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Backpacker Magazine – BACKPACKER.com Online Exclusive

North Carolina's Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area

A rugged land of sweet-smelling wildflowers, bald mountains, and stone Indians.

by: Mark DuCharme

PAGE 1 2

Contact Information:

U.S. Forest Service Supervisor's Office 100 Otis St. Asheville, NC 28802 704/257-4200

Location: The Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area is in southwestern North Carolina, about 75 miles from Asheville. Near the north side of the wilderness is the town of Franklin; near the south side is Clayton, Georgia.

Getting There: Take U.S. 64 to Old U.S. 64 and follow the signs to Standing Indian Campground.

Seasonal Information: At these elevations, summer nights tend to be cool (in the 50s). Winter temperatures can dip down to the teens at night.

Wildlife: There are bear, turkey, deer, and some smaller creatures, but since they are legally hunted in the region they tend to stay away from humans.

Insects: Contact park office for information.

Plant Life: Thanks to its longtime status as a wilderness area, the forest is mature, often dense, and varies from fir to mixed hardwood. In spring and early summer the area becomes a wonderland of flowering rhododendrons, mountain laurels, dogwoods, and azaleas. Stop amid dense thickets of mountain laurel and rhododendron, and admire the delicate, sweet-smelling, white and pink blooms.

If you can manage a trip anytime between April and the first frost you'll be rewarded with an everchanging and abundant mix of blooming wildflowers, including trilliums, trout lilies, bluets, and violets.

Facilities: Camping is primitive in the wilderness. Unless otherwise designated, primitive camping is allowed in the forest.

Outside the wilderness, Standing Indian Campground is a large and developed seasonal site for $8 per night. It accommodates trailers and offers toilets, showers, drinking water, and even an amphitheater. Groups will need reservations.

There are also three shelters located along the AT.

Parking: Contact park office for information.

Permits: No permits are required.

Policies:

  • Groups are limited to 10 people.
  • Motor vehicles and bicycles are prohibited in the wilderness.

Hazards:

  • Thunderstorms can be a serious threat.
  • There is a two-week deer hunting season around Thanksgiving, so check with forest officials for safety guidelines during that time.

Leave No Trace: Visitors are encouraged not to use fire.

All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps: Maps are available from: Wayah Ranger District Route 10, Box 210 Franklin, NC 28734 704/524-4410.

Ask for the Southern Nantahala Wilderness-Standing Indian Basin map.

The Appalachian Trail Conference guidebook 10 (North Carolina/Georgia) provides descriptions, too. Contact: A.T.C. Box 807 Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 304/535-6331.

Other Trip Options:

  • The Nantahala National Forest proper offers 526,798 acres with 700 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. There are also a number of lakes for waterskiing, two other wilderness areas for exploring, and the Nantahala River for whitewater boating.
  • The Chattahochee National Forest (770/536-0541) is just to the south in Georgia.


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