Located in Bryson City, North Carolina, the Thompson Loop Trail is a must-ride for cyclists in search of an intermediate, yet thrilling, mountain biking experience. Part of the larger Tsali trail system, Thompson Loop has been a crowd-pleaser since the '90s, and it still holds up remarkably well.
To find the trailhead:
Don't forget, a $2 user fee must be paid in cash at the main parking lot before hitting the trails.
A blend of tight, twisting singletrack and more forgiving terrain makes Thompson Loop a true gem in the Tsali trail system. Cyclists will find scenic, rolling paths along Fontana Lake, interspersed with manageable climbs that won't kill your quads but will keep you on your toes.The trail itself is immaculately maintained, with only one or two trees reported down during our last ride. Expect to encounter narrow stretches, roots, rocks, and stream crossings to add some spice to the trail. Several scenic spots invite a break for photos or simply soaking in nature's grandeur.
If you've been away from mountain biking and are looking to reignite that passion, Thompson Loop is a great way to start. The trail offers a balanced challenge for both new and veteran mountain bikers. It incorporates uphill climbs, and even a more challenging 1.5-mile descent, without becoming too intimidating."Great trail conditions today. Dry and fast. Only 2 trees down," one cyclist reports. "Had a few good challenging climbs and an even more challenging 1.5-mile descent on the Thompson Loop. Simply beautiful," added another.
Camping is available within Tsali Recreation Area, providing a convenient ride-in/ride-out option. These sites offer water and electricity, as well as shower facilities. Other popular accommodations include Tumbling Waters Campground and Freemans Motel and Cottages.
Part of the Tsali rotation, Thompson Loop is open for bikers on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Horse traffic uses the trail on alternative days. Given its well-preserved condition, scenic vistas, and just the right level of challenge, Thompson Loop is highly recommended for anyone planning a biking trip to Bryson City. For both adrenaline junkies and nature lovers, this trail ticks all the boxes.