North Carolina's 5 Most Popular Trail Networks According to Trailforks Data

Oct 20, 2021
by Brice Shirbach  
North Carolina is home to some of the most geographically diverse landscapes in all of the United States. The Atlantic Ocean borders the easternmost reaches of the state, transitioning there to the piedmont plateau, before reaching for the skies among the highest summits in all of Appalachia. It's the 28th largest state in the country by area, and its 9th most populous. North Carolina is covered by trails of all varieties, and offers up opportunities for riders of all stripes.

We wanted to see which networks in the Tarheel State were the most popular, and so we headed to our sister site Trailforks to get the intel. Trailforks is a trail management system for riders, builders and associations and it aims to provide the very best tools to inventory, maintain, promote and showcase trail networks. By using the Trailforks ridelog feature, we were able to take a look at which trail networks across the state are the most ridden. While this list is an accurate representation based on user input, this is not a list of favorites or "best of" list per se. It is simply a direct reflection of Trailforks usage and specifically unique rides, and if you want to ensure that your own riding has an impact on lists like these, you can do so by connecting your Strava account to Trailforks, or by simply using the tracking feature in the Trailforks app itself. This information can make for some spirited conversation, but more importantly can be leveraged by trail associations in their advocacy efforts.

DuPont State Recreational Forest, commonly known as DuPont Forest, is a 10,473-acre state forest, located in Henderson and Transylvania counties of North Carolina. Expect to find plenty of massive slabs to play on and rhododendron tunnels to nuke through, with a pitch that is a bit more mellow than what you'll find throughout Pisgah National Forest on the other side of Brevard. 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. Dupont is home to over 90 miles of trails for mountain bikers, with a maximum vertical relief of close to 1,500 from its highest trail to its low point. Friends of Dupont Forest, along with Pisgah Area SORBA work hard to keep the trails throughout Dupont running well, a hefty challenge given the massive popularity of the network.

Dupont State Forest mountain biking trails

 Outrunning the Storm Pictured is Brice Shirbach Pivot Cycles Pearl Izumi ripping down the Cedar Rock Trail in Western North Carolina. Rain was moving in so we were working fast to get some photos and video in before the weather came. Rider Brice Shirbach bricycles Photo Matt Jones mtjphoto

Bent Creek is an experimental forest managed by the US Forest Service for forestry and biology. It is home to an extensive network of short trails ranging from rolling to rocky. Most all trails are beginner and intermediate level. The higher up the ridge you climb, the more technical features available like Greens Lick and lower Sidehill. Bent Creek boasts a rather impressive 1,700 vertical feet of relief from top to bottom, and is managed and maintained by Pisgah Area SORBA.

Bent Creek Experimental Forest mountain biking trails

THE Pisgah Ranger District is home to some of the best trails in all of the southeastern United States. These here are some of the biggest mountains you'll find east of the Mississippi, and is not a place 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 it's worth noting 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 massive amount of trail here and a massive amount of vertical relief, maxing out at just over 4,000 feet. Pisgah Area SORBA work their tails off to keep these trails humming.

Pisgah Ranger District mountain biking trails

The U.S. National Whitewater Center features 50 miles of cross-country singletrack throughout the woodlands along the Catawba River and Long Creek. The trails are a staple at the USWNC's 1,300 acre outdoor recreation facility, making it a breeze to grab a beer, jump in on a yoga class, or enjoy some live music after your ride. Use of the trail system does not require an activity pass. Please check the current trail status (at the top of the website) prior to accessing the trail system.

U.S. National Whitewater Center mountain biking trails

Lake Crabtree County Park singletrack is by far the most popular place for beginner riders in the Triangle. Its central location is also great for relieving weekday stress if you work in RTP. The wooded trails connect to Umstead State Park and Cary's Black Creek Greenway. Since it's so popular, plan on passing lots of other riders when the weather's good. Please be courteous and cautious with the riders you meet here. It is a great place to learn to ride and don't expect to come here and hammer people out of your way. Stopping to help out beginner riders does a world of good for our sport. There are six loops, some connectors, and the Lake Trail. Triangle Off Road Cyclists is a volunteer organization dedicated to ensuring the future of mountain biking in the Triangle area of North Carolina through the promotion of responsible riding, establishment and maintenance of mountain biking trails, and preservation of North Carolina’s natural resources.

Lake Crabtree County Park mountain biking trails

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Travel Trailforks


  • 22 1
 Don’t Dupont Pisgah
  • 1 0
 Ha! As a Vermonter who just visited Brevard and rode Pisgah and Dupont, I agree. Dupont feels like a catered experience. Pisgah feels like you better have your sh!t together since you are really deep in the woods alone. :-)
  • 15 0
 I'm just glad the really good shit isn't even on this list Wink
  • 2 0
 thank goodness
  • 1 0
 Lol if you get in with anyone from the triangle, you will find out we have one of the best hush-hush freeride parks….
  • 8 0
 C'mon RDU... Lake Crab is hardly big enough for us all. Your land w/Triangle Land Conservancy could be the next big NC ride destination. sig4wake.com/wake-county-leaders-push-compromise-for-rdu-land-fence-conflict
  • 7 1
 Crabtree is great for beginners and people entering the sport but is also fast and fun. So as the article states, for the Strava warriors out there, please remember trail etiquette and know its not all triangle expert riders at Crabs. Slow it down, look out for the kiddos and please respect the new people being introduced to our sport at crabs for the first time.
  • 9 0
 Greenslick is by far the sickest trail of this list. No need to drive over to Brevard. Stay in Asheville.
  • 6 0
 I heard Davidson River Trail is the best jump line in town. Prove me wrong.
  • 10 0
 That video is very not from Lake Crabtree.
  • 5 0
 I believe that's the old jump line near UNC Charlotte, 2.5–3 hrs from Lake Crabtree. Orrr maybe not. It's been a long time
  • 3 0
 Yes, having built on that hill, that video is from Charlotte NC
  • 8 1
 FUN FACT.... DuPont and Bent Creek are also the absolute best! If you come to visit make sure you just spend all your time there and cover every trial. Dont even WASTE your time in Pisgah it blows
  • 3 0
 This. Pisgah is shit. Shouldn't even be on the list. It doesn't live up to the hype at all.
  • 2 0
 @Alexanz1: I can't even say "pisgah" without almost throwing up. #greenslickforlyfe
  • 2 0
 For the love of god if you're in Charlotte and reading this don't go to the whitewater center. It's a business that is all about miles over smiles. They keep adding trails... what a waste of land. Also it's built on a gas pipeline. Instead go to Fisher Farm, BYT, Rocky River Trail, Poston, etc... I promise you'll have much more fun.
  • 4 0
 Ummm…. for those of you who haven’t made a visit to NC-

Rocky Knob
  • 3 1
 Uh, that video embeded under Crabtree is definitely not Crabtree. Pretty sure that is all on some less than legal trails around the corner...
  • 3 0
 This is probably the most "Sanitized" list and for that I'm thankful.
  • 2 0
 Go to Vermont and ride Kingdom Trails.
  • 3 0
 Yes... Ride Kingdom. Avoid the rest of the trails in the state.
  • 1 0
 Once upon a time Tsali was a meca. I always thought Pisgah was better. And then I moved away Frown
  • 2 1
 Nothing to see, hear or ride here.
  • 1 0
 Van liiiiiiiife!
  • 2 0
 Mills River Ingles is my closest grocery store... pretty sweet van life colony there.

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