John Rock, NC

John Rock, NC

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 of Grey Otter Outventures

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
Difficulty:  Moderate
Permit Required?  No
Considerations:  Rocks & Roots / Stream Crossings
Season:  March-November


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!


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.


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.

Additional Information

John Rock – Cat Gap Loop Trail Slideshow

(Click image to expand.)

Gear We Use for Day Hiking

To see descriptions of the gear Chris & Mac use for day hiking, as well as links to manufacturers and retailers offering the gear for sale, please CLICK HERE.

Hiking DuPont State Forest, North Carolina

Articles About Other Regional Outventures

Click below to learn about other regional outventures in this area.

SAFETY DISCLAIMER:  The activities discussed in this website are outdoor activities and, as such, have inherent risks to which participants are exposed.  It is not the intent of this website, nor is it possible due to the variability of weather, terrain, equipment, and experience, to detail all of those risks.  The information contained in this site is informational, but not instructive nor exhaustive.  It is the sole responsibility of the user to ensure he/she is in good health, fully prepared, and fully informed as to dangers before undertaking any of the activities discussed in this website and the user does so at his/her own risk.  The user understands that by using this website he/she acknowledges and accepts all risks associated with use of information from this website and participation in any particular activity addressed herein.  Please see “Terms of Use” for additional information.

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