Standing Indian, Mount Albert, Nantahala Basin Loop is a 20.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Franklin, North Carolina that features a great forest setting and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until September.

20.4 miles
4,317 feet




nature trips




This is a very popular loop trail that circles the headwaters of the Nantahala river. 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.  There are many trails through the area and several options exist for loop trails.  What makes this area so attractive for hiking is the way the Appalachian Trail (AT) strangely forms about 270 degrees of a loop, which is easily connect with local trails. Parking is available at the Backcountry Information Center (a kiosk with maps and safety info) which is located a few hundred yards past the Standing Indian Campground (bathrooms and even a shower available in the campground just a short walk from the parking lot) on Forest  Service Rd 67.  Start this loop on the Long Branch Trail (the sign is visible from the parking area). Start here and proceed clockwise around the loop because the ascents are not as steep and you do not start off climbing to the tallest peak on the trip from the base of the valley.  Going this direction, only about 300 ft of the climb up Mt Albert is steep, all other grades are easily manageable.  In the opposite direction, the climb up Mt Albert is extremely steep and gains about 400 ft at that rate.   The first campsite in this direction is about 1.75 mi up the trail in a clearing.  If you can manage about 5.5 mi hiking on your first day you can camp at the summit of Mt Albert, which had a few good spots and clear views of the Milky Way at night (assuming no clouds).  Most of the major gaps have plentiful camping sites.  Water is generally plentiful on this trail, but in early October not all the sources provided adequate flow for pumping.  We recommend filling up at the ‘008Road’ point on the Long Branch Creek. The water is often plentiful and easy to pump, and many other water sources are pretty reliable including the springs at Carter Gap and Standing Indian, but obviously every year and every season is different.   If you want to get the campsite of the summit of Standing Indian, plan on getting to it early in the day.  The summit site allows spectacular views of the sunset from while sitting at the fire.  But the views at the southern viewing points are better, and the one in the middle seemed the best.  Where ever you stay make sure you go to the other lookout points, which are fairly easy to find by looking for outcroppings of rock.    This route descends the Lower Ridge Trail (4.2 mi) rather than the more popular Kimsey Creek Trail (7.0 mi). Both trails are consistently very steep.  The Kimsey Creek Trail seems to follow the creek closely, which is always nice.  The Lower Ridge Trail is very beautiful, too, but probably doesn’t beat a creek to follow.  Also if you plan to stay at the Standing Indian Shelter then the Kimsey Creek Trail is a better choice.  Clearly the advantage of the Lower Ridge Trail is shorter distance and faster exit, but it is a pretty trail even if it is steeper because it descends 2000 ft in 3.75 mi instead of about 5.5 mi.   In summary, this is the perfect loop trail: it includes 15 mi of the AT, has 2 summits with spectacular views, does not involve any difficult climbs, has frequent established campsites to customize the distances per day, and has many water sources.  It even has alternate trail options and the flexibility of keeping it leisurely or fast paced as desired. 

28 days ago

I hiked a similar portion connecting Kimsey Creek to AT to Long Bridge trail. The same is the same once you get on the AT.. fully endorse this hike!

Here is full text:
I am so glad I picked this trail. We started from Backcountry Info Booth, right near Standing Indian Campground.

We started counter-clockwise on the Kimsey Creek Trail from the Campground and hiked about 5 miles until we reached Standing Indian shelter, where we camped for the first night.

Day 2 we walked around 15 miles northbound on the AT. When you reach the junction to get on the AT at the end of Kimsey Creek, make sure you go North, which will be to your left (this happens before Standing Indian Campground). We hiked all the way until the summit of Albert Mountain and camped at the top. The best parts of the trail are immediately before you begin the ascent to Albert Mountain and the views here. I would also recommend staying at Carter Gap shelter if you’re looking to shorten the mileage / day. We stopped here for lunch around 4:00 pm after leaving Standing Indian Shelter at 11:00 am.

Day 3 was very quick, purely downhill 5 mile finish back to our car. Nothing too remarkable.

Overall, some inclines that are challenging, but the two newbies with me never felt really exhausted. I would recommend going clockwise if you want to avoid a very steep climb over rocks up to Albert, but those with some experience I do endorse the counter-clockwise route.

Great weekend!

1 month ago

I’ve backpacked this loop three times and I never get tired of it. Great views from Albert and Standing Indian. If you can be on top of Albert for sunrise, it’s a treat. Then hustle arose d the loop and make Standing Indian for sunset. Sunrise on Standing Indian is good too. There’s a good spring near Standing Indian too. One of my favorite loop hikes. You can do it in two days but take your time and enjoy it over three if you can.

30 days ago