John Rock Trail

John Rock

A classic Pisgah hike, plus a simple nature trail for kids

Pisgah National Forest is a world-class hiking destination. Among the 400+ miles of trails in the Pisgah Ranger District (there are two other districts in the 500,000-acre forest, too), the hike to John Rock is a ranger favorite. With forested trails, waterfalls and exhilarating all-season views, this hike is a classic. For families with little kids, the small paved trail behind the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and a visit to the Fish Hatchery will be enough.

What To Expect

From the parking lot of the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, head toward the left of the parking lot, to the paved Forest Road 475c. From here, you’ll start the Cat Gap Loop Trail (#120). You’ll cross a bridge and enter a forested area. The trail will level out for a while and you’ll have several more creek crossings as well as some that involve rock hopping.  You’ll come across a spur trail (.25 mile) to the left, leading to Cedar Rock Falls. It’s a pretty little break in the hike.

After you get back on the main trail, there’s another small waterfall and a campsite on the left. Continue on, crossing creeks several times, to Picklesimer Fields, known for its profuse rhododendron blooms in June. About  .75 mile from the fields, you’ll reach the Cat Gap Bypass trail (#120A) to the left. Take this trail. After about .5 mile, you’ll leave the Cat Gap Bypass for the John Rock Trail (#365), blazed yellow and leading to the left. This part of the trail climbs 750 feet to what’s called the ‘cliffs’ of John Rock. Break out your picnic. You’ll be able to see Looking Glass Rock (another granite dome) in the distance and the Fish Hatchery just below. Exercise extreme caution and don’t throw anything off the cliffs, especially since rock climbers might be scaling the rock face below. This area isn’t the actual summit of John Rock. Keep going into the wooded ridge ahead descend and eventually reach Cat Gap Trail (#120) again. Take it to the left or the bypass to the right (which takes .25 mile off the trail before returning back to the Cat Gap Loop Trail). Both will get you back to the parking lot through Horse Cove.

Hike Details

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance from Asheville: About 38 miles; 55 minutes

Length: 5.7 miles total (via the bypass)

Region: Pisgah National Forest

Duration of Hike: 4 hours

Elevation Gain: 1255 feet

Pet-Friendly? Leashed dogs welcome

Multiple Use? Seasonally, mountain bikes are allowed on the trail

Blazes? Cat Gap (Orange), John Rock (Yellow)

Facilities & Parking: Parking lot; bathroom facilities

Natural Features: Waterfalls, fall color, granite dome rock

Directions

From downtown Asheville, take I-240 west, to I-26 east Exit 40. Turn right onto Hwy 280 and go for 16 miles to the intersection of US Hwy 276 and 64. Turn right onto US 276 and follow it for 5.5 miles. Follow the signs for the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and Fish Hatchery. Take a left on Forest Road 475. The center will be 1.5 miles ahead. The trail leaves from the paved road on the left (Forest Road 475C)

GPS Coordinates

N 35° 17.080, 
W 082° 47.507