Town of Banner Elk, North Carolina

    Biking and Hiking

    Press Release

    March 2, 2021

    Emily Webb

    Assistant Director for Content Strategy
    828.898.3804 (office)

    This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    Lees-McRae is the smallest college to be named a Gold Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists

    BANNER ELK, N.C. — The League of American Bicyclists, the premier grassroots advocacy organization encouraging better bicycling and protecting the rights of people who bike, has honored Lees-McRae College with a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly University award in recognition of the institution’s achievements in promoting and enabling safe, accessible bicycling on campus.

    Lees-McRae, which has nearly 1,000 students, is the smallest educational institution in the US to receive the Gold-level designation. Lees-McRae is able to rank alongside larger institutions with more resources through dedication to campus accessibility and education about the benefits of cycling. The college’s commitment to cycling is evident not only in its endeavors to create a campus culture and infrastructure that promote biking, but in its Cycling Studies minor, the only academic program of its kind in the country, and its champion men’s and women’s cycling teams.

    “It is so energizing to have Lees-McRae among our cohort of 212 Bicycle Friendly Universities across the country,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. “The 2020 class of 38 Bicycle Friendly Universities, which includes Lees-McRae, has had to address a crisis unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Amidst the pandemic, we are grateful each of these institutions has acknowledged the benefits to the well-being and health of its students, staff, and faculty in being a Bicycle Friendly University. These colleges and universities are leading by building healthy environments where people can safely get around while improving the well-being of their community by enabling access to sustainable transportation options.”

    The Bicycle Friendly University program now includes 212 colleges and universities in 47 states and the District of Columbia, and is part of the League’s Bicycle Friendly America program, which also awards communities and businesses with certifications as part of its mission to create a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.

    “The applications from colleges and universities in 2020 demonstrate the myriad challenges educational institutions have and are overcoming in order to serve the needs of their students and employees,” said the League’s Bicycle Friendly America Director, Amelia Neptune. “What’s clear is that bicycling is part of the solution many colleges and universities are using to better the campus life of their communities. The League is so proud of institutions like Lees-McRae for continuing this important work of building a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone at such a critical time for the health of our population and our planet.”

    Deana Acklin, Outdoor Programs and Campus Bicycle coordinator, said, “Our collaborative efforts are what afforded us this honor. Our mission moving forward as a Gold Bicycle Friendly Campus is to promote sustainability on campus and connection to the outdoors by growing the bicycle culture and making bikes easily accessible at Lees-McRae. We contribute to this culture by advancing our advocacy, improving our infrastructure, improving educational awareness for both people on bikes and drivers, and by providing a bicycle to any student who needs a bike for recreational activities or for commuting.”

    As Lees-McRae continues to improve its campus accessibility by bike, it will have access to a variety of free tools, a library of resources, and technical assistance from the League to become even more welcoming to people who bike.

    To apply or learn more about the free BFU program, visit the League online at

    For 141 years, the League of American Bicyclists has been leading the movement to create a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone. Its commitment is to listen and learn, define standards and share best practices to engage diverse communities and build a powerful, unified voice for change. Learn more at


    Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, Lees-McRae College is a private, residential college that awards baccalaureate and graduate degrees. At nearly 4,000 feet—the highest elevation of any campus on the East Coast—the college celebrates its location through distinct programming. An emphasis on experiential education inspires students to learn by doing and gain broad knowledge through study across disciplines. To provide opportunities for all, the college offers bachelor’s degree completion programs online and in surrounding communities. For more information, please visit or call 828.898.5241.

    Biking in and Around Banner Elk, NC

    Mountain biking is fast becoming one of the most popular activities in the High Country. There are several bike races and biking events that are held in the area. If you are visiting us in the spring, summer or fall, check out a biking race or event that is scheduled during your stay.

    There are several trails to ride in and around Banner Elk:

    Beech Mountain

    Beech Mountain has 51 miles of biking routes. Lance Armstrong covered many, if not all, of them during his road to recovery. There are climbs of 1,400 feet in only 3-1/2 miles, offering challenging rides for even the most advanced cyclists as well as scenic routes for those who just want to cruise and enjoy the scenery. In May, Beech Mountain holds the BEEST WEEKEND Cycling Time Trial where you can actually do the ride that inspired Lance Armstrong. Beech Mountain invites you to participate in this inaugural event of fun for the entire family.

    Scheduled guided group rides are on the third Saturday of the month, May through October. The rides are led by Beech Mountain's own Gil Adams, Daniel Scagnelli and Rory Ellington. Rides will leave from the Beech Mountain Visitors Center, next to the Town Hall, at 10:30 a.m. and will return to the start at end of the ride. A Bike Beech Mountain Guide is available by calling the Chamber of Commerce at 828-387-9238.  For more information and routes of each ride, call the Beech Mountain Recreation Center at 828-387-3003.

    Also, the Beech Mountain Bike Club has developed 11 rugged trails with over 40 miles of adventure for your riding enjoyment. Their club members and sponsors are devoted to developing and keeping their trails maintained for the use of all mountain bikers.

    Sugar Mountain

    There are biking trails that interweave throughout the Village of Sugar Mountain. Trail access is free from May through October during daylight hours. Trail maps are located in a black marked mailbox at the base of the Flying Mile slope. Trails are constantly being maintained so please be cautious. Also keep in mind that weather and other variables can change the condition of any trail. While riding a bike within the Village limits, helmets are required. Sugar Mountain Resort provides a lift service to mountain bikers. You can bring your bike and ride the lift up and practice your downhill skills. The Showdown at Sugar Mountain is a NORBA National Championship Event that showcases both professionals and also has some amateur events. This event is usually very big with participants coming from all 50 states, and usually takes place sometime in May.

    Hiking in and Around Banner Elk

    For summer fun, enjoy the mild weather as you hike your way through the North Carolina mountains and explore the numerous hiking trails around Banner ELk, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain. Experience the incredible autumn views, spring wildflowers, and the peaceful retreats typical of the mountains of North Carolina. Day trips abound, from guided fly fishing tours, to white water rafting excursions for the more adventuresome.

    Banner Elk is at the center of all this and more, with spectacular North Carolina mountain scenery everywhere you look! We will show you in this site our beautiful piece of the earth, traveling to the quaint and unique villages that surround Banner Elk. Blue Ridge mountain rentals and retreats at Valle Crucis, Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain and more! Catch a trout in Foscoe, and discover the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountain range – the majestic Grandfather Mountain.

    Biking and Hiking Committee

    First Thursday Night

    The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meets on the first Thursday of each month at 4pm at the Town Hall.

    Here are some important links regarding bicycling in The High Country:

    Rail to Trail Conversancy 
    League of American Bicyclist
    North Carolina DOT Bicycle 
    Magic Cycles
    Boone Bike and Touring
    Weekly Rides

    Interactive Map

    The link below will take you to the Towns new interactive map site.

    Win and Office

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