Hikes n' Climbs Standing Indian Wilderness Area

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Standing Indian Wilderness Area

Hike/Site Details

12 miles
Trail Type
Choose your own path
Skill Level
Moderate to Difficult
Full Day
Various Trailheads exist, you can start in different locations, however Deep Gap parking area or the Standing Indian Campground are preferred.
Trailhead Elevation
Approx 2000 feet
Top Elevation


Geographic Location




According to Cherokee mythology, Standing Indian Mountain is the remains of a warrior who turned to stone because he failed to remain at his post. This Indian warrior had been sent to the mountaintop to keep a lookout for the winged monster which came from the sky and stole children. The winged monster was captured and then the Great Spirit destroyed the monster with thunder and lightning. However, because the Indian warrior became afraid and ran away from his post, he was turned to stone for his cowardice. The Cherokee called Standing Indian Mountain Yunwitsule-nunyi, which means "where the man stood."

Well, now this sounds fun right?  So Josh and Joey and I set off to explore the Standing Indian Wilderness Area.  Josh and Joey had decided to drive up early on Friday and make a start from the Campground, adding 4 miles or so to their journey.  I having business to attend to, made it up to the Deep Gap parking area towards dark, and managed, what would be my second hike to the top of Standing Indian, having explored the area once already with Josh Cain, locating water and such on that previous trip.

Depending on what you might be after, the hike is relatively easy from the Deep Gap parking area and clocks in at around 3 miles.  The parking area had a fella sitting there with his Walker bear hounds, said "I's huntin' bair".  I take it that means "He was hunting bear" in redneck.   He was pretty nice, told me they were still not hibernating and that there wasn't anything for them to eat so we probably wouldn't see any.  Josh and Joey arrived at Deep Gap only for him to ask if "They were hiking alone?" Which conjures amazing deliverance images in your mind. Nice..just Nice.  Anyhow, The hike is gradual and you pass a water source opposite of the Standing Indian Appalachian Trail Shelter.  Josh reports that it is down the valley a small bit and is a well running creek.  The shelter is open faced, and ample in size with a couple of privys out back.

The remainder of the hike is not anything visually remarkable and enters into various switchbacks and rhododendron thickets.

As you approach the top of Standing Indian, you will see two blue blazed trails headed North, and only 50 feet apart.  This can get a bit confusing.  The first and Westernmost trail is the water trail and you will find a small spring with a bit of irrigation pipe sticking out.  This is the only reliable source of water on the mountain.  This water source is perhaps only 100 feet down the trail and is impossible to miss.  The back of the Lower Ridge trail points to water should you miss it.

In a pinch, there is a further possible water source about a quarter mile down the AT to the east, marked by a stack of rocks and some pink tape.  This is very easy to miss.  There is something of a trail here that quickly peters out and about 500 feet down the mountain, there is a large muddy seep that could, in theory be used in a pinch.  Make sure you bring mechanical and bacterial filtration for this.  Probably best to dig a hole and let the water accumulate as I couldn't find any practical stream or pool, but it was quite wet.

In any case, the view from the top of Standing Indian, particularly in the fall, is second to none.

There are also plenty of premium campsites available here though, only one with any kind of a view.  See the pictures below.

Night was pretty brisk with a steady wind from the South, having nice overlooks toward Lake Chatuge and Hiawasee, it is among one of the best views there from 5500 feet.

Joey, poor Joey...  having endured his first hiking trip and evening in his 30 degree bag in his hammock, I wasn't wishing to be him.  He claims he was warm, but...

Josh and I cautiously walked over to see if he had survived the 20 degree night...  "Josh, grab a stick and poke him and see if he died!"  haha..  Joey stirred in his hammock and we chuckled and walked off.

The day only got better for Josh as I decided to kick box my dog and promptly fall my fat can onto Josh's brand new, first-time out, Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent, after stepping on a Nalgene laying on the ground.

**SNAP** there goes the aluminum tent pole.  There ya have it... I'm an idiot.  Sorry bout that Josh, he hates me now, and I have to find a way to get that pole replaced. :|

Day two, we decided we would take the short trip back to the campground via the Lower Ridge Trail.  What we thought would be a nice easy downhill stroll 3 miles to the campground, turnout to be a poorly maintained, low use trail, that sucked in as much as your knees constantly jammed and your toes jammed into your boots step after step and it turned into agony.  Despite my brand new COLUMBIA POLE CREEK OMNI-TECH HIKING BOOT, Thanks so much, Dennis McCormick, it really did get quite painful, though these boots performed marvelously.  Gave me a chance to break them in, but despite cold and sometimes wet conditions, they were the best Fall Boots I've used.

Now, I need to be clear about something.  If you like torture.  If you like all straight up climbing, then you must simply take the Lower Ridge trail from the campground to the top of Standing Indian.  But unless you are in the best of shape.  I repeat, do NOT take this trail as it is 4.2 miles of tortuous, rocky, slippery uphill, and I would have been lucky to make it half way without whining about it for the rest of the weekend.  Pass... I'll take a pass.  Downhill was bad enough.

Josh kept saying around every bend, "The Campground has to be just ahead" and it just seemed like an eternity getting there.  Joey got a blister the size of a silver dollar on his foot, so be ready for this trail if you decide to take it.  As I say this, I'm remembering a girl and her boyfriend coming up this trail on my first visit, thinking about this, I better stop whining about this trail and deservedly hide my man card?

All in all, I clocked in about 8 miles and Josh and Joey some 12 miles or so.  Exhausted, this is a great place to get the city out of you.  Plenty to see and do, not the most spectacular in scenery but pretty good little get away and low on Granny hikers.

Image Gallery

Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area
Standing Indian Wilderness Area


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Editor reviews

Standing Indian Wilderness Area 2011-11-16 18:04:30 Shane Lewis
Overall rating 
Trail Conditions 
Camp Sites 
Water Availability 
Big Nuts Tilt 
Reviewed by Shane Lewis    November 16, 2011
Last updated: February 18, 2012
#1 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews

Great getaway if you need something close to Atlanta. It isn't Pisgah, but the view from Standing Indian is about as good.


Good Points
Great view from the top, second to none, no granny hikers, lots of isolated wilderness.
Bad Points
Some trails are little used and difficult off of the AT, water isn't readily available particularly in some locations.
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