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Rainbow Mountain loop following Old Mitchell, Rattlesnake, and Rainbow.

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3,769' 1,149 m


2,836' 864 m


1,742' 531 m


1,734' 529 m



Avg Grade (5°)


Max Grade (15°)

Dogs Off-leash

E-Bikes Allowed

Unfortunately, Ridgecrest Conferencing Center has denied access parking, shuttling to Rattlesnake via their property. This is now the fastest way to access it in a single loop ride.

Access to this route may be limited on Old Mitchell Toll Road during bear hunting season.


This quick loop highlights the best mountain biking Montreat access has to offer and provides a great option for accessing Rattlesnake since the Ridgecrest closure. Starting with a tough, mixed pavement and forest road climb with steep grades, you are rewarded with two excellent downhills (Rattlesnake and Rainbow Mountain Trail). Take the time to park the bikes at the bottom and summit Rattlesnake Summit—it's worth the reward.

Need to Know

Potentially limited access during bear season (October to January). Although there are no signs, I'd wear high visibility during those periods. There are signs restricting northbound traffic on Old Mitchell Toll Road during that time.

Do not go through Ridgecrest Conferencing Center to try to access Kitsuma Trail.

There are a lot of hikers and runners on this trail, so proceed with caution around blind spots and coming into known intersections.

Limited water filtration options along the route except for limited options towards the end of the route. Helipad option in case of a life-threatening emergency. Beautiful view from Rattlesnake Summit.


Park at one of two adjoining parking lots at Lookout Trailhead in Montreat (35.643196, -82.291058). On weekends, it is extremely full and there are limited main road pull-off parking options and parking in town.

Gaining Old Mitchell Toll Road:
Leave the parking area and head east on Lookout Road until it becomes Oklahoma Road. Take the right at the T-intersection onto Appalachian Way and begin a difficult, steep climb to the turn-around area that begins the forest road section of Appalachian Way (there will be a gate that prevents vehicle traffic). Begin a short but steep and difficult forest road climb consisting of loose rock, some roots, and dirt) until you come to an interesting intersection—not on the map—that allows you to wrap to the left or climb a very steep, punchy 75 meter section (both end up in the exact same place). Continue for 200-300 meters until you reach Old Mitchell Toll Road and the first of a few confusing intersections.

Down Old Mitchell Toll Road:
As you enter the clearing, there are three primary options: go left (climbs up toward Heartbreak Ridge), go down and right (goes down toward East Ridge—there are different names—where no bikes are allowed), or go up and right which descends slightly down Old Mitchell Toll Road. You know you have gone the right way when after a fun but short downhill, and you reach a locked yellow gate. Pass the gate and continue traveling down Old Mitchell Toll Road until you begin to climb another few hundred feet. There are several off-shoots along this section for a helipad, adventure trail, and the Rhododendron Ridge Trail; however, staying on the trail will be intuitive. Good frame of reference is that all these shoot off to the left, so stay to the right. You'll hit a unique Y-intersection at Rhododendron Ridge Trail where you'll stay to the right and begin a blazing fast descent over some fun doubletrack to the Rattlesnake, Rainbow, and Old Mitchell Toll Road intersection.

Super simple: at the three-way intersection, turn left for Rattlesnake Summit and begin the descent. It will open up to a fire pit area, stay left to do the Rattlesnake descent. Get to the bottom open field—you are done—turn around and climb back up to the intersection where you started for Rattlesnake.

Old Mitchell Toll Road to Rainbow Road:
This is where it gets confusing, and it is best just to use the MTB Project mobile app to confirm everything. Depending on the site or resource, the naming conventions are different, but it's fairly intuitive on a bike. At the Old Mitchell Toll Road (north and south) and Rattlesnake intersection, look for a sign on the tree that says Montreat via Toll Road. Take it—you haven't been this way yet. Begin an exciting downhill. The first intersection will be with Trestles Road—stay left. You'll come through a difficult but fun root section (you'll know when you are in it), then into a clearing with two options (left, towards Rainbow Mountain Summit or right towards Rainbow trail). Stay right, towards Rainbow Trail. Enter a fairly tight, restricted, overgrowth trail with lots of rocks and roots until you come down a small, fairly easy rock drop to a T-intersection. Turn right and continue down Rainbow Trail all the way to the road.

Road to Parking Lot:
Rainbow Trail will dump you into someone's backyard and a road. Cross the road and continue down the trail. This trail is a straight shot of fun, simple doubletrack back to the parking lot.


Shared By:

Christian E

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  3.5 from 6 votes
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Rattlesnake Mountain summit
Apr 9, 2014 near Black M…, NC
Start of the hella climbing.
Aug 17, 2014 near Black M…, NC
No snake petting.
Apr 10, 2014 near Black M…, NC
Fire pit area near top of Rattlesnake
Jun 9, 2019 near Black M…, NC
Sign posted to show when Old Mitchell Toll Road is closed.
Oct 17, 2017 near Black M…, NC


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Dec 27, 2022
Cole Gregorie
Apr 13, 2021
Connecticut Hiker