Forest Trail Explorer

US Forest Service and Southern Research Station

Tsali Left Loop

Tsali Left Loop
Print Tsali Left Loop

This is a single track trail with creek crossings and views of the Smokies and Lake Fontana.

Schedule: Open to mountain bikes on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and horses on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

The GIS data or track of the trail can be downloaded below. Download the KML file to view the trail in Google Earth or download the GPX track file to be used on a GPS device.

From Asheville, NC: Take I-40 west to exit 27 onto U.S.19/74. Stay on U.S. 74 west to NC 28 west. Turn right and go 5 miles, look for sign on right.

From Knoxville, TN: Take U.S. 129 south through Maryville. Stay on U.S. 129 to Deals Gap. Take left onto NC 28 east. Sign is 25 miles on left.

From Bryson City: Take U.S. 19 south for 9 miles to NC 28 west. Turn right on NC 28. Go 5 miles and look for sign on right.

NC - Franklin, Macon County Airport

Scattered clouds
  • Scattered clouds
  • Temperature: 69 °F
  • Wind: Calm
  • Pressure: 1017 hPa
  • Rel. Humidity: 88 %
  • Visibility: 10 mi
Location of this weather station: 16.3 mi SE
Reported on: Sun, 06/13/2021 - 10:15

Click here to find contact information for the U.S. Forest Service ranger district offices in North Carolina. Staff members at the district offices can answer specific questions about trails, trail systems, campgrounds and more.

Trail System Information

Designed for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders, Tsali (Sah-lee) Recreation Area’s 4-loop system offers a variety of landscapes. You can climb 1-foot wide rugged paths or travel flat, wide roads. Tsali’s trails meander through mixed pine and hardwoods on a peninsula stretching into Fontana Lake. Hikers may travel the trails on any day, but mountain bikers and equestrians–the primary users–are kept separated by alternating use of the trails. A schedule is listed below. Fees are paid at the trailhead and used for trail improvements at Tsali Recreation Area.

The Tsali Recreation Area is named after a Cherokee Indian who once lived in this area. The U.S. Army captured Tsali and his family during the Cherokee Removal in 1838. Tsali and others escaped from their captors during the march along present day Fontana Lake. During the escape, two soldiers were killed, and Tsali and three family members were later executed for their deeds. For some, Tsali is a symbol for country and home against the unjust Cherokee Removal. Today the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians resides in and around their ancestral lands, the Qualla Boundary, located 12 miles east of the Tsali Recreation Area.

National forests are managed for many uses, including outstanding recreation, wildlife habitat, wood products, and clean water. Watch for signs of forest management. The southern pine beetle significantly impacted the pine forest at Tsali in 2007. Many trees were cut to prevent hazards to trail riders. Until new trees grow, many trail borders will be brushy and full of briars. You will discover many grassy openings created for wildlife on the Tsali peninsula. These small plots were cleared and seeded with orchard grass and clover. Animals benefiting from these openings are wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, and rabbits.