My favorite ride, to date, is the Laurel Mountain/Pilot Rock loop nestled in the Pisgah National Forest. This trail has tidbits of everything I love about mountain biking; beautiful scenery, a steady climb punctuated with techy sections, and a rowdy, rocky descent. I’m constantly balancing the urge to sightsee with keeping my bike on the trail.
I like to start with the cruise up the road from the trailhead to warm up the legs. From there, hop onto the Laurel Mountain trail and head straight up. It starts off as narrow bench cut trail winding through the forest, and is decorated with lush vegetation and rhododendron tunnels. Along the ascent there are plenty of places with rocky problems that include running water, tricky uphill hucks, and roots for added excitement.
About ¾ of the way up the trail you’ll reach the hike-a-bike, which reminds you that your lungs could still burn more. If you’ve still got some gas in the tank after carrying your bike, rest assured, the steepest bits are saved for the end. The trail crests at a ridge and you pick up the Pilot Rock trail for the descent. Pilot Rock starts with some fun and fast rolling drops that quickly turn to larger features and exposed switch-back drops. After coming out of the switch section, the trails dips back into the forest and spits you into long, chunky, rock garden. You’ll need to keep your speed up to clear this one. For the finale, the trail widens into a long, straight, washed-out gutter. Let off the brakes, and let it rip.
You’ll pop right out at the car if you parked at the bottom. Ear-to-ear grins are a common byproduct, and cold beers from a local brewery are recommended to properly close out this ride!