Tsali Recreation Area

Categories: Campgrounds & RV Parks, Hiking & Backpacking, Fishing, Mountain Biking, Horseback Riding, Picnic Areas, Places of Interest, Frontcountry Camping, Lake Canoeing & Kayaking, Back Country Horse Trails


  • Mountain Biking, Hiking & Horseback Riding Trails; Campground, Boat Ramps and Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains located just outside of Bryson City, NC
  • 4 Main Trails offering multiple combinations: Tsali Trail Right Loop, Tsali Trail Left Loop, Mouse Branch Loop Trail & Thompson Loop Trail
  • Tsali Campground offers 42 sites ($15 fee per site) with tent pads, picnic tables, lantern posts, showers and flush toilets
  • Two separate NO FEE boat ramp/lake access areas:  Lemmons Branch Boatdock Road & Tsali Road (dead end at ramp) w/ample parking
  • Ample parking for all trails and boat access areas 
  • Gorgeous Nantahala National Forest area facing the NC side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the 'North Shore' of Fontana Lake


Tsali Recreation Area- Parking Area (Mountain Bike & Hike)

Tsali Recreation Area- Mouse Branch Loop Trail

The Local Scoop

Tsali Recreation Area Mountain Biking Trails
Tsali Recreation Area is known for some of the best mountain biking trails in the Southeast.  With 4 main trail systems (Tsali Trail Right Loop & Tsali Trail Left Loop, Thompson Loop Trail & Mouse Branch Loop Trail) their is plenty of fun to be had for all!  The trails range from easy to moderate in difficulty.  The Tsali Right & Tsali Left Loop Trails are the 'easiest' of the the four, with Thompson Loop Trail & Mouse Branch Loop Trail being moderate and the most difficult in the Tsali Recreation Area.  The trails are a combination of 'single track' and road bed and are generally in great condition thanks to the help of volunteerism.  We recommend using extreme caution while riding and that you wear protective gear such as a helmet, glasses, etc.  Be aware that horses, hikers and bikers all use these trails and pay close attention when in curves.  Note: All trails within Tsali are shared trails.  Mountain Biking, Horseback Riding and Hiking are all permitted here.  Use caution when on the trails and Mountain Bikers and Hikers should always yield to horseback riders.
Be sure to watch YouTube StayPlaySmokies Channel video below to get a great idea of what some of the single track looks like.

Tsali Recreation Area Campground
Tsali Campground is a great location to spend a night or long weekend at while soaking up some of the outdoor adventure that surrounds you.  The campground offers 42 sites in all and is perfect for tent camping.  The sites are $15 per and the campground offers showers, flush toilets, ample room for tent pads, picnic tables, paved access, lantern posts & fire rings.
TIP:  Stay more than one night, you'll need the extra day to get in all of the trails... and maybe even a dip in Fontana Lake

Tsali Recreation Area Horseback Trails 
Horseback ride on any of the four main trails within Tsali Recreation Area.  Note: All trails within Tsali are shared trails.  Mountain Biking, Horseback Riding and Hiking are all permitted here.  Use caution when on the trails and Mountain Bikers and Hikers should always yield to horseback riders.  We recommend wearing safety equipment such as a helmet.  
TIP:  For the best lake views, be sure to ride the Tsali Trail Right Loop or the Tsali Trail Left Loop.

Lemmons Branch Boat Access
Located 1.1 miles from the Tsali Road turnoff from NC Hwy 28 is 'Lemmons Branch Boat Access Road.'  Take a right onto this road and travel another 1.3 miles to the parking area and boat/lake access.  There are no parking or launch fees.  
TIP: The parking area for Lemmons Branch is much wider, the boat ramp is in better shape and the lake is deeper here than at 'Tsali Road Boat Access.' 

Tsali Road Boat Access
Located 1.7 miles from the Tsali Road turnoff from NC Hwy 28 is the 'Tsali Boat Access."  This is also where Tsali Road dead ends. There are no parking or launch fees.  
TIP: This boat access is easier to access and is sometimes not used as much as Lemmons Branch.

The Local Directions

From Bryson City, NC
Take U.S. Highway 74 West*/U.S. Hwy 19 West*/N.C. Hwy 28 North* (Great Smoky Mountain Expressway) for 8.3 miles to a right towards Robbinsville on N.C. Hwy 28 North.  Continue on (crossing a bridge over Fontana Lake & into 'Graham Co.') for another 3.6 miles to another right onto 'Tsali Road.'  Travel down this curvy little road for another 2.5 miles until you reach Tsali Recreation Area.
Horseback parking is to your left (think 10:00 o'clock) and Mountain Bike parking is to your slight left (think 11:00 o'clock).

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Difficulty Levels

  • BikeRight & Left Loops- 4 Thompson & Mouse-8What's this?
  • Camp3What's this?
  • Fishing3/4 (Boat)What's this?
  • Hike4What's this?
  • HorseRight & Left Loops-2 Thompson & Mouse-5What's this?
35.406419, -83.586388
Easy via NC Hwy 28
Nearest City
Bryson City
Graham County
Distance From
Bryson City:  13.4 miles
Bike Distance
Right Loop:  11 miles
Left Loop:  11.9 miles
Mouse Branch Loop:  9 miles
Thompson Loop:  7.7 miles