And, so far, this trail, Bear Pen Gap, is one of the most pleasant and enjoyable hikes I’ve been on in Standing Indian.
Meandering through a gorgeous valley between Bear Pen Mountain and Yellow Bald, roughly following the course of a bold creek, this trail, marked with blue blazes, offers gorgeous scenery, the sound of rushing water and an easy climb, compared to most trails in Standing Indian.
I’m not surprised. It’s off the beaten path, so to speak, being three miles past the Backcountry Info Center and away from all the other major trails in Standing Indian.
But that’s OK with me. I like the solitude of a remote hiking trail.
My biggest impression of Bear Pen is the amount of water coming down the mountains. I must have crossed ten streams and countless springs. And, like most trails in Standing Indian, there was one point – for about a tenth of a mile – where the trail and a stream became one.
You get used to it in these mountains. It explains why this area is so lush and full of amazing wildflowers.
I was struck by the incredible amount of Trilliums – white ones and deep, dark red ones too. They were all over the place.
At one point, as the trail began to climb above the bold creek, I found myself in what must have been a micro-climate, which is common throughout these mountains. Warm air gets trapped in this little valley and the forest floor below was unusually green, compared to the surrounding area.
You can actually feel the difference in temperature when you step into these warm pockets.
I’m guessing the vegetation in this micro-climate must be about two weeks ahead of everything else. And not far from here was a nicely situated backcountry campsite, which I imagine would be very comfortable in the spring and fall, being noticeably warmer here than elsewhere on the path.
Even though there’s a 1000 foot change in elevation on this trail, the majority of this change occurs in the last half mile. The trail climbs back up to Forest Service Road 67, which makes a loop through Standing Indian as it makes its way to Albert Mountain.
This is the official end of Bear Pen Gap Trail. You can turn around here and head back to the start, or, if you’re feeling up to it, cross the road, pick up the Appalachian Trail (white blazes) and turn left (or northbound) to Albert Mountain Fire Tower.
The half mile to the top of Albert Mountain, with a climb of over 500 feet in elevation, is well known throughout the hiking community as the first rock scramble on the AT.
It’s not impassable, but it would help if you were in fairly good condition and not afraid to crawl over the rocks, which some folks find themselves doing at times.
I actually found it fun and exhilarating, but, of course, I wasn’t carrying a thru-hiker’s pack on my back. I’m sure that might change my perspective.
But it’s worth it! The Albert Mountain Fire Tower offers 360° views of the Nantahala Mountains, as well as view of Franklin, NC. On a clear day, you can see for miles.
I’m looking forward to doing this hike more often. I think you’d like it too. Let me know if you want to check it out some time. I’d be happy to go with you.
See ya’ on the trail,
Oops! I ran out of space for the rest of my pics. Oh well. I’ll just attach them below…. Make sure you check them out too.
Trail at a glance
Mileage: 2.5 miles (one way) + .5 mile if you continue to Albert Mtn fire tower
Elevation change: 1000 ft on Bearpen + 500 ft to Albert Mtn
Water sources: Streams/Springs
Trailhead: 3.3 miles past the Backcountry Info Center at Standing Indian