New Year’s Day on the Park Creek-Park Ridge Loop Trail

Green moss encroaching on a blue blaze.How did I let this happen? It’s been weeks since I’ve been able to hike in the woods.

Somehow October and November got away from me. I was beginning to show signs of Cabin Fever. And that’s not good…for anyone.

What to do?

You and I both know there’s only one cure for Cabin Fever; lace up your boots and hit the trail. Sounds like the perfect prescription, doesn’t it?

I love where I live! I know I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it a million more times. But there are hundreds of trails within a short drive of my home. It’s really a hiker’s paradise.

Choosing a trail, however, can feel like standing in the middle of a video store and trying to decide what movie you want to watch.

Fortunately, it wasn’t hard to pick this time. I headed straight to Standing Indian so I could hike one of my favorite loops; the Park Creek-Park Ridge loop.

The beautiful Upper Nantahala River.Follow the sign to the various trailheads.There's always some green to find in the winter woods.The Trail

The Park Creek and Park Ridge trails are actually two different trails and fabulous in their own way. Taking the half mile connector between the two trails turns an “out-and-back” trip into a very nice roundabout walk, bringing you right back to where you started. It’s perfect for families and hikers of almost any age.

Though there are no scenic overlooks or amazing waterfalls along this trail…or any “special” places you need to see – it still offers plenty of lush beauty, the solitude of the backcountry and the soothing sound of babbling water practically anywhere on the trail.

In fact, like most trails in Standing Indian, there are several places along this loop where it’s hard to discern the trail from the stream. But that’s all part of its charm.

Leaving the Backcountry Info Center, follow the signs and the blue blazed trail through the Standing Indian Campground. Various trailheads will branch off from this feeder trail.

I always start with the Park Creek trail first. It travels for about a mile along the Upper Nantahala River on what I think is an old railroad grade. History buffs might know for sure, but I do know there are other old grades in the basin.

Take your time as you pass through the thick rhododendron and dog hobble and check out some of the large boulders and rocky places along the river. Little side trails will reveal nice long views of the river, swimming holes, and some beautiful whitewater cascades.

A bridge over Park Creek.Leading the way on Park Creek Trail.One of the many cascades on Park Creek.The trail takes a sharp left turn when it reaches Park Creek. For the next mile and a half the path meanders around this bold tributary and begins a gentle, long climb.

I don’t think many hikers venture pass this point. Park Creek Trail begins to narrow and you’re likely to find fewer signs of travelers and many more tree branches and blow downs across the path.

This was the first time I’ve hiked the trail in the dead of winter. And, to my surprise, after about two miles in, I found a clearing I had never seen before. It was about twenty feet off the path. The thicket that separated it from the path is obviously too dense to permit detection in the summer.

It’s always fun finding these woodland meadows. The forest service maintains these openings for wildlife, but they’re nonetheless surprising when you happen upon one – a clearing in the middle of seemingly nowhere.

Doghobble encroaching on the path.

The trail crossing Park Creek.

Moss covered stone on Park Creek Trail.

Somewhere around the 2.5 mile mark, you’ll have to ford Park Creek. It’s fairly wide at this point and, depending on the amount of recent rain, the large stepping stones can sometimes be submerged.

It’s always a good idea whenever you’re hiking in Standing Indian to use trekking poles or a walking stick. With as much water on the trails and the numerous stream crossings, trekking poles come in handy, providing extra balance and stability.

There’s nothing worse in the winter than slipping off a rock and getting your foot soaked.

In about another tenth of a mile and you’ll come to a fork in the path. Park Creek Trail continues to the right and the Connector Trail to Park Ridge Trail turns left. This spot is generally well marked (although the sign looked like it was in need of some repair when I was there on New Year’s Day).

Trail marker for Park Ridge Trail.Rhododendrons along Park Ridge Trail.A spring running through the middle of Park Ridge Trail.There’s only about 550 feet of elevation gain on Park Creek-Park Ridge loop and most of it comes in the last quarter mile of the Connector Trail. It’s easy enough with switchbacks and when you reach the top you’ll find yourself at the intersection of three forest service roads.

These grassy roads are not on any of the maps I own, but one of the roads has a sign indicating it connects with Kimsey Creek Trail.

Turn right once you reach the forest service road, walk about 20 yards and take the Park Ridge return trail on your left. You’ll notice a set of stairs to the right. This is the continuation of the Park Ridge Trail which follows the ridge line between Park Creek and Kimsey Creek.

The Return Trip

A map of the Park Creek-Park Ridge Loop trail.

Park Creek Trail is marked as 33 and Park Ridge Trail is marked as 32 and 32A, which is the Connector Trail. The dotted line highlighted in orange is the AT at Rock Gap. (Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

From here it’s all downhill. For the next mile or so, you’ll amble around tall poplars, oaks and an occasional beech tree. Every now and again you’ll come across a rhododendron thicket hiding another soggy branch you’ll have to cross.

Eventually this will intersect with the old railroad grade you started on. Turn right and follow the signs back to the Back Country Info Center.

Anytime of year is great time to hike this trail. In the summer, it offers a lush forest, cool shade and plenty of watery distractions. In the winter, when the leaves are gone, you can see the incredible contours of the land around you as it makes a big circle around Bee Tree Knob.

Just shy of five miles, this fantastic loop is great for a family hike, power walk or even some scenic trail running. Let me know what you think if you ever get the chance to try it.

Where did you hike on New Year’s Day?

Deep Creek and Juney Whank Falls

Looking for a good time? Maybe some wholesome family fun? Deep Creek is about as close as you can come to a natural amusement park…and a helluva lot cheaper.

We’ve been going for years and we’ve only seen and done a fraction of what’s available.

Cool and refreshing Deep Creek in the GSMNP

Looking upstream at the calm, lower section of Deep Creek. Great for younger kids to tube!

There’s so much to love about Deep Creek! Each time we go I promise myself we’re going to explore more of the whole area.

But, alas, I’m just a kid at heart. All we ever do, like so many times before, is tube down the half-mile long white water rapids of Deep Creek. All day long; up and down, one run after another with a little swimming thrown in now and then.

It’s so much fun. You’ve really got to try it for yourself!

Here’s a video from last year’s trip. I didn’t feel like walking back to my car to get my camera this year. It would have kept me from making another run.

Located on the southern edge of the Great Smoky Mountain Park and just north of Bryson City, there’s so much more to Deep Creek than tubing. I know, for some of you who have been there, that’s going to sound blasphemous, but it’s true.

You’ll find lots of hiking trails, bridle trails, waterfalls, camping and picnicking around Deep Creek.

Admittedly, I’ve never done all these other fun things, but judging from their popularity, I’d still recommend them.

Useful tips I wish someone told us the first time we went tubing at Deep Creek:

  • Go early and plan to stay all day
  • Tube rentals range from $3 to $5 a day – make sure you get one with a bottom
  • Wear water shoes and a swim suit that won’t get pulled off by the strong water
  • Plan to have a picnic while you’re there.
  • Try to avoid weekends. They’re VERY crowded.

On this year’s trip I did manage to break tradition…slightly. I got everyone to go on a very short hike to Juney Whank Falls.

I did say very short hike, didn’t I?Juney Whank trailheadThe trailhead is right at the main parking lot and it’s only .3 mile to the falls. Luckily everyone was interested in doing it. (I think the idea of seeing a waterfall motivated them.)

It’s an easy walk. Most of the trail is shared with a wide bridle path which meanders around Deep Creek. The grade is easy – around 200 feet elevation gain – and the trail, like most National Parks, is well maintained.

Juney Whank is a charming waterfall with about an 80-foot drop, and well worth the trip. There’s a very nice bridge spanning the falls with a built-in bench to sit and rest as you watch and listen to the tumbling water.

Viewing the upper section of Juney Whank Falls

This is the view looking up at Juney Whank Falls.

Viewing the lower section of Juney Whank Falls

This is the view looking down Juney Whank Falls.

You can keep walking – the trail makes a loop – or go back the way you came. Katie and I decided to head back the way we came since the kids were stating to show signs of hunger and you know how irritable hungry kids can be on the trail. It was time for dinner.

So what about next year?

Next year I promise to explore more. Serioulsy! I do. I mean I will. You can hold me to it. ‘Till then…

See ya’ on the trail,

Directions to Deep Creek:

From the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway, take the Veterans Blvd exit and follow the signs to Bryson City. Stay on this road and veer right at the light just before the river. The road changes names to Slope St. Turn right on Mitchell St, then left on Everett St. Cross the railroad tracks and turn right on Depot St. Turn left on Ramseur St and then an immediate right on Deep Creek Rd. Veer left onto West Deep Creek Rd and follow this as it winds around to the Smoky Mountain Park entrance. Pick up your tubes before entering park and then drive another half mile to the Deep Creek parking area.

Spilling The Beans On Secret Falls

Don’t let the name of this waterfall fool you. It’s not really a secret. And I’m not breaking any local “code of silence” by telling you about it. Thank goodness.

It’s just so remote hardly anyone knows of it, including plenty of locals.

How remote is it? Let’s just say you have to really be committed to visiting Secret Falls. It’s literally out in the middle of the wilderness. After you’ve survived the numerous, curvy switchbacks out of Highlands, NC, you head down a long, poorly maintained, one lane gravel road.

But that’s all part of its charm.

For when it comes to waterfalls, the more remote they are, the less popular they are…and this is a good thing. As the tourists hit Dry Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, you should plan to spend your day at Secret Falls.

How To Find Secret Falls

I’m not one to reinvent the wheel, so instead of providing detailed directions, I’m simply going to refer you to a couple of friends of mine, Matt and Melinda, over at Stay And Play In The Smokies. Besides providing great directions to Secret Falls, they’re also a great resource for travel and vacation information about western North Carolina.

The Trail

This relatively short trail, less than a mile from the trailhead, is very level and wide. You’ll have to cross two streams, but they both have sturdy log bridges that are easy to cross.

Once you reach the side trail to Secret Falls, there’s a short drop in elevation to the lower part of the falls. Just watch the steps – a couple of them were wobbly.

Level and wide, this trail is easy to walk.Stream crossing with log bridge.Beautiful Rhododendron tunnel.Side trail to Secret Falls marked with a blue blaze.Staircase down to the lower part of the falls.Lower Falls

This is where you get the best view and photo ops of Secret Falls. If you visit in warmer weather, you can even take advantage of the great swimming hole.

Secret Falls, NCRefreshing, cool and private.The beach at Secret Falls.A great swimming hole for the whole family.Upper Falls

Being relatively easy to get too and fairly safe if you keep your distance from the edge, you’ll find an incredible view looking down Secret Falls and beyond. And I imagine this would look spectacular when the fall colors are at their peak.

Falling water is everywhere at Secret Falls.The view looking down Secret Falls.

You can visit Secret Falls anytime of year. Go for a day or spend a night or two. Swim, fish, camp or take lots of photos. There’s so much to see and do here. Just remember to keep it nice for the next visitors and pack out anything you take with you.

See ya’ on the trail,

Lost in Time on Timber Ridge Trail

(Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

(Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

Primordial. That about sums it up.

It’s not every day you get to go back in time, but that’s exactly what it feels like – to me at least – when I’m hiking on Timber Ridge Trail.

The feeling…it’s much more than being out in the middle of nowhere; though the remoteness is undeniable. It’s much more than the cool, damp, earthy-smelling air that settles in this deep ravine – even on a hot July day. And it’s so much more than the narrow path, fighting nature’s attempt to reclaim it.

There’s something else that makes it so primeval.

Primeval in appearance, this fern was growing on a live tree.

Deep, Dank and Dark

This moderate, 2.3 mile hike, starts at the same trailhead as Big Laurel Falls. The trail splits once you cross the bridge over a tributary of the Upper Nantahala River.

This is the lowest point of the trail at 3750 ft. Everything around you angles up sharply from here.

You’re surrounded by several 5,000 footers; Standing Indian Mountain (5499), Albert Mountain (5250) and Ridgepole Mountain (5043) – and then several more mountains and ridges over 4500 feet.

Being pinched in this dark, narrow creek bed, you feel buried deep in the mountains. It’s a bit deceiving, though, because you’re still 1600 feet higher than the town of Franklin.

Nonetheless you feel so small, dwarfed and enclosed. The shadows are heavy. Even in July, by 4 PM, you would swear dusk had fallen upon you. Sunlight is a commodity in this part of Standing Indian.

This wild mushroom adorns the Timber Ridge Trail.

It was the first day it hadn’t rained in about a week. By the afternoon the forecast was calling for only a 20% chance of rain the rest of the evening. The river was slightly higher than normal and the roar was deafening. We had to shout so we could hear each other.

The day was hot and sticky. At home the thermometer read 89 degrees. We’d been shut in for days. My wife and I needed to get outside. We needed to cool off.

Despite the fact that it was 69 degrees at the trailhead, 20 degrees cooler than home, the air was steamy, heavy and thick with moisture.

The forest canopy is dense this time of year and the Rhododendron tunnels are so dark, making our way rather tricky, we could have used headlamps.

I don’t know if it was from the darkness or from the tactile sound of the river – or both, but you could feel a palpable tension. There’s a living force here. This place is alive. For some reason, and I don’t always feel this, it was telling us to move along this afternoon.

From darkness to light - emerging from a rhododendron tunnel.

The light at the end of a Rhododendron tunnel.

Upward and Onward

The steepest part of Timber Ridge Trail, about 250 ft, is in the beginning and fortunately it doesn’t last too long. Once you’re out of the dark Rhododendron tunnels, the path begins to climb a gently rising ridgeline, which continues until the trail intersects with the AT.

After about a mile the understory opens and large patches of ferns begin to appear. Ferns are not uncommon in this part of western North Carolina and I love seeing them, but I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see.

A woodland carpet of ferns!

For over a mile, the forest was carpeted in ferns.

Ferns as far as the eye can see.

They were everywhere as far as you could see; for over a mile, the understory was covered in ferns; tall, beautiful ferns. The only other thing below the hardwood canopy were some giant – and I mean giant – mushrooms.

Maybe it’s from all those trips to the natural history museums as a kid, or looking at books about dinosaurs or seeing fossilized evidence of long dead ferns, but, to me, ferns, more than anything else, represent prehistoric life, primeval environments. Seeing this enormous patch immediately brought up my childlike imagination and put me on guard for Velociraptors and Saber-toothed Tigers.

At one point a huge owl – the biggest I’ve ever seen – flew silently overhead. My immediate thought was…Pterodactyl! I laughed out loud and quickly came to my senses, wishing my kids were here to see it too. They have such great imaginations and would have loved to play along with the primordial fantasy.

What would our lives have been like back then? Who knows? But it was fun tossing the idea around.

These mushrooms were huge and they were spread out amongst the ferns.

Giant Mushrooms? Giant Fungus? All I know is my dog wouldn’t get near these things.

Back to Reality

Unfortunately, like all great hikes, this one had to come to an end sooner or later. We reached the AT – time to turn around and head home. The return trip was uneventful and less imaginative, mainly because the 20% chance of rain turned into a 100% torrential downpour.

Soaked to the skin, we drove home happy, refreshed and completely alive – and grateful to be living in our modern world. I don’t think I’d like to be eaten by a Velociraptor. Would you?

Ever feel like you’ve been transported back in time when you’re out on the trail? Share your experiences in the comment section.

See ya’ on the trail,

Trail at a glance
Mileage: 2.3 miles one way to AT junction
Elevation change: 850 ft
Water sources: Streams/Springs
Trailhead: 4.9 miles past the Backcountry Info Center at Standing Indian

The Bold And The Beautiful Mooney Falls

(Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

(Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

You want waterfalls? Have we got waterfalls! They’re everywhere around the Nantahala Mountains. Little ones. Big ones. And some grand ones too.

You can easily see several waterfalls along the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway, which is great for sightseeing, but, for the more adventurous souls, there are many more waterfalls to see off the beaten path.

So if you want to avoid the tourists, the crowds and the congestion, you’ll want to get out of your car and head off into the woods.



Take Mooney Falls, for example; it’s big, bold and dramatic. It’s situated only two tenths of a mile off Forest Service Road 67 in Standing Indian. It’s a very short walk – with long, gentle switchbacks – and there’s hardly ever anyone there.

Upper Mooney Falls

Upper Mooney Falls

Lower Mooney Falls

Lower Mooney Falls

This might have something to do with its remote location. Mooney Falls is about 6 miles past the Backcountry Info Center on a scenic, basically one lane gravel road. It’s not like people are just passing by on their way to somewhere else.

Most tourists won’t venture this far off the main road unless they’re interested in hiking, which makes it perfect for enjoying the beauty and solitude of this spectacular waterfall.

You’ll never have to compete for prime photo ops at Mooney Falls. It’s about as far off the beaten path as you can get. In fact, I’ve always had it to myself whenever I’ve visited.

Check it out yourself sometime. Oh! And let me know if you do. I’d love to hear what you think.

See ya’ on the trail,

Trail at a glance
Mileage: .2 mile (one way)
Elevation change: about 200 ft
Water sources: Fill up before you go
Trailhead: 5.4 miles past the Backcountry Info Center at Standing Indian

Long Branch Trail



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.

For one, it’s a short blue blaze trail, connecting to the AT. From there you can head NOBO or SOBO to other trails in the area, creating weekend or week long loops through the mountains.longbranch blaze (Small)longbranch

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.

Campsite 1

Campsite 1 about a mile from the trailhead.

Campsite 2 where Long Branch Trail Crosses a horse trail.

Campsite 2 where Long Branch Trail Crosses a horse trail.

Campsite 3 just before the AT junction.

Campsite 3 just before the AT junction.

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?

Long Branch Trail is 86 the AT is the dotted line hi-lited orange. (Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

Long Branch Trail is 86. The dotted line hi-lighted orange is the AT. (Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

Blue blazin' on Long Branch!

Blue blazin’ on Long Branch!

Glassmine Gap

Glassmine Gap

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

A Little Hike To Big Laurel Falls

Big Laurel Falls

Big Laurel Falls

What a great destination! What a fabulous family hike!

The Big Laurel Falls Trail is the perfect “little” hike for people of almost any age. The path runs along bold streams and through thick Rhododendron tunnels. It’s easy to negotiate with just enough ups and downs to make it interesting.

And there’s quite a lot to see – and experience – in the half mile to the falls.Rushing Mtn Stream

A Little Piece Of History

Besides the natural beauty of the bold, rocky streams, you may notice an occasional piece of rusted old railroad track here and there.

Railroad track, you ask?! Here in the middle of a vast wilderness?

It makes you wonder how it got here, doesn’t it?

After digging around a little I found there once was a railroad grade through this remote part of Standing Indian. The path to Big Laurel Falls actually follows this grade for part of the way.

I suspect the railroad was used to haul equipment in and resources, like timber, out at one time. Whatever the reason, it makes for a great history lesson or educational mystery for your children to solve.

Trailhead on FS Road 67, 4.9 miles past the Backcountry Info Center

Trailhead on FS Road 67, 4.9 miles past the Backcountry Info Center

Best Time Of Year?

Anytime from spring through fall would be a great time to visit Big Laurel Falls.

In the spring, if you time it right, you’ll find an abundance of wild flowers and native plants blooming, including Trillium, Blue Eyed Grass, Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel.

In the summer, when it’s hot and sticky, you’ll find a cool reprise from the heat anywhere along the trail, but particularly at the pool at the bottom of the falls.

And then in the fall, with the leaves showing off their radiant colors, you can sit by the waterfall, enjoying the spectacle of nature as you’re lulled into peaceful meditation.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

Video Tour!

I could go on and on about how great this hike is, but…as they say…seeing is believing, so here are a few videos I made of my last visit. Enjoy!

Should you ever find yourself in the mountains of western North Carolina, be sure to visit Standing Indian and especially Big Laurel Falls. And, of course, let me know if you do. I’d love to hear what you think about it.

See ya’ on the trail,

Trail at a glance
Mileage: 1 mile round trip
Elevation change: 250 ft
Water sources: Streams/Springs
Trailhead: 4.9 miles past the Backcountry Info Center at Standing Indian

Standing Indian Basin and Backcountry Info Center

Standing Indian Sign DIRECTIONS: From the intersection of 441 and 64 W in Franklin, NC, drive west on 64/Murphy Road for 11.8 miles. Turn left on W. Old Murphy Road (sometimes shown on maps as Allison Creek Rd). Drive 1.9 miles and turn right on Forest Service Road 67. Drive an additional 1.9 miles to the Standing Indian Campground or 2 miles to the Backcountry Information Center.

Located in the Nantahala Mountain Range of western North Carolina, the Standing Indian Basin offers a variety of outdoor activities, including day hiking, back packing, tent and trailer camping, horseback riding and much more.Infomation kiosk at the Backcountry Info Center, Standing Indian Basin

It’s a veritable outdoor paradise.

Unlimited Hiking Opportunities

Hiking trails in the Standing Indian Basin include:

Long Branch Trail (2.3 miles)
Lower Ridge Trail (4.1 miles)
Park Ridge Trail (3.7 miles)
Park Creek Trail (5.3 miles)
Park Creek-Park Ridge Loop (4.9 miles)
Kimsey Creek Trail (4.1 miles)
Bear Pen Gap Trail (2.5 miles)
Timber Ridge Trail (2.3 miles)
Mooney Falls (.2 miles)
Beech Gap Trail (2.9 miles)
Waslik Poplar Trail (0.7 miles)
Big Laurel Falls Trail (0.5 miles)
Appalachian Trail (2184 miles or 21 miles in and around Standing Indian)

Kimsey Crk SignSome people will use the campground as a base camp, taking day hikes on various trails. But you’re certainly not limited to this option.

Nearly all of the trails within Standing Indian either connect to the Appalachian Trail or to Forest Service Roads that can be used as connectors to other trails. This makes it easy to create loops of various lengths for long weekends or week long backpacking trips.

There is also an extensive system of horseback riding trails throughout Standing Indian that can be used by hikers as well.

For convenience, Long Branch, Lower Ridge, Park Ridge, Park Creek and Kimsey Creek Trail sign all originate from the Backcountry Info Center.

Unlimited Camping Opportunities

If you’re looking for great camping as you explore Standing Indian you have several options to choose from. There’s the main campground (fee area) available for tents and camper trailers, a secondary “primitive” campground area known as Hurricane about 2 miles past the Backcountry Info Center, numerous “pack in” campsites along the trail system, and four AT shelters (Standing Indian, Carter Gap, Long Branch and Rock Gap) along the perimeter of the Standing Indian Basin.

Kimsey Creek

Kimsey Creek

Water, Water Everywhere

One of the highlights of Standing Indian is water – water is everywhere. Being a geological “basin,” it’s a huge watershed for the Nantahala River with springs, branches, streams, cascading falls, deep water pools and raging rapids.

You’re never far from a source of water in Standing Indian, making it one of the most lush and biologically diverse ecosystems anywhere.

Upper Nantahala River

Upper Nantahala River

Standing Indian is amazing…and it’s worth the time it takes to visit.

Ever been there yourself? Tell us about your experience in the comments section.

See ya’ on the trail,

A Family Trip To Rufus Morgan Falls

Rufus Morgan SignPack a lunch. Pack the kids. It’s time for a fun, family outing.

And since we’re going to Rufus Morgan falls, you better pack some extra clothes. If your kids are anything like mine, they’re going to get wet. And that’s OK! This trip is all about water…lots of water.


A great family hike needs to have a great destination; a fun destination; a destination that will hold a kid’s attention and motivate them to keep walking, not whining.

Rufus Morgan Falls offers all this with a relatively easy hike for most family members. It’s only a half mile walk to the falls and the gentle switchbacks make the small elevation gain tolerable.

The Bridge - in the middle of the stream!

The Bridge – in the middle of the stream!

This is what the path looks like in April.

This is what the path looks like in April.

The hardest part for younger children, 5 years old and upward, will be the stream crossings. Little legs may find it hard to step from one stone to the next. But, remember, that’s why we brought a change of clothes. And, besides, you know how kids, water and mud mix. The three are natural friends.

In the spring, the walk is punctuated by many wild flowers blooming along the path. In summer, with the heavy canopy, this walk offers a cool alternative on a hot day. And in the fall, the colorful foliage will make you feel as though it’s a completely different place.

White Flowers

Yellow FlowerAll the seasons are wonderful, but spring generally provides the best view of the falls. There’s so much water coming down the mountain in spring that sometimes you can’t tell the difference between the path and the stream.

But you won’t mind. The roar of the falls and the enticing build up cascading water beckons you onward, cheerfully wooing children with plenty of little waterfalls along the way; each one getting bigger and more dramatic as you go until…WOW!…you’re standing under one of the tallest waterfalls in the Nantahala Mountains.

One of the lower falls that entices you to keep going.

One of the lower falls.

And finally, you reach Rufus Morgan Falls!

And finally, you reach Rufus Morgan Falls!

Anywhere along the way you can let your little ones play in the stream or explore around the rocks. And, depending on how warm it is, you might like to play too.

The trail to Rufus Morgan Falls is a great introduction for children to “backcountry” hiking. It’s short and not too difficult and can be used as a stepping stone to more challenging hikes.

Look closely…and you will see our dog.

Rufus Morgan Falls Trail is marked as 27. (Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

Rufus Morgan Falls Trail is marked as 27. (Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

And be sure you have your camera! There will be plenty of photo ops. Just think how much Grandma would love to have a picture of your kids in front of a big waterfall.

When you’re ready to go, you can complete the mile long loop by continuing on the trail. It’s an easy downhill walk which will lead you right back at the trailhead.

See ya’ on the trail,

Trail at a glance
Mileage: 1 mile (loop)
Elevation change: 310 ft
Water sources: Stream/Spring
Trailhead: Take Wayah Road west out of Franklin, NC. Turn left on FS Road 388. Drive 2.1 miles to trailhead. This road is closed from the first working day after New Years until April 1st.

The Bartram Trail: Wallace Branch to William’s Pulpit

Bartram View

View from William’s Pulpit

Trail at a glance
Mileage: 4 miles roundtrip
Elevation change: 1000 ft in 2 miles
Water sources: Streams/Open water, Seasonal spring

Short on time, but still want to get a good hike in? I know the perfect trail for you.

Nestled in a rural residential community right on the edge of Franklin, NC, the Wallace Branch trailhead of the Bartram Trail offers a challenging hike with natural beauty you seldom see so close to a town.

William's Pulpit is right above the Bartram Trail insignia on the map.

William’s Pulpit is right above the Bartram Trail insignia on the map. (Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

This section of the Bartram Trail will take you all the way up to Wayah Bald where it crosses the AT and continues onward toward Lake Nantahala – and beyond.

But we’re not going that far today. Today we’re going to William’s Pulpit, a 100′ long rock shelf with an amazing view of the southern Nantahala Mountain range.

Here are some highlights of what you can expect on your way to William’s Pulpit.

Wallace Branch is a fairly bold stream with several branches feeding into on it’s way down. And, fortunately, because of the steep terrain, there are waterfalls.

The first one is a short walk from the parking lot and it’s easy to get to. The second one? Well, it’s down in a ravine and let’s just say it’s best viewed from the trail. (Yes. I’m speaking from my own personal, hair raising experience.)Bartram Trail fallsWallace BranchThe Bartram Trail, marked by a yellow blaze, offers a vigorous climb with many scenic rewards along the way to William’s Pulpit.



Yellow Blaze



Bartram Trail green tunnel (Small)Pine cone

After a number of switch backs, steep climbs and gaps in the ridge, you’ll come to William’s Pulpit. It’s about 30 feet south of the main trail (to the left) and it’s designated by a prominent sign – miss the sign and you’ll be walking up hill all day.




The Pulpit




With a great view, the Pulpit is the perfect spot to rest before heading back down to your car.

To get to the Wallace Branch trailhead, take Sloan Road off of Hwy 64 West (just west of Franklin, NC). Turn left onto Old Murphy Road and a quick jog right onto Pressley Road. Stay on Pressley Road until it dead ends at the parking lot at Wallace Branch.






See ya’ on the trail,