If I were to base the popularity of a trail solely on the number of people I’ve passed, then Long Branch Trail is the most popular trail in Standing Indian.
It’s not like I’m there everyday to count, so this isn’t based on any scientific method, but it is the only trail where I consistently see other hikers. Come to think of it, most of the trails in Standing Indian I’ve had all to myself – unless I brought my family with me.
Why’s it so popular? I don’t know for sure, but it does have some good things going for it.
And, that’s not all.
Long Branch Trail has the perfect mix of trail features – it’s not the easiest or the hardest trail in the area, but it is a moderate trail, depending on your skill and fitness level, with some mild challenges thrown in to make it fun.
The trail has a knack of getting your heart rate up into the zone. Heck! You might even break a sweat, but it’s nothing like the difficulty of Lower Ridge Trail or several other “difficult” trails in the area.
In fact, the steepest part of the trail is the last tenth of a mile where it sharply climbs about 200 ft to the AT.
Maybe it’s popular because it offers several excellent backcountry campsites along the way…or it’s because the trail intersects with a well maintained Forest Service road and a horse trail which allows you to create endless hiking loops.
For me, I love hiking this trail for its beautiful woodland scenery. There are no views or scenic vistas to look forward to, but the trail follows Long Branch, which is a beautiful and fairly bold stream.
Just hearing the sound of Long Branch – even when you can’t see it – and you feel refreshed, invigorated, alive.
Long Branch Trail is also filled with little surprises, like the boulder field covered in green moss and the little swale that magically stays greener in the fall after the surrounding area has lost all its leaves. It’s like stepping into a warm spot on a cool fall day.
Who knows why it seems to be the most traveled path in Standing Indian?
Maybe it’s simply because the trailhead is right across the road from the Backcountry Info Center.
You should decide for yourself. Make plans to visit Long Branch Trail for your own personal experience of this little slice of Standing Indian.
But don’t be surprised if you see me on the trail too. I’m still trying to figure out why I like it so much. I’m sure it’ll be a lifelong endeavor.
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. Let me know if you’re ever in western North Carolina and you’re looking for a hike. I’d be happy to join you. Drop me a note in the comment section.
See ya’ on the trail,
Trail at a glance
Mileage: 2.3 miles (one way to the AT at Glassmine Gap)
Elevation change: 750 ft
Water sources: Streams/Springs
Trailhead: Across the road from the Backcountry Info Center at Standing Indian