Nantahala National Forest: Bearpen Gap Trail to Albert Mountain and Long Branch Trail, Franklin, North Carolina
The Standing Indian Backcountry Area and the Southern Nantahala Wilderness comprise one unbroken tract of mountains and deep river valleys near the town of Franklin. The headquarters of Nantahala River, one of North Carolina's best-known rivers, are located here. Dozens of miles of hiking trails weave through the area. Two mountains are the key destinations in the region: Albert Mountain and Standing Indian Mountain. On this hike, you'll have the opportunity to use seldom-traveled trails in a loop or shuttle hike that visits the summit of Albert Mountain. This hike occurred on December 5th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Bearpen Gap Trail from the lower end near the Nantahala River to the upper end at the Appalachian Trail. From there, I would follow the Appalachian Trail up and over Albert Mountain to the Long Branch Trail. Using the Long Branch Trail, I would return to FS 67 and the Nantahala River area. I would finish by walking FS 67 back to the Bearpen Trail.
Ahh, there's so many areas that I still haven't explored, including the Southern Nantahala Wilderness, which has escaped my eye up to this hike. The Standing Indian Backcountry Area, along with the Southern Nantahala Wilderness, have both the highest mountain south of the Smokies and the headwaters of the famed Nantahala River. The greenery was superb, when I went here, with few rocks even at the summit. Although the better known Albert Mountain has a fire tower and beautiful views, I decided to tackle the higher and less-visited Standing Indian Mountain, which rivals Albert Mountain in terms of views. There's many ways to access Standing Indian Mountain, although I chose the least-used one. Little did I know how hard it would get. This hike occurred on Saturday, May 25th, 2014. My plan was to park at Standing Indian Campground, and follow the Lower Ridge Trail (#28) all the way to the summit of Standing Indian Mountain and its two overlooks. I would return the same way.
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