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Tsali
Trail Information
Nearest City: Almond, NC
How to get there: From Charlotte, Take 85 south to the 74 Kings Mountain exit. From 74, follow the signs to I-26, and from I-26, get on I-40. From I-40, you will jump back on to 74. You will stay on 74 for quite a while before you come to 28 just past Bryson City. 28 joins 74 for a small stretch, and then splits off to the right. Tsali is just a few miles up 28 on the right.
Trail Length: 4 loops for approx. 10 miles each
Trail Description: Some say Tsali is the best riding east of the Mississippi, and it would be hard to argue. There are 4 loops, with nearly 40 miles of trails. 2 loops will be open to mountain biking each day, alternating with horseback riders, so plan a trip for at least 2 days and ride all the trails.
Other Info:

 

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Trail Reviews

Date Ridden: 10/15/2011  -  Rob of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: Thompson (both directions), Mouse, Overlook loop, Right Loop with Point alt.
Opinions: Smooth. SMOOTH. This is a fast, flowy trail. Ideal for single speeders, rigid riders, maybe even cyclocross bikes. We camped and rode all weekend, night, etc and had a great time. There are only a handful of actual technical sections, so this won't be a challenge for many experienced riders. But if you want to get a lot of miles of flowy rolling single and doubletrack, very well maintained trail riding in, this is a great spot. Some of the views of Lake Fontana were amazing. Watch for bears!
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Date Ridden: 06/16/2011  -  Mike De La Rosa of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: Thompson Loop (backwards), Mouse Branch, and Right Loop Second Alternate.
Opinions: Tsali is great for people who want to log high mileage in a mountain setting. It isn't very technical, but have some challenging climbs and moderate descents. Whatever you do, don't ride the Thompson trail backwards. It was very painful... lol other than that it is very scenic, but I don't know if it's worth the extra hour and a half to drive there over Pisgah or Boone. The way I see it. It's something you have to do at least once and "checkmark" it.

Oh yeah, I was surprised by how well the trail drains and dries it self out. Rode the day after a huge storm and it was almost perfect. Very surprising, so don't letthe weather get in your way.

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Date Ridden: 08/22/2009  -  Trail_Junky of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: Mouse Branch on Saturday and Right Loop on Sunday.
Opinions: Tsali makes for a great ride, and I will be going back. I've ridden Mouse Branch and the Right Loop. While there are some long, tough climbs, the trails I rode overall aren't that hard. Although I have been riding for about ten years, I am not a fast and strong rider by any means. I rode most of the trail in the middle chain ring and was smoked by the group of mostly expert level riders with which I started each day. I'm rating the two loops "4" for difficulty due to the frequent climbing, elevation changes, and trail length in consideration of a non expert class rider.

The sections in the lower elevations remind me of LNSP in how they flow and are cut through damp forest. The trails are essentially root free and smooth. You'll encounter some loose rock confined to short sections along the way, and this seems to coupled with a tough, exposed climb. Expect to return to the trail muddy, because you will encounter mud puddle after mud puddle on the Mouse Branch on the wrong day even when most of the trail is perfect. If you do, ride a willy through them, because some are surprisingly deep.

The wilderness you ride through is beautiful. There are little to no technical aspects that a rider must negotiate like root drops, rock gardens, rooty climbs, man-made TTFs like ladders and skinnies. I didn't even see a squirrel with a death wish. Some of the trail is narrow and much of it is bordered by face-slappers at least when recent rains have been good.

If your nickname isn't Speed Racer, expect to be out on each loop for a few hours. The Right Loop does have two early exits. The other three require you to ride all or to turn around to avoid doing so.

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Date Ridden: 10/10/2008  -  malamute man of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: Whole thing.
Opinions: Flat a little rolling up and down. Had heard great things about it but not very impressed. Nothing really to keep my interest. No jumps, drops, ladders, steap down hills. The one thing I can say is Tarheeltrailblazers take good care of there trails however why are they so tight. Open them up make them wider that way a rider can flow down a hill. Stop wasting your time building jumps and burms on up hill sections. Its like bringing sand to the beach.
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Date Ridden: 11/30/2007  -  MAC of Tega Cay, SC
Route Taken: Right and left loops, windy loop extension.
Opinions: Fun, fast and a feast for the eyes. Great open vistas, nice banked turns, overhanging and close foliage made the ride feel even faster. The windy loop extension was great! We climbed up the right side and decended the opposite side (wonderfull fun decent). A couple of climbs were pretty tough but overall I'd say this is a very rider friendly trail for everyone but the extremely timid first timer. With the lack of rain fall the lake is very low and the trails are (in my opinion) pristene. I'll be back again and next time as another writer said, with some water sports gear to round out the day.
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Date Ridden: 10/06/2007  -  Sean of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: SAT Thompson and Mouse Sun Left-Right BW
Opinions: This is an update from a year ago. The trails were in near perfect condition, however there were a few trees down for hike a bike and some spots could really use a face slapper trimming. We did thompson and Mouse on Sat both were in great shape no mud or pooling like last year, Sun we did left loop in the suggested direction and right loop backwards. While right loop is the "easy" loop backwards offered some great tech climbs and just more climbing overall in the clockwise direction but allowed us to cut out the 2 mile fire road that would be done 2x otherwise. Left loop is m favorite with thompson next. We camped at turkey creek which was also fantastic. after a year of riding since and a trip to MOAB in between I need to take the difficulty down but overall rating is still 5 helmets!
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Date Ridden: 10/06/2007  -  Linus of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: Mouse and Thompson Loops. These loops are around 8-10 miles each.
Opinions: These were my favorite loops at Tsali. Incredible downhills made the ride a whole lot of fun. I enjoyed the steady 3 mile climb on the Thompson loop too. The trails could do with some trimming as some sections can get very narrow with thorn bushes cutting into you. Camped at the Tsali camp grounds. Cold showers and a barking dog made it less than comfortable.
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Date Ridden: 10/05/2007  -  Linus of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: Friday rode the Right and Left loops. About 22 miles together.
Opinions: These loops are more difficult than the Mouse and Thompson due to the climbs and rocky sections. The overlook at 2100 feet is incredible. Great view of the river and mountain peaks in the distance. Overall its a fun endurance ride. Take lots of water and snacks with you as this can turn out to be a 4-5 hour ride.
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Date Ridden: 04/14/2007  -  Chris Smith of Waxhaw, NC
Route Taken: Right Loop and Mouse Branch
Opinions: Right Loop was not much fun for me. There were zero technical areas...lots of leg work. Downhill momentum was eliminated due to poor trail drainage (pooling at the bottome of all sections thanks to horse tracks created during the rain) as well as an abundance of slower riders.

Mouse Branch is a more rocky single track that does not have a drainage problem. Fading/missing trail markings were an issue for some first timers on the day I was riding.

Overall, I believe the two trails I rode at Tsali are only average. There are plenty of other very good trails closer to Charlotte area thanks to the Trailblazers. I would only ride Tsali again if I was going there for some other reason like Kayaking or hiking. I counted 21 cars in the parking lot on the Thursday that I was at Tsali, most of those carrying multiple bikes.

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Date Ridden: 09/30/2006  -  Sean of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: did all but left loop Sat is Thompson loop and Mouse Branch, Sun left and right loops are open to bikes...
Opinions: Well worth the trip! We had a blast the camp grounds are great the trails are a whole lot of fun. I am new so tame is not the word I would use at all. good amount of climbs and Down hills. The vistas are amazing...wish we had gone in about 2 weeks for color. lots of single track, some fire roads. the whole system seems to be built into the side of a mountain which keeps you on your toes. There are a TON of mud puddles so Disc brakes will make you feel a whole lot more confident. Be sure you have tread on your tires.
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Date Ridden: 07/19/2005  -  Turner of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: Left Loop
Opinions: A tame trail but a blast to ride. Lots of switchbacks and a decent amount of down and up hill.
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Date Ridden: 03/15/2003  -  John Williams of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: Thompson & Mouse Branch
Opinions: Great improvement over last fall. Much work has been done on both trails to eliminate the perpetual mud bogs. They were both in great shape despite rain in recent days. BTW, Left Loop was closed for massive dead pine tree removal (thanks, borers!)
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Date Ridden: 10/10/2002  -  hale trotter of charlotte, nc
Route Taken: mouse trail
Opinions: it was great, lots of speed and good climbing. keep good momentum up and you can fly trough most all obstacles.
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Date Ridden: 06/01/2002  -  Scott of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: From Charlotte, 85 south, 74 west, I- 40, 74 west, 28 and followed to signs to the park.
Opinions: We rode the right and left loop. Next time we are camping out and hitting both sets of trails. The first section was closed due to something killing the trees. I think only 2.5 miles were closed. We did the left loop first and then just jumped on the right loop. I think we rode about 24 miles. The down hills are smooth and fast. We got up to 28 mph on a couple of them. Some of the best riding I've done. A trip to remember.
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Date Ridden: 06/01/2002  -  Scott of Charlotte, NC
Route Taken: From Charlotte, 85 south, 74 west, I- 40, 74 west, 28 and followed to signs to the park.
Opinions: We rode the right and left loop. Next time we are camping out and hitting both sets of trails. The first section was closed due to something killing the trees. I think only 2.5 miles were closed. We did the left loop first and then just jumped on the right loop. I think we rode about 24 miles. The down hills are smooth and fast. We got up to 28 mph on a couple of them. Some of the best riding I've done. A trip to remember.
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Date Ridden: 11/03/2001  -  Kent of Charlotte, North Carolina
Route Taken: Thompson Trail
Opinions: Great singletrack; rolling hills; good climbs; extremely smooth; lake was low for the spring floods, otherwise great views.
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Date Ridden: 11/03/2001  -  Kent of Charlotte, North Carolina
Route Taken: Thompson Trail
Opinions: Great singletrack; rolling hills; good climbs; extremely smooth; lake was low for the spring floods, otherwise great views.
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Date Ridden: 01/01/1900  -  otherwise great views. of kent@corvetteman.net, Charlotte
Route Taken: Thompson Trail
Opinions: Great singletrack; rolling hills; good climbs; extremely smooth; lake was low for the spring floods
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