylvania Farmer's Market
is open every Saturday throughout the year, with hours changing seasonally. You can find it in downtown Brevard just off East Main Street behind Comporium, at the Corner of Jordan & Johnson Streets.Brevard mountain biking trailsDupont State Forest mountain biking trails