Mountain Biking in the High Country

Beech Mountain ResortMountain Biking in the High Country

Beech Mountain Resort features mountain biking trails for beginner and experienced riders, and offers chair lifts

As its name implies, North Carolina’s High Country offers plenty of opportunities for some fantastic mountain biking. If you’re looking for adventure, visit Beech Mountain, located just outside Banner Elk; Sugar Mountain, which is about 10 miles south of Beech; or Rocky Knob Park, situated just east of Boone.

Beech Mountain

Beech Mountain is eastern America's highest town, with an elevation of 5,506 feet. It’s not much of a surprise to learn that mountain biking trails abound here. Routes vary from short, one-mile trails all the way up to more than 11 miles, with elevations ranging from 3,800 to 5,000 feet. Beech Mountain also has more than 50 miles of paved bike trails.

Beech Mountain was part of Tour DuPont, America’s premier cycling event, from 1993 to 1996. The paved bike routes earned international acclaim in 1998 when Lance Armstrong trained here for his final Tour de France after a bout with cancer. In addition, Beech Mountain Resort was host to the 2011 and 2012 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships. It was the first resort in the South to host the event.

In 2011, the town of Beech Mountain opened the first phase of its Adventure Trail Park, called the Emerald Outback. At elevations ranging from 4,700 to 5,500 feet, the Emerald Outback is comprised of roughly 10 miles of intermediate to advanced trails. It’s also one of the highest adventure trail parks in eastern America. The trail system here includes single-track and double-track trails, gravel logging trails and fire roads as well as 100-mile vistas from many scenic overlooks.

Sugar Mountain

Biking trails intertwine through the cute village of Sugar Mountain and head up the mountain looping back to the Lodge at the Sugar Mountain Resort. Trails vary in terms of difficulty, but all trails are well-marked for easy use. The Cross Country Course is a fast, fun and often-grueling trail with a harrowing front-side descent. The view from the top is breathtaking, but you have to earn it by climbing roads and single track up and past the Big Red lift to get there. Daily trail access is free of charge through mid-October.

In October 2013, Sugar Mountain Resort hosted the National Collegiate Downhill Championships. The expert downhill track started at the summit and finished at the base of Easy Street. Many mountain bike riders consider this downhill course to be one of the most demanding and thrilling on the East Coast.

Rocky Knob Park

Just east of Boone on U.S. 421, Rocky Knob Park has more than eight miles of adventurous and accessible trails as well as four skills areas situated on 185 acres. Nearby outfitters Boone Bike and Magic Cycles offer bike rentals as well as demo bikes for use to explore this urban mountain bike park.

Jason Frye is the author of two North Carolina guidebooks and lives and writes in Wilmington.

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