Tsali Recreation Area

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

Enjoy mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, motorized boating, kayaking or camping at Tsali Recreation Area, all located within steps of Fontana Lake.

Follow the Trail. The Tsali (pronounced “SAH-lee”) Recreation Area’s four-loop trail system has become a popular destination for mountain bikers and horseback riders. It is best known as a challenging mountain bike course.

  • The Right Loop, rated moderately difficult, offers 13.9 miles of single track, with shorter 4- and 8-mile loops possible.
  • The Left Loop, rated moderately difficult, is 11.9 miles of single track with views toward the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Fontana Lake.
  • The Mouse Branch Trail, rated moderately difficult, is 8.7 miles of single track and includes old logging roads.
  • The Thompson Loop, rated moderately difficult, is 7.3 miles of single track.

Hikers may travel the trails on any day, but mountain bikers and equestrians–the primary users–are kept separated by alternating days on the trails. Be sure to follow the trail schedule:

Right Loop and Left Loop:

  • Horses – Tuesday , Thursday, & Saturday
  • Mountain Bikes –Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday

Mouse Branch and Thompson Loop:

  • Horses – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, & Sunday
  • Mountain Bikes – Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday

Right Loop and Left Loop:

  • Horses – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, & Sunday
  • Mountain Bikes – Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday

Mouse Branch and Thompson Loop:

  • Horses – Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday
  • Mountain Bikes – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, & Sunday

There is a per-person day use fee for trail use. Fees can be paid at either the Tsali Bike or Horse Trailheads.

Sleep under the Stars. Open early April through October, Tsali Campground offers 42 campsites on a first-come, first-served basis. Many sites accommodate small RVs, but no hookups are available. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring and lantern post. Accessible flush toilets, hot showers and drinking water are available. Campers pay fees at the campground fee station.

Get in the Water.Fontana Lake offers flatwater paddling and motor boating. One boat launch is located at Tsali, while another is located nearby on FR 2553 at Lemmons Branch. Ample parking is available at either launch. Fishing is permitted year-round, and anglers will find some of the best fishing for walleye in the state. Anglers can also catch black bass, crappie, catfish and white bass.

Check out the brochure.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Campground openĀ for season.
Reservations: First Come First Served
Area Amenities: Accessible,Boat ramp,Tent camping,Picnic tables,Toilets,Drinking water,Parking
Fees $20 fee per night per site.
Open Season: April 15 - October 31
Usage: Light
Closest Towns: Robbinsville; Bryson City
Water: Drinking Water
Restroom: Flush

General Information


From Asheville, NC: Take I-40 west to exit 27 onto U.S. 19/74. Stay on U.S. 74 west to NC 28 west. Turn right and go 5 miles, look for sign on right.

From Knoxville, TN: Take U.S. 129 south through Maryville. Stay on U.S. 129 to Deals Gap. Take left onto NC 28 east. Sign is 25 miles on left.

From Bryson City: Take U.S. 19 south for 9 miles to NC 28 west. Turn right on NC 28. Go 5 miles and look for sign on right.

General Notes:

Cheoah Ranger District
1070 Massey Branch Road
Robbinsville, NC 28771
(828) 479-6431



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Camping & Cabins

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Horse Riding & Camping

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Water Activities

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Picnic tables Available
Drinking water Available
Toilets Showers and Flush toilets available at the Tsali Campground from April 1 - October 31
Parking Trailhead parking lot is for day trail use. Upper parking lot reserved for horse trailers.
Boat ramp Available
Tent camping Available
Accessible Accessible restrooms and campsites in the Tsali Campground are located in the lower loop.