This moderate and easily accessible hike (FS #120) will also take you to the face of John Rock if you choose to add that section of trail at the top of the ridge. You’ll cross several small streams and enjoy waterfalls and attractive woods.
The trail crosses John Rock Creek, and then soon converges with Cedar Rock Creek, where there is a pleasant cascade and a popular primitive campsite on the left. It then passes Picklesimer Fields, near the intersection with Butter Gap Trail (#123). Mountain Laurel blooms in early summer along this section.
Note: Cat Gap Loop is open (seasonally) to mountain bikes, but only from the described trailhead to the intersection with Butter Gap Trail.
The trail then climbs moderately to Cat Gap to join the Art Loeb Trail. Turn left and proceed about 100 feet before leaving the Art Loeb Trail and dropping steeply toward Horse Cove. [If the Art Loeb Trail is not on your itinerary, the rather uninteresting and steep climb to it may be largely avoided by taking the Cat Gap Bypass (#120A), which is to the left about ¾ mile from Picklesimer Fields.] The trail then becomes moderate and rocky as you pass large hemlocks and tulip poplars.
After crossing the gravel road in Horse Cove, the grade becomes easy. The last mile is a pleasant walk along the Davidson River to return to the parking lot. Spring is a good time to see Pink Lady’s Slippers along the river.
Pisgah National ForestFeatures:
Length: 4.4 milesDifficulty: ModerateUsage: HeavyTrail condition: GoodIntersecting Trails: Cat Gap Loop Bypass, John Rock TrailDog Friendly: Dogs must be on leash in developed recreation areas.Wheelchair Accessible: NoSeasons: Year-roundRestrooms: Not on trail, but available at fish hatchery.
From the Pisgah District Ranger Station/Visitor Center parking lot, turn right onto US 276. Travel approximately 3 ½ miles to FS 475 (signed for Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and Pisgah Forest Fish Hatchery) and turn left. Continue 1½ mile to Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, which will be on your left. The trailhead is accessed from the eastern end of the parking lot farthest from the Center at the kiosk.