The start of your hike. Download a PDF of the trail map.
Red and yellow blazes direct you along the hike. There are several areas that you could stray away from the trail.
Look for this sign at a four-way intersection on the trail.
While you are there, check out the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education explores North Carolina's mountain wildlife and habitats and the adjacent Setzer Fish Hatchery.
John Rock in the Pisgah National Forest is a wonderful five-mile loop hike with a good climb that affords wonderful valley and mountain views, including neighboring Looking Glass Rock, from the smooth rock summit. The John Rock trail is easy to access - park at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the State Fish Hatchery near Brevard. Enjoy wildflowers and a small waterfall along the hike as you climb 1,000 feet in elevation to the summit at 3,320 feet. The hike is about 38 miles from Asheville, near the trailhead to the Looking Glass Rock hike and just down the road from Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock. (About 10 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway). A few miles away is the short hike to Daniel Ridge Falls.
Begin the hike from the parking area by following Forest Service Road 475C (past the "authorized vehicles" sign) on your left if you are facing the Wildlife Center. After you walk around the gate and cross a bridge, turn right onto the Cat Gap Loop Trail, follow orange blazes and start your hike through the forest. About a mile up the trail you will hear a waterfall. Immediately look for a short trail to the left to Cedar Rock Falls. It's a short and easily-missed trail (about 1/4-mile down to the waterfall). Head toward the sound of falling water and you will come to some rocks that you can carefully climb down to the base of the falls.
After you return to the main trail, you will find another small waterfall near a camp site on the left (see photo below).
As you continue to climb the mountain on the main trail, you'll cross a mountain stream several times on log bridges. At the intersection with the Cat Gap Connector trail, turn left onto the Cat Gap Connector. At the next trail intersection, turn left on the yellow blazed Cat Gap Bypass trail.
This section of trail is about a 1/2-mile long and avoids the climbs to the highest point on the Cat Gap loop. This section is mostly flat as it follows the side of the hill. Soon is a four way intersection. The Cat Gap Loop trail comes in on the right and leaves straight ahead. To the left, look for the "John Rock" trail sign and begin the steepest part of trail. After reaching the top of the knob, you'll head gradually down again toward John Rock. This is the highest point on the hike, at approximately 3,320 feet in elevation.
There is one more short climb, then another descent before you reach the stone face of John Rock. Be careful on the rock since you're atop a 200-foot cliff. But there are plenty of level areas on the rock near the forest line. Rocks are slippery when wet. It's a great spot for a picnic or wildlife watching with binoculars.
After you're done soaking up the views, head along the edge of the woods to your right, and pick up the John Rock Trail heading downhill. The trip back to the parking area is shorter, connecting to the Cat Gap Loop again (orange blaze) downhill. You'll end your hike along a tranquil section of the Davidson River. You can pick up a map at the Wildlife Center. Or download a PDF of the map and take it with you!
Directions from Downtown Asheville (about 36 miles): Take I-240 West / I-26 East. Continue on I-26 East to Exit 40 for Highway 280 (and the Asheville Airport). Take a right onto Highway 280 West and go 16 miles toward Brevard. As you enter the Brevard area, you will see a big shopping center on the right (with Wal-Mart). Just past the center, turn right onto US Highway 276 North (Forest Heritage Scenic Byway) to enter the Pisgah National Forest. Go 5.3 miles and turn left at the sign for Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the State Fish Hatchery.