The Kitsuma Trail
is a classic must-ride Pisgah loop that features a challenging 12+ switchback climb with a backdrop of Mount Mitchell (the tallest mountain East of the Mississippi) views and an awesome ~3 mile descent containing gravity defying water-bars, flowy sections, and some steep rocky areas that are the signature of the Pisgah experience.
To get to the Kitsuma trailhead, take exit 66 off of I-40 toward Ridgecrest and turn right at Dunsmore Ave. Take a quick right on Old US 70
, where you'll pass Ridgecrest camp on the left. Follow the road down to Yates where you'll make a quick right and an immediate left on Royal George. The trailhead lies at the end of the road.
The trail starts at the Kitsuma trailhead through a gentle forest road next to Interstate 40 then quickly goes straight up as the 14 switchbacks hammer your thighs. When the forest floor is somewhat dry, it's possible, but challenging, to clear all of the switchbacks on the way to Kitsuma Peak. After the initial ascent, enjoy being fooled by a quick downhill before being greeted by the second, steep but short climb. After the two lung-busters, there is a beautiful, mellow ridge ride where you are graced by some nice views of Mt. Mitchell before you start the hair-raising descent.
The legendary 2.8 mile downhill towards the Old Fort picnic area begins with a rocky descent into a quick left-hand switchback. Water bars, doubles, drops and a couple of berms accent the ridiculously fast, sometimes narrow and flowy track through the forest. If the trail is wet, watch the roots on the trail as they may have the urge to throw your wheel off the skinny sections of trail.
Once you wipe the grin off your face in the Old Fort picnic area, turn left on Old US 70
, and then take the first left into a paved road closed to motor vehicles. Follow this winding 5 mile mellow climb and then hang a left back on Royal George Road back to the Kitsuma trailhead.