Standing Indian Mountain: hiking the Appalachian Trail from Deep Gap, NC

Hike the Appalachian Trail to beautiful views at Standing Indian Mountain near Franklin, NC, climbing from Deep Gap and visiting the Standing Indian AT shelter.


trail info

Towering, leafy deciduous trees shade the Appalachian Trail as it meanders through Deep Gap, a particularly beautiful stretch of forest in North Carolina’s Southern Nantahala Wilderness. Rising from the gap, the trail climbs through switchbacks and rhododendron tunnels to the summit of Standing Indian Mountain, where views stretch over deep-cut valleys and chiseled mountains. It’s one of our favorite Appalachian Trail day hikes near Franklin, NC, thanks to the forest’s plentiful beauty, the trail’s moderate length and difficulty, and Standing Indian’s beautiful summit views.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to beautiful summit views from Standing Indian Mountain near Franklin, NCAbove: hike the AT to beautiful summit views from Standing Indian Mountain near Franklin, NC

Standing Indian Mountain is a beautiful hike in any season, trailing through a sun-dappled forest filled with moss, fern and thickets of rhododendron. But it’s particularly beautiful in fall, when the forest is painted in the vibrant, warm hues of autumn. And, in any season, the hike is a great for soaking up some beautiful summit views, or an overnight adventure at one of the AT’s many campsites.

Standing Indian Mountain on the Appalachian Trail: the hike

The hike departs the Deep Gap trailhead parking area off the gravel-paved FS 71 southwest of Franklin, NC (view maps and driving directions), following the white-blazed Appalachian Trail northeast from the gap. The trail begins a nearly unrelenting climb to the summit, veering northbound under the canopy of the leafy forest. Fern and moss thrive on the sunlight-dappled, rocky forest floor.

Hike the Appalachian Trail in NC from Deep Gap to Standing Indian Mountain

The trail winds through switchbacks, continuing its climb and passing a wooden Nantahala National Forest sign at .5 mile. Veering southbound, the hike passes several campsites, first a smaller and then a large, level, multi-tent site alongside a small stream at .75 mile. The hike reaches a blue-blazed trail at just under a mile, following the spur trail a short 100 yards to the Standing Indian shelter, a primitive overnight shelter for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to the Standing Indian shelter near Franklin, NC

Returning to the AT, the hike resumes its climb, trailing through several wide switchbacks. The climb intensifies at 1.7 miles as the trail meanders through tight switchbacks, tunneling through an overhead canopy of gnarly-branched rhododendron. Sunlight filters through the leathery rhododendron leaves, basking the forest in golden light.

Hike the Appalachian Trail through dense tunnels of rhododendron near the Standing Indian Mountain summit in North Carolina

The trail straightens its course, exiting the thick thickets of rhododendron and running a ridge, catching through-the-trees views on both sides of the trail. Nearing the summit, the AT passes a junction with the blue-blazed Lower Ridge Trail on the left at 2.4 miles. (The Lower Ridge Trail drops a difficult 4.1 miles to the nearby Standing Indian Campground.)

The hike reaches a wooden ‘Standing Indian Mountain’ sign, veering right off the AT to hike a side trail through a group of near-summit campsites.

Standing Indian Mountain: hiking the Appalachian Trail from Deep Gap, NC

The hike reaches the Standing Indian Mountain summit overlook at 2.5 miles. Beautiful views expand to the west, overlooking the headwaters of the Tallulah River, the same river that, south of the NC border, carves deep and cascades in a series of beautiful waterfalls in Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge. On the far horizon, Lake Burton is visible, nestled in the rolling southern Appalachian Mountains.

The Appalachian Trail crests at Standing Indian Mountain, offering beautiful views of the Tallulah River headwaters and Lake Burton on the far horizon

The view is gorgeous, especially when it’s painted in autumn’s brilliant leaf color. The overlook is a fantastic resting spot for a mid-hike snack or water break, or a simply great spot to soak up some outstanding outdoor beauty.

Departing the summit, the hike flips to follow its outbound journey in reverse, trekking back to the Appalachian Trail and descending Standing Indian Mountain. The AT reaches the Deep Gap trailhead at 5 miles, completing the hike.

Summit-worthy hikes near Standing Indian

In the area with daylight to spare? Hike the AT to the nearby summit of Albert Mountain, catching exceptional views from the mountain’s historic fire tower before descending to Mooney Gap. Southeast of Mooney Gap, hike the Pickens Nose Trail to an oddly-named mountain summit speckled with angular, rocky peaks and some beautiful summit views. Or just south of Standing Indian, hike the Big Laurel Falls Trail to a cascading waterfall near the Appalachian Trail at Carter Gap.


Standing Indian Mountain: Appalachian Trail: Directions & Details


Free parking is available at the trailhead. Before you go, check for seasonal trail and road closures on the USFS Nantahala National Forest site.

Please Remember

Always leave no trace and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

35.039491, -83.552510     //     N35 02.370 W83 33.150

Driving Directions

Elevation Profile

Appalachian Trail: Deep Gap to Standing Indian Mountain Elevation

Standing Indian Mountain: Appalachian Trail Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.