Mouse Branch Loop: A Cyclist's Haven at Tsali Trails
- Distance: 7 miles
- Level: Intermediate
- Route Type: Loop
- Location: Bryson City, North Carolina
- Cost: $2.00 fee (honor system)
- Best for: Technical climbs, lake views, and fast-paced descents.
Getting to Mouse Branch Loop
From Bryson City, head down Hwy 19 South towards Andrews. Make a right turn onto Hwy 28 North. After about 3.5 miles, the Tsali Trails are signposted on the right. Follow the dirt road to the trailhead, which is 1.5 miles away.
The Trail Experience
Mouse Branch Loop, part of the Tsali Trails system, is the answer to the mountain biker's quest for a blend of technical skill and breathtaking scenery. If combined with Thompson Loop, this trail becomes a local legend of sorts, flaunting a little bit of everything.
What to Expect
- Elevation Changes: Mouse Branch features noticeable elevation shifts, especially around its hilly sections.
- Trail Composition: Expect a mix of fast, flowy terrain and rooty, rocky uphill stretches.
- Overlooks: Opportunity for a pause with panoramic lake views after a challenging apex climb.
- Trail Conditions: During summers, the trail can be very dark for night riding. A strong light is highly recommended.
- Caution: The trail skirts the edge of Lake Fontana and presents a significant drop-off, so it’s essential to be alert.
Highlights of the Ride
- Lake Fontana Views: The overlook provides stunning views of the azure lake, framed by the Smokey Mountains in the background.
- Forest Canopy: A majority of the trail runs through the forest, offering shade and a unique riding experience.
- Technical Climbs: While challenging, the uphill sections near the trail’s apex offer an engaging ride for those looking to test their skills.
- Fast Descents: The trail includes speed sections and banked turns, perfect for adrenaline seekers.
- Wildlife: From deer to minks, the trail promises not just a thrilling ride but also a close encounter with nature.
Riders deem this trail as one of the "must-ride" courses when visiting Tsali. The trail is highly praised for its well-designed system, allowing for excellent flow from start to finish. However, be warned about the signage, which might not be clear about looping you back for a 2-mile stretch. Clockwise seems to be the preferred riding direction for most users, although it’s ridable in both ways.
Safety and Trail Etiquette
- Alternate Days: The trails are shared with horseback riders on alternate days. Mouse Branch is only rideable by bikes on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
- Trail Maintenance: Some areas of the trail might have waterbars that can disrupt your momentum.
- Parking: A convenient parking area is located near the trailhead.
Fast, flowy, and with just the right amount of technicality, the Mouse Branch Loop is not only a testament to North Carolina's vibrant mountain biking community but also an experience that will leave riders craving for another loop. Riding it is not just an activity but an event, especially if combined with the Thompson Trail for a full Tsali experience.