Among the tremendous mountain views in Ridgecrest, a pair of winding bike trails carries riders east from Buncombe County through the Pisgah National Forest into neighboring McDowell County.
Distinctively different but complementary, Point Lookout Trail and Kitsuma Trail provide some premier riding for mountain biking enthusiasts from around the country.
Experienced mountain bikers seeking the downhill thrill of an off-road ride through forest drop into Kitsuma at the trailhead on Royal Gorge Road. The narrow, five-mile single track descends the mountainside sharply, a challenge for even skilled mountain bikers.
Six members of the South Florida-based Team Bryant Security, scheduled to race the 16th annual Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell last weekend, rode Point Lookout Trail up to the Kitsuma trailhead just hours after their arrival last Thursday.
Shay Ben-Davis, who has been mountain biking for more than three years, was hoping to improve his time in the Mount Mitchell race this year. The Kistuma-Point Lookout loop was a challenging tune-up for him.
Having ridden Kitsuma last year, he was again impressed with what the trail had to offer.
“Overwhelming at times,” he said of it. “It has some overwhelming climbs and some pretty technical downhill sections.”
His older brother Gal, a 15-year mountain biking veteran, has been riding in Western North Carolina for several years and enjoys the elevation changes that the mountains bring.
“It’s great for biking, especially compared to Florida,” Gal said. “This is the best area for it on the East Coast in my opinion.”
Fellow Floridian and mountain biker Mike Bramson races in several events in the region. He and his four friends make their annual trip to Black Mountain for the Jerdon Mountain Challenge as well as the Mount Mitchell race. The tradition began when the group was looking online for a unique mountain biking experience.
“We were looking for racing events, and there was an epic 60-mile, bucket list-type race,” Bramson said. “All but one of us had turned 40, so we wanted to do something that we hadn’t done before.”
Bramson and his friends are familiar with many mountain biking trails throughout the region. But each year they return to the trailhead in Ridgecrest every year, it seems.
“As far as this area is concerned, Kitsuma stacks up against any other trail in Pisgah National Forest,” Bramson said.