NCNatural's Nantahala National Forest
Nantahala National Forest
Tsali Recreation Area

The Challenge of Tsali
Probably the most popular features of Tsali Recreation Area are the 39 miles of trails suited for mountain bikers and horse-back riders, as well as hikers. The 4-loop system offers a variety of landscapes. You can climb 1-foot wide rugged paths or travel flat, well-beaten roads. The four trails--Right, Left, Mouse Branch, and Thompson Loops--meander through mixed pine and hardwoods on a peninsula stretching into Fontana Lake.

Hikers may travel the trails any day, but mounatin bikers and equestrians, the primary users, are kept separated by alternating use of trails. A schedule is posted at all trailheads. There is a fee for mountain bikers. Check in at the Cheoah District Ranger Station.

Here's a preview of what you'll discover on the Tsali trails;

Some History
The Tsali Recreation Area is named for a Cherokee man who hid in this area in 1838. The US Government had ordered the Cherokees to move to Oklahoma--a tragic removal that's known as "The Trail of Tears". Exasperated by the brutality to his family, Tsali and others managed to escape to these mountains.

Tsali was coaxed to surrender by a promise to allow the others to remain in the area. Tsali voluntarily came forward as a sacrifice for his people. As a result, he, his brother, and two older sons were shot and killed.

Today the Eastern Band of the Cherokee live on ancestral Cherokee land about 12 air-miles east of the Tsali Recreation Area.

Forest Management
National Forests are managed for many uses, including outstanding recreation, wildlife habitat, wood products, and clean water. Watch for signs of forest management.

The pine forest here is threatened by the southern pine beetles. To control the beetles, infested trees are cut and removed. A ring of healthy pines around the infestation are also removed to create a buffer.

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. Some animals benefiting from these openings are wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, rabbits, songbirds, and butterflies.

Tsali Campground
Showers, flush toilets, and 41 campsites are offered at this campground. Bikers can head straight from the tent door to the trails.

Dispersed Camping
You may camp anywhere on forest service land, except in designated wildlife fields and in trail parking lots. Along entrance road (FR 1286), camp only at designated sites. Please leave your campsite clean by packing out all trash when you go. campfires are permitted, but a stove is recommended. Live trees may not be cut; use dead or downed wood. Be sure your fire is dead out when you leave. Bury all human waste and toilet paper.

Accessible Facilities
Restrooms located in the lower loop and nearby camping units are accessible.

Parking Facilities
The trailhead parking lot is for day trail use. Facilities include a restroom, bike-washing station, picnic tables.

Boating & Fishing
No fee is charged to use the boat launch and ample parking is available. lake fishing is permitted year-round. For information about fishing licenses, contact the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission at 919 662-4381.

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