Four Days Bikepacking WIlson Creek and Lost Cove

Just a brief post from a rough and tumble four day loop through some of western North Carolina’s most rugged and unforgiving terrain.

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As summer waned, we kept an eye on the forecast leading up to the four day window we had pegged for the trip. Potentially cold, but no rain in sight. We planned to traverse the Wilson Creek and Lost Cove wilderness via a network of trails and gravel in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain and the Linville Gorge. Although we didn’t have a thorough route plan, the premise was to get deep into the forest, ride some unknown trails, camp amongst beautiful rocks and rivers, and beat ourselves up a bit. All of these were fulfilled, especially the latter. We had little to no intel on a couple of the tracks we tackled, one of which required about 20 river crossings and some bouldering, with bikes. But nonetheless, fun was had and nothing was broken.

Among other interesting things that are only experienced in the wild, we saw a squirrel take a swan-dive from a rock and proceed to swim across a river; Dustin ran over a fairly large copperhead; I accidentally caught my riding pants on fire; Dustin accidentally caught his fuel bottle on fire; and we overnighted at what both of us considered the ‘best campsite ever’.

Bikepacking - Surly Krampus Ibis Mojo HD

Parked at a forest service road, we get the bikes packed up and ready to push up our first steep trail.

Bikepacking Wilson Ridge

I was slightly frightened by the view from my tent in the morning as we camped along the ridge. ENO, we can talk ad rights for a fair price.

Bikepacking Wilson Ridge

Double-track ridge road eventually gave way to some pretty rugged singletrack.

Bikepacking Wilson Creek

Once we descended the ridge, we stopped for lunch and water on the river.


A stuffed bobcat at the Wilson Creek visitor center.

Sawyer Water Filter for Bikepacking

I tried out the Sawyer Squeeze filter, which weighs a scant 3 ounces, on this trip. I like it overall but had an issue with the rubber seal popping out and leaking occasionally. Maybe a user error as I got it right the last few times we stopped for water.

Bikepacking Wilson Creek

Small hints of things hanging on to summer.
Surly Krampus Bikepacking

This was basically our campsite front porch.

Bikepacking Lost Cove

Sunset filtering through Lost Cove.
Bikepacking Lost Cove

Another sunset shot.

Bikepacking Lost Cove

Trying to stay warm by a nice fire.

Bikepacking Lost Cove

Playing around with night photos.

Bikepacking Lost Cove

The sunrise exposes layers upon layers of Appalachian ridgelines.
Little Lost Cove Cliffs

Interesting flora atop the cliffs.

Pinnacle Dualist Bikepacking Bike Touring

Trying out my new Pinnacle Dualist pot, which fits perfectly in a 5L Big River drybag on a fork-mounted cage.
Bikepacking Lost Cove

Dustin enjoying morning coffee on our temporary front porch.

Bikepacking - Surly Krampus

Coming down the steeps on the Krampus. I was a bit more in self-preservation mode than D$. Those leaves can hide some nasty baby-heads.

Ibis Mojo HD - Bikepacking - Anything Cages - Revelate Bags

My Mojo HD wasn’t quite made for carrying a load, although it performed rather well. Looking forward to a Surly ECR!

Bikepacking Wilson Creek

Plenty of fall color on view right now.

Bikepacking Wilson Creek

Dustin must have ran over this guy laying across a spring on the trail. I am pretty sure it was a copperhead, although a little confused why he was laying in the water in cold weather. He was fairly big and didn’t seem all to happy when I pushed him aside with a stick.

Bikepacking Wilson Creek

Another lifeform hanging on to summer.
Bikepacking Wilson Creek Ibis Mojo HD, Revelate Viscacha

A quick stop at the tiny store in Mortimer, complete with wood-carved bear.

Dirt Rag Flask

The Dirt Rag flask is functional and pretty. P.S. Whiskey and hot chocolate is a delicious fire-side beverage.

Surly Krampus Bikepacking

I was a little jealous of Dustin’s Krampus on this trip.

Surly Krampus Bikepacking

Old circles, new circles.

Bikepacking Lost Cove

On the way back, looking through some trees at a ridge we had ridden a couple of days prior.

Olde Hickory Death By Hops

Dustin contemplating which of the tastings to try first during lunch at the Olde Hickory Taproom.
  • July Urschel

    Beautiful! I’m slightly jealous that you guys got out to Lost Cove. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks! It was very nice It’s been a while since I’ve been out when it isn’t raining or cloudy…

  • Ashley McGee

    That looks absolutely gorgeous!! and dangerous!! What a trip —


  • Jjajjajack

    nice way to roll into the time change. best part of the old north state did that on the moto several times but need to do it on the bike to commune with the native species. what is the trip to africa looking like? just came back from uganda near congo and rwanda. stunning country lovely people

  • Hey there. We are flying out on the 6th of December to South Africa. We plan on spending some time in Uganda and Rwanda towards February… I’d love to hear more about your experiences there…

  • I hadn’t been in that area for some time, and although there is a little more private and developed land in the Eastern portion, there are still a lot of very remote and beautiful places; and a lot of dangers lurking under a blanket of leaves this time of year…

  • Logan, looks like a great route! I’ve long wanted to design an Appalachian tour, although as my touring style changes, it is likely to be more of a Grand Bikepack du Appalachia. Surly Krampus/ECR is looking to be a really valuable tool for this kind of riding, although for me, it would be a necessary eventuality to fit a suspension fork in addition to the big tires.

    Looks like RSD Bikes in Canada is soon to offer 29+ steel frames and suspension forks.

  • Well, unfortunately, there are a lot of would-be routes in western NC that are disconnected because of trails that are ‘hiking only’. For some of the trails, there is a reason they are hiking only, for others, not so much. There are some great routes, but you have to use gravel and an occasional paved road to hook it all up. There are some longer dirt routes in Virginia, although I have only scratched the surface there. Whenever you decide to head this way for that Grand Bikepack, let me know…

    P.S. You’d be surprised how much those 29+ tires eat up the bumps and will make you think twice about the need for suspension. Cheers!

  • If the other half-dozen leading plans don’t take root, I could be back east riding next summer. Otherwise, it’ll go on the long list of curiosities around the world to explore.

    Between the current 29×2.35/2.4″ set-up and my year and a half on the Pugsley, I’m aware of the ability of fat tires to eat up some of this stuff– the volume (and weight) of the tires and wheels make for an assured ride. However, the nature of undampened suspension on rough stuff can be disconcerting. Additionally, with a suspension fork, I find fewer reasons to be adjusting tire pressures en route, which leaves more time to ride.

    I’d definitely spend time fully rigid before making the final decision. In theory, I love rigid bikes. In practice– I think you know how that works.

  • Yeah, I guess I should have figured, I think I had ran across a post with your Pugs a while back while researching fork mounted cages or something.

    There might be something about the relaxed geometry of that Krampus as well. When Dustin let me borrow it a few weeks ago for a couple hours of singletrack, it truly felt like I was on a full-suspension rig when traveling at a decent clip over small bumps. I was made aware that I was riding a rigid bike on the bigger stuff though…

  • Cass

    Awesome stuff, and lovely colours. Enjoy the countdown to Africa!

  • Amy

    I want a 8×10 of the sexy beast in his sleeping bag- make it happen!

  • Thanks Cass… Prep time is happening a little too quickly!

  • That’s probably doable through Apple’s print service if you really want one…

  • Donald

    Great writeup! Really enjoy your blog, very inspiring. Look forward to future posts.

  • Thanks Donald! Posts will be coming from the wilds of Africa starting mid December…

  • Joe

    You have made me curious about ‘dirt routes in Virginia’. I live out near Cumberland Gap NP and can find hiking only trails out here. Could you drop a few trail names so I could do some research? Thanks in advance.
    I enjoyed this write-up on Carolina. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks Joe. i have only done the Iron Mountain Trail in Virginia (bikepacking) and some singletrack around Danville. You can probably find some trails here: Also, I heard of folks riding some trails around Shenandoah Mtn. Check out Douthat State Park for more singletrack. Evidently with a little map work you can connect several trails and dirt/gravel for a good portion of the VA Appalachians. There are 4 or 5 National Geo Trails Illustrated maps ( Right now I only have the Mt. Rogers map…

  • Joe

    Thanks so much! Tailwinds and blue skies!

  • Yaniv Eliash

    Groceries in Israel ? :-P
    I can only be jealous, we don’t have that weather and amazing mountains view in our dry area…

  • That’s funny… I didn’t even notice the flag being there until I saw that photo. I was pretty exhausted at that point and we were running out of daylight…

  • Yaniv Eliash

    Can’t wait for the next post from Africa
    Your posts makes me want to go out now and start pedaling nowhere :-)

  • Dylan Trost

    The “night shot” photo rules pretty hard.

  • Thanks Dylan!

  • Julian Bender

    On the off chance you see this reply, I’m living in Jerusalem and planning a couple bikepacking trips in the Galilee and Negev this spring. Interested in joining?

  • Hi Julian. I’d love to but we plan on being in the US fir the next few months. Check out Nick Carman (gypsy bt trade). That may be in their trajectory…

  • Julian Bender

    Haha thanks, I guess it’s not likely you’d be in Israel. I was actually trying to get a hold of Yaniv! Anyway, perhaps he has email notifications turned on for replies here…

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