Features: Fall Colors — River/Creek — Views — Wildflowers — Wildlife
The trail has a fair amount of rocks and erosion exposing tree roots on it. It can have muddy patches if there have been recent rains. It is still a worthwhile run with a rewarding view.
This trail branches off of the Cat Gap Loop Trail #120
, which circles John's Rock. You can pick up the trailhead for the Cat Gap Loop at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education & Fish Hatchery.
If you're looking just to run to the top of John's Rock and back out without doing the Cat Gap Loop, I recommend you start at the eastern end of the loop, on the far side of the parking lot from the Fish Hatchery. Follow the Cat Gap Loop Trail #120
(orange blaze), crossing the bridge over Cedar Rock
Creek and along the Davidson River.
You'll pass a large campsite in a hemlock grove, and gradually begin a gentle uphill climb. You'll cross several small foot bridges over tributary streams as you gently begin to ascend into Horse Cove. You'll cross over Forest Service Road 475C before arriving at a signpost at the intersection of the Cat Gap Loop Trail #120
and John Rock Trail #365.
Turn right uphill, following the beginning of the John Rock Trail (yellow blaze). The trail will wind around another cove with gentle up and down grades. You'll pass through a flat area to the east of John Rock
, where the trail winds around before it ascends slightly into a cove filled with a dense undergrowth of mountain laurel and rhododendrons.
The trail will descend a little before a quick climb, and you'll suddenly emerge onto John Rock
and its wonderful view. It's a great place to rest in the sun, and admire Looking Glass Rock right across the valley. If you come during Peregrine falcon nesting season, see if you can spot them nesting on Looking Glass Rock. The rock is sloped and can be very slippery if wet. It's around a 200' sheer drop, so you'll (obviously) want to be careful.
Once you're done taking in the views, you can either double back the way you came, or continue along the John Rock Trail back around and in a general southward direction. You'll ascend and descend a knob, which is roughly the highest portion of the trail (3320' in elevation) before descending again. Soon you'll come upon a four-way trail intersection.
Turn right and take the Cat Gap Bypass Trail #120A
west, and you'll reconnect with the Cat Gap Loop Trail #120
. Follow the trail from here back around to the fish hatchery. You'll pop out in the parking lot on the opposite side from where you started.
Tulip Tree, oak, white pine, hemlock, and other mixed hardwoods typical of the area. Rhododendrons and mountain laurel are along the trail.