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A Cyclists Guide To Biking In North Carolina

When it comes to biking in North Carolina, there’s something for everyone.

Trails wind through the mountains in the west, paths run along the beaches in the east, and there are plenty of paths and routes for two wheels in between.

Many North Carolina cities, like Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte, have been working to make cycling safer and more convenient on city streets, while North Carolina’s plentiful woodlands provide respite and fun for those looking for a more off-road experience.

North Carolina Bike Trails – Cities

cycling north carolina

Charlotte Bike Trails

Charlotte has a huge network of bike trails, both in the city and around the greater area, that could keep you exploring for a long time.

Several clubs and organizations hold events and regular rides.

Mecklenburg County takes care of a lot of trails in the area and offer bike rentals Uptown.

A series of greenways connect much of Charlotte with parks used for all sorts of recreational activities, including bicycling.

Carolina Thread Trail

The Carolina Thread Trail is a network of 1500 miles of greenways in the area.

Cross Charlotte Trail

The Cross Charlotte Trail is a 26-mile series of greenways along the North and South Carolina border that connects many smaller towns to the larger trail network in the city.

The Rails to Trails program has created many miles of trails in the Charlotte area, running on old railway lines from the city out into more rural Charlotte.

For Mountain bikers in Charlotte, there is the U.S. National Whitewater Center with 28 trails covering more than 40 miles of woodland, while the Tarheel Trailblazers bike club keeps up 19 trails (more than 100 miles of mountain biking) in the area.

Durham Bike Trails

The city of Durham has created an intricate system of bike trails that make up many miles on city streets and recreational pathways.

The Durham trail map offers color-coding for trail usage, such as “Bikes only,” “Shared Trails,” or “Limited Access,” so you never end up in the wrong place.

All in, Durham Parks and Recreation maintains more than 30 miles of greenway trails throughout the city.

American Tobacco Road Trail

The American Tobacco Road Trail is a 22-mile trails, mostly through urban landscape that cuts right through Downtown Durham.

Duke Forest

The 7,000-acre Duke Forest, on the West Side of Durham, features 30 miles of natural surface trails open to the public which permit biking.

Umstead Bridle Path Loop

Lying between Durham and Raleigh, the Umstead Bridle Path Loop is a fairly easy 16-mile trail through woodlands and farming areas.

The trail is covered with fine gravel, providing all-year riding and there are restrooms and water fountains available.

Lake Crabtree Loop

Lake Crabtree loop, running 7.4 miles, is an intermediate trail in the Durham area.

The loop provides some hills and good challenges for the experienced mountain biker.

Raleigh Bike Trails 

Over the last few years, Raleigh has made an effort to be a bike-friendly town.

As such, there are many bike lanes and paths throughout the city, nicely mapped out on the city’s BikeRaleigh App.

A bike-share program Downtown provides rental bikes for single rides, or on a monthly or yearly basis, and several clubs and organizations plan rides and events regularly.

Neuse River Greenway

The Neuse River Greenway trail is 27 miles of paved area along the Neuse River with outstanding scenery.

Shelley Lake Park

Shelly Lake Park is an easier flat ride for the whole family around Shelley Lake in North Raleigh.

Durant Nature Preserve

The Durant Nature Preserve, to the far northeast of the city, features mountain bike trails for all different skill levels.

For more on biking in Raleigh and Raleigh bike trails, see our article on Raleigh Biking.

Asheville NC Bike Trails

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, NC is custom-made for outdoor adventure.

The city does have some biking areas, but Asheville is mostly known as a launching point for long adventurous rides through the mountainous terrain.

Multiple companies do biking tours around Asheville, providing everything you need, including the bike. Some of these tours are multiple-day rides.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway is a roadway that starts an hour south of Asheville and continues well on into Virginia.

Considered one of the most beautiful rides in the country (as well as the most taxing!) the downside for bikers is that cars use the road as well.

There are a lot of steep inclines on Blue Ridge Parkway, though the road is smoothly paved. You’ll need some stamina to go more than a couple of miles.

Elk Mountain Scenic Loop

The Elk Mountain Scenic Loop is much like Blue Ridge Parkway in that you’ll have to share it with cars, but as a long bike ride it’s hard to beat. (You’ll even ride on a section of Blue Ridge Parkway as you make the loop.)

Also like Blue Ridge Parkway, you can expect serious climbs and brake-testing descents.

Elk Mountain is not for the faint of heart or beginners, but if you’ve got what it takes and put in the effort, you’ll be rewarded with unsurpassed mountain views.

Biltmore Gardens

Biltmore Gardens, at the Biltmore Estate, has over 20 miles of dedicated bike trails, including singletracks through the estate’s extensive woodlands.

The on-site Bike Barn provides rentals and maps.

You must buy a ticket to the Biltmore and grounds to use their trails.

French Broad River Greenway

A little more down to Earth, the French Broad River Greenway is an easy 2.8-mile ride along the river, connecting to smaller parks, on the Biltmore Estate.

Other bike trails in and around Asheville include Bent Creek Experimental Forest, with 20 miles of trails through hardwood forest, the Doodle Rail Trail, a converted railroad line connecting the towns of Easley and Pickens, and Brevard Bike Path, a mostly flat, paved path leading into Pisgah National Forest.

Wilmington Bike Trails

On the coast at the south end of the Outer Banks, Wilmington’s location makes it a great natural area for bicycle riding.

The city has a lot of designated paths and there are multiple trails stretching from the city to the seaside.

Greenfield Lake Park Trail

Greenfield Lake Park Trail is a 4.5-mile paved path that circles the lake and is shared with pedestrians.

Natural garden and woodlands that bloom in spring make this a gorgeous ride from spring through fall.

There is also a lot of wildlife in the area. You might even see an alligator!

Brunswick Forest

Brunswick Forest, just inland from Wilmington, features more than 100 miles of recreational trails, many of which permit biking.

Much of the Brunswick trail system is wide and paved, but off-road biking is also allowed in many woodland areas.

Next door, the Brunswick Nature Park offers seven miles of singletrack solely for mountain bikers.

River to the Sea

As the name implies, Wilmington’s River To The Sea Bikeway runs all the way across the city from the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Coastline.

It’s 11 miles of on and off-road biking, utilizing city bike lanes and an abandoned trolley car line.

The trail connects with the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail, a mostly off-road, 15-mile multi-use path north of Downtown.

Blue Clay Bike Park

For mountain bikers in Wilmington, Blue Clay Bike Park north of the city is the place to be.

It’s a seven-mile singletrack system designed for intermediate and advanced riders that passes through woodlands and wetlands.

North Carolina Bicycle Laws

Bicycles are viewed as vehicles in North Carolina, and bikers are subject to the same rights and responsibilities as drivers.

Cyclists must ride on the right side of the road with traffic, staying as close to the edge of the road or curb as possible to allow motorists to pass.

Cyclists must obey all road signs and use connected light signals or hand signs when making turns.

When riding before sunrise or after sunset, bicycles must have lights and reflectors visible from 300 feet.

NC Helmet Law Bicycles 

Anyone under the age of 16 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle on public roads or in public areas in North Carolina.

Parents (or responsible adults) can be fined for allowing a child to ride without a helmet.

Helmets are not mandatory for adults.

When biking in North Carolina, you have a lot of options, from well-maintained urban bike lanes to thick, untouched forestland.

With the state’s seamless weaving of city into woodlands and woodland into cities, it’s just about the most perfect blend of easy and challenging biking you’ll find anywhere in the United States.

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