John Rock Trail #365

1.8 mi - Moderate - From the southern access, the trail climbs up the backbone of John Rock, a large granite dome. There is a steep, challenging pitch initially, but the remainder of the trail is moderate. From the eastern access, the trail climbs the eastern shoulder of John Rock using a series of old railroad grades; mature rhododendron thickets and small streams make this an attractive woods hike. From either direction, the climb is well worth the effort: a commanding view of the fish hatchery, Looking Glass Rock, and Pilot Mountain from atop the face of John Rock. (Do not take any of the informal, “bushwhacked” trails, some of which lead to precarious spots.) Below its uppermost area near the tree line, the rock’s surface drops off steeply, so use caution when walking at the top, and monitor children and pets. Also keep in mind that rock climbers use John Rock, and may be below you—do not throw anything off the edge.

Approximate Elevation Change: 750 feet
Blaze: Yellow

At a Glance

Open Season: Year-round
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: Hiking Trail: foot traffic only.
Water: yes
Restroom: none
Operated By: US Forest Service

General Information

Directions: From the Pisgah District Ranger Station/Visitor Center parking lot, turn right (north) onto US 276, proceed for 3½ miles and turn left on FS 475 (signed for the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and Pisgah Forest Fish Hatchery). Proceed approximately 1½ miles to fish hatchery. Begin from the fish hatchery parking lot and hike the Cat Gap Loop Trail (#120) in either direction. (The western half of Cat Gap Loop has much to offer, but if you are pressed for time, the eastern approach to John Rock Trail is shorter.) The John Rock Trail is much like a “loop within a loop,” intersecting Cat Gap Loop at two points: Its southern access is at an intersection of Cat Gap Loop and the Cat Gap Bypass (#120A), while its eastern access is in Horse Cove.


Day Hiking