The leaves have fallen, lights are twinkling throughout downtown, and shops are adorned for the holiday season. It’s winter in Brevard, North Carolina. Peak tourist season has just ended. And though our visitors have thinned and slowed, the riding is simply transforming to its winter bliss. The leaves are moving off the trails, giving way once again to the dirt, rocks, and roots below. The newly bare trees allow for longer range views. More light shines in, transforming the forest into a setting different than any other time of the year. That’s the scene in and around Brevard during winter. It’s a great time to get outside in the heart of adventure. Ready to plan your trip? Let’s begin!
If you’re wondering where to stay, there are plenty of options around the area so you’re sure to find a place that suits your fancy. There are inns and hotels, and also a range of vacation rentals from convenient and reasonable to as fancy as you like, with hot tubs and long-range mountain views to recover in at the end of a good day out on the trails. As far as location goes, it’s hard to beat the heart of Brevard. The ability to walk or ride your bike to the local establishments all within the downtown corridor or lumberyard district is a key benefit of being close to town. There is almost zero need to use a car if you’re in the right location.
Alright, so you booked your place to stay. Now, do you have the right bike? Generally speaking, you’ll be best served with a trail bike having 120-130mm front travel and similar rear travel, especially for Pisgah. If you’re only riding Dupont, then a shorter travel XC mountain bike should do the job, or even the hearty can get away with a hardtail or fully rigid ride. If you need to equip yourself with a more suitable bike, there are numerous shops in the area that provide rentals, as well as any parts or service needs you may have. While you’re there, you can also pick up a map of the area. Pisgah can be pretty remote, so it’s highly recommended to know where you’re going.
Lodging booked, bike sorted, how are you going to get here? Driving needs no explanation, but if you’re planning to fly, Asheville (AVL) is about 25 min away, Greenville, SC, (GSP) is about 75 min, and Charlotte (CLT) a shade over two hours. A rental car from any of those terminals should be feasible and you’ll be good to go.
Those logistics all sorted, how are you going to maximize your weekend? Follow along for a surefire way to enjoy the best of Brevard.
Arriving midday Friday provides the opportunity to take in a lighter/easier ride to get the legs warmed up. A ride from the Lake Imaging parking lot in Dupont State Recreational Forest is a great way to start things off. A simple ride up Jim Branch to Buck Forest Road, to Hickory Mountain Road to Hickory Mountain Loop, and down the Ridgeline trail will be plenty to get anyone excited for the weekend of riding. If you have a little more time and energy available, add on going up Sky Valley Road to Rocky Ridge, and back on the Rifle and Boundary trails to Hickory Mountain Road. Once you’ve finished the ride, head over to Oskar Blues for some bean bags and a beer. If you’re hungry, there is sure to be a food truck on site. Another great choice to fuel for the weekend is Love Eat Thai in downtown Brevard. The food is excellent, and you’ll be ready for your big ride in Pisgah on Saturday.
Saturday is the big day of the weekend. You’ve got all day and the trails are calling! Take a leisurely start to the day to give it some time to warm up. Start things off right with a coffee from Cup and Saucer and a scone from Bracken Mountain Bakery, or a breakfast burrito from Sunrise Café. Or drop into the Transylvania Farmer’s Market for your pick of breakfast items, and while you’re there, grab a snack for the trail or some dinner for the night. Well-fed, stocked up, and temps rising, it’s time to head to the trails.
Parking at the Black Mountain parking lot on the right about a mile into the forest on Highway 276 is probably the best. From there you can ride Highway 276 for a short distance to Avery Creek Road. Take Avery Creek to the horse stables, go right through the horse stables, and up Clawhammer Road to the top and its intersection with upper Black Mountain. Go left on upper Black and left on Avery Creek trail, and then all the way out to Avery Creek Road. Hang a right and head up Avery Creek Road to a left on Bennett Gap, back down to Avery Creek Road. Take a left again back to the horse stables and up the start of Clawhammer until you turn right on Maxwell Cove, which you’ll take to a right on Middle Black Mountain and all the way back down to the parking area. For those looking for a little more, an easy add-on is the Sycamore Cove loop or the seasonal trail North Slope (open October 15to April 15). Or if you want a big day, leave the car at the house, and take Joel Branch Road to Stony Knob to Horse Cove Road to Bracken Mountain, which drops you right back into the outskirts of Brevard. No matter how you slice this one, it’s a big day with long climbs and descents you’ll be telling all your friends back home about.
Sufficiently tired and hungry, a beer from Brevard Brewing or Noblebrau should take the edge off. Then your choice of Square Root, Marco Trattoria, or Jordan Street should satisfy the hunger knock. Or if you’re in the mood for the ever-popular cuisine choice among cyclists, Quixote should satisfy the itch for a big plate of Mexican food. And if you’re not full after that, head to Cardinal Drive-In and get a milkshake. It’s guaranteed, you won’t be disappointed.
It’s Sunday and hard to believe it’s the last day, but you’ve still got an opportunity for one more good ride. A breakfast bagel sandwich from Sully’s is a good way to shake off the cobwebs from Saturday, and then it’s off to the trails. A great option from town is to take Cashier’s Valley Road out to Highway 64, turn right for a quick jaunt south on highway 64 to Selica Road, which turns into Cathey’s Creek Road (FS 471). Cathey’s Creek is a gentle, gravel road climb along its namesake creek, so there’s no lack of scenery or serenity, and it will give you sufficient time to work out the kinks from yesterday’s ride. After about 5.5 miles, you’ll turn right on Low Gap Rd (FS 471D), where the gradient ticks up a bit until you hit Butter Gap and start the fun descending. At the end of Butter Gap, you intersect with Cat Gap Loop, which continues the fun with a series of log, stairstep drops, but not so big or technical that you’re wondering if you brought a big enough bike.
At the bottom of Cat Gap Loop, you’ll turn right onto Horse Cove Road (FS 475C) and have two options to get back to Brevard, either of which is going to be fantastic. The first is to go to the top of Horse Cove and down Bracken. The second is up Horse Cove Road about halfway, then left onto Stony Knob Trail – a new trail just opened – and down Joel Branch Road (FS 5002), out to the entrance of the forest, and return to town on the bike path. Wrap up your weekend with a big glass of horchata and plate of food from El Ranchero and try not to take a nap before you drive home.
A winter trip to Brevard offers a great opportunity to explore the area without the hustle and bustle of high tourist season. The weather is generally favorable, and you’ll certainly have a chance to glimpse all the area’s top attractions outside of mountain biking: waterfalls, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and downtown Brevard to name a few. Whenever or however you get here, you’re sure to enjoy the area’s natural beauty and the town’s welcoming people. And while you’re here, don’t forget to Leave It Better because you’re a guest here and we’re guests on this planet. These resources we love will only be here if we treat them with respect. Don’t ride the trails if they’re wet — choose gravel roads instead — and if you see some trash, pick it up! Travel safely, ride happy, and make some memories. Come play and enjoy your stay.