Nantahala National Forest

Standing Indian Basin

Standing Indian Basin is the horseshoe-shaped drainage formed by the Nantahala and Blue Ridge Mountains. Several prominent peaks over 5,000 feet in elevation—Albert Mountain, Big Butt, Little Bald, and Standing Indian Mountain—cap the rim of the drainage. The Nantahala River is born amid its high valleys and bisects the drainage.

The forest resources of Standing Indian Basin are managed to provide a variety of recreational opportunities and diverse wildlife habitats and to yield a timber crop. It is an excellent example of multiple-use management on national forest land. "Multiple Use" means managing all of the natural resources of the forest in a variety of combinations to best meet the needs of the American people. The guiding principle is "the greatest good to the greatest number in the long run." Resource uses are combined to complement one another. An area may contain several resources and encompass several uses, such as in the Standing Indian Basin, or one use may outweigh the others such as the Southern Nantahala Wilderness.

The Legend of Standing Indian Mountain
According to an ancient Cherokee legend, a long time ago a great winged monster swooped down and carried off an Indian child playing near the village. The huge creature took the child to a cave high up in the cliffs of a nearby mountain. Frightened Cherokees from across their nation gathered to ask the Great Spirit for help in getting rid of the monster. After days and nights of prayer, an awesome, blinding bolt of lightning and tremendous thunderclap bursted out of a clear sky and shattered much of the mountain, killing the beast and its offspring. The lightning was so powerful that it destroyed the trees, producing the "bald" mountaintop that remains treeless to this day.

A Cherokee warrior, posted as a lookout near the cliffs, not only was killed by the lightning but was turned to stone, some said as a punishment for being a poor sentry. Most of his figure has been worn away by the passing centuries, but a pillar of stone with an ill-defined "head" at the top still remains—all that is left of the "standing Indian." Visitors may not be able to pick out this stone effigy from among the jumble of rocks, but they can easily see the cliffs that were torn asunder by the Great Spirit's benevolent bolt of lightning.

Trail Descriptions

Bear Pen Gap Trail - The trailhead is located on F.S. Road 67 about four miles south of the Backcountry Information Station. This trail follows Bearpen Creek upstream to several large boggy areas containing wildflowers. Trout fishing is excellent in the many small pools created by cascading waters.

Betty Creek Gap - This trail begins on F.S. Road 67 about four miles beyond the Standing Indian Campground turnoff. It crosses the Nantahala River, passes through a tunnel of rhododendron and ends at the Appalachian Trail at Betty Creek Gap.

Big Indian Loop - This trail begins at a wildlife field on F.S. Road 67, about four miles beyond the Backcountry Information Station. It crosses the Nantahala River, then meanders through extensive rhododendron and birch thickets. Good views are provided of Big Indian Creek, the tumbling stream for which the trail is named. This is a designated horse trail, but is also used by hikers, hunters, and fishers. Follow the orange blazes.

Big Laurel Falls - The trailhead is located on F.S. Road 67 about 6.5 miles beyond the Backcountry Information Station. It begins at the same trailhead as the Timber Ridge Trail. Cross the Nantahala River, turn right, and follow the old railroad grade downriver, passing through an archway of mountain laurel and rhododendron. The trail then leaves the river and follows Laurel Creek to the base of the falls. It is an easy hike for the entire family.

Blackwell Gap Loop - Follow the Hurricane Creek Loop Trail to the junction of the Blackwell Gap Loop Trail on the left. The trail then follows an old road to Long Branch and parallels the stream back to F.S. Road 67. Follow this road back to the Hurricane Creek Loop Trail trailhead to complete the loop. Horse trails are marked with orange blazes.

Hurricane Creek Loop - The trailhead is on F.S. Road 67 about two miles beyond the turnoff to Standing Indian Campground. It follows old logging roads and is marked with orange blazes. The trail passes examples of forest management and offers good opportunities for viewing wildlife. You may connect with F.S. Road 67 at Yellow Mountain below Albert Mountain or continue the loop back to the trailhead.

John Wasilik Memorial Poplar - The John Wasilik Memorial Poplar is reached by an easy hike through a beautiful stand of poplar and cherry from Rock Gap on F.S. Road 67. This tree is the second largest yellow-poplar in the United States, with an 8-foot diameter and a 25-foot circumference. It was 135 feet tall, until its top was blown out by a storm.

During the early 1930s, the surrounding area was logged and a sister tree of equal size was cut. The weight of the log strained the oxen so much that the logger decided to leave the other big poplar. The tree is named for John Wasilik, an early-day ranger on the Wayah District.

Kimsey Creek - This trail begins at the Backcountry Information Station on FS Road 67. Follow the blue-blazed trail to the road bridge in the campground. Immediately after crossing the bridge, follow Park Creek Trail to the first blue-blazed trail leading to the left. This is the Kimsey Creek Trail. It follows Kimsey Creek upstream, crossing it several times. It passes three wildlife fields, which provide opportunities to view grouse, deer, or other wildlife species. It ends at Deep Gap. Here, you may continue on the Appalachian Trail to Standing Indian Mountain and return to the Backcountry Information Station on Lower Ridge Trail, a total hiking distance of ten miles.

Long Branch This trail begins on F.S. Road 67 across from the Backcountry Information Station. It makes a gradual ascent to the Appalachian Trail at Glassmine Gap. Wildlife openings near Blackwell Ridge offer a chance for viewing wildlife, as well as providing panoramic views of the Standing Indian Basin and the Deep Gap area. The trail parallels Long Branch at a distance, but its noisy waters can be heard.

Mooney Falls - The trailhead is located on F.S. Road 67 about seven miles beyond the Backcountry Information Station. The trail meanders to the falls through an archway of rhododendron and mountain laurel. Moss-covered chestnut logs, remnants of a bygone era, lie in beds of galax and wildflowers. This trail is a delight to photographers and families who enjoy short hikes. For your safety, do not try to climb the rocks around the waterfall. They are wet and very slippery.

Park Creek - This trail begins at the Backcountry Information Station on F.S. Road 67. It then follows the old railroad grade along the Nantahala River downstream for about two miles to the mouth of Park Creek. Here it turns and follows Park Creek upstream for another two miles, passing through young stands of birch trees. The creek banks are covered with mossy rocks and a variety of ferns and wildflowers. The numerous small pools and cascades provide many opportunities for trout fishing. The trail then leaves Park Creek and passes into more open hardwood vegetation. It crosses several small ridges and branches and ends at Park Gap trailhead on F.S. Road 71-1. This trail provides a ten-mile loop when hiked with Park Ridge Trail.

Park Ridge - Begin at the Backcountry Information Station on F.S. Road 67. Follow the Park Creek Trail downstream along the Nantahala River for about 0.5 mile to the junction with the Park Ridge Trail. Turn left and begin a gradual ascent to the top of the ridge, ending at the Park Gap trailhead on F.S. Road 71-1. This trail provides a ten-mile loop when hiked with Park Creek Trail.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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