Accessible, Fun Trail Riding and Running in Cherokee
By Emma Castleberry
Cherokee is home to the Fire Mountain Trails, a network of about 12 miles of bike-optimized single track that is open year-round for both mountain biking and running. The trail system, which opened in 2017, is free to the public and is privately owned, funded and operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). “We’re the first federally recognized tribe to build a place like this,” says Jeremy Hyatt, secretary of operations at EBCI. “It’s upon a ridgeline with beautiful views and the terrain is challenging but accessible.” It’s also one of the first trail systems in WNC to allow class-1 electric mountain bikes.
“The initial idea for Fire Mountain Trails came about to give our tribal citizens another opportunity to be active and be outdoors,” says Hyatt. “Like many places, unfortunately, diabetes and obesity are very common within our community here on the Qualla Boundary. This is built as a quality-of-life project for our tribal citizens and it has since become a regional destination for cycling in WNC. Our terrain is very accessible for most riders and skill levels. It is a wonderful fun place to be and it’s right here in the middle of our ancestral homelands.” Hyatt says the trails have brought new businesses to the area and increased tourism, providing an economic boost for the area.
Fire Mountain Trails was built sustainably and responsibly by Trail Dynamics, a trail builder in Transylvania County. “Fire Mountain Trails are fast and flowy trails that drain exceptionally well,” says Brett Hackshow, co-owner of BCOutdoors, Cherokee, a full-service mountain bike shop near the trailhead. “One of the coolest things about the trail system is that 15 cars can be in the parking lot and you won’t run into anyone on the trails. If you enjoy jumps, be sure to check out the newest trail: Skilly, a downhill trail with table-top jumps and wooden platform drops.”
The Fire Mountain Trailhead is located near the Oconaluftee Indian Village, 218 Drama Road, Cherokee. Find a trail map and more information at DiscoverJacksonNC.com/outdoors/adventure/fire-mountain-trails.