Enjoy exceptional views of Looking Glass Rock from atop John Rock as well as rocks, roots, and water on this classic Pisgah National Forest hike.
Chris & Mac
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Length: 5.7 Mile Loop
Trailhead(s): Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education & Fish Hatchery
Elevation Gain: 1,000’ (approx.)
Trail Type: Loop or Out & Back
Dogs: Allowed on Leash
Permit Required? No
Considerations: Rocks & Roots / Stream Crossings
Enjoy exceptional views of Looking Glass Rock from atop John Rock. This classic Pisgah National Forest hike has rocks, roots, and water crossings. All the things we love about our Pisgah adventures!
HIKE – OUT AND BACK
Though this hike can be done as a loop (see Cat Gap Loop below), John Rock can also be hiked as an out and back. To hike John Rock as an out and back, follow the orange blazed Cat Gap Trail out of the eastern end of the parking lot.
The trail gradually climbs towards Horse Cove, crossing Cedar Rock creek and several other streams along the way. Adding both adventure and fun to the hike, some of the water crossings are on charming log bridges, whereas others are rock hops. At all of them, the sound and sight of water streaming over and around the rocks is delightful.
Depart the Cat Gap Trail at its intersection with the yellow blazed John Rock Trail. After crossing Horse Cove Creek, the trail turns uphill and winds its way around a couple of coves. Time this one right and you will find lovely mountain laurel and/or rhododendron in bloom. The views finally emerge once you are on top of John Rock. Enjoy the panorama of Looking Glass Rock and soak it all in, but be cautious around the cliff edges. It’s a long way down. Return the way you came, or continue on to complete this hike as a loop.
CAT GAP LOOP
Instead of turning around, this hike can be done as a loop by continuing along the trail rather than heading back. The trail climbs to its highest point before it descends back down to pick up the Cat Gap Bypass Trail. Take the bypass to eliminate a steep, unnecessary climb up the Cat Gap Trail. This portion of the trail is not noteworthy, and its main purpose is to connect to the Art Loeb Trail.
As Cat Gap Trail continues its wide sweep around John Rock, it crosses through lovely Picklesimer Fields and past Cedar Rock Falls. Once again, lucky timing will find plentiful color at Picklesimer Fields as well as tunnels of rhododendron blooms arching over the trail. As with the rest of this hike, enjoy all the Pisgah Forest has to offer. Once back at the Center for Wildlife Education & Fish Hatchery the loop is complete.
Scroll down to learn about the GEAR WE USE and OTHER OUTVENTURES in this area.
John Rock – Cat Gap Loop Trail Slideshow
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