Trail

Cat Gap Loop to John Rock Trail, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

Asheville, NC
Length: 4.40 mi.
Type: Loop

About This Trail

[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

ACTIVITIES: Birding, swimming, paddling, climbing, biking, fishing

LENGTH OF HIKE: 4.4 miles

OUT AND BACK OR LOOP: Loop

DIFFICULTY OF TERRAIN: Moderate

ELEVATION GAIN: 859 feet

PARKING FEE/PASS: No

TOILETS: Yes

CHANGING TABLE: No

NURSING BENCHES: No

DOGS ALLOWED: Yes

BIKES/HORSES/MOTORS ON TRAIL: No

CELL RECEPTION: Spotty

DRINKING WATER AVAILABLE: Yes

POTENTIAL CHILD OR BABY HAZARDS: Can be slick when wet and steep.

GEAR SUGGESTIONS: Shoes good for uphill terrain and that can get wet

There are many reasons Cat Gap Loop is a family favorite. Depending on what path you choose, you are in for a few different adventures. There are stunning mountain views, three waterfalls, camping sites, and areas to splash in the creek. If you decide to climb up to John Rock, you have an amazing view of Looking Glass Rock as well as the surrounding mountains.

This will be about 4 miles out and back. Once on top, sit and have a snack and watch hawks fly overhead while you take in the view. There’s a pretty decent climb up to this point as well, so this is the best spot to take a breather. The view from
John Rock is beautiful year-round, so there is no best time. But if you want to see mountain laurel and rhododendron blooms, then spring and early summer are good times. If colorful leaves are your thing, the coverage is an amazing fiery orange and red in the fall.

On the opposite side of the loop, you are closer to upper and lower Cedar Rock Falls. Those are about a mile in. Take Butter Gap, a side trail, and you can also get to Grogan Falls from this trail, which is a small but beautiful cascading waterfall.

Depending on how much rain there has been, a lot of water crosses the trail in streams, and little tiny waterfalls can even be found right along the sides of the trail in places. Wildlife is plentiful, from hawks to snakes to centipedes. The forest floor is
thickly covered with ferns and moss. Also look out for “rhododendron tunnels,” where the rhododendron trees cover the trail and you feel as if you are in a tunnel.

This trail offers comfortable amenities for families, with comfortable benches for nursing and a great covered area in case your hike gets rained out; but these are at the beginning of the hike, not on the trail. There are a lot of secret things for kids
to find, like tunnels in trees; and at the entrance of the park, there’s ice cream, which you can use as a posthike bribe to get your 3-year-old down the rest of the trail.

As with any hike, there are a few hazards to be aware of. John Rock can be slippery, so we don’t suggest toddlers roam free here. Also, be aware that the creek can have slippery rocks and the water is cold, cold, cold no matter what time of year. Keep kids out of overgrown foliage (adhere to Leave No Trace, of course) because there is lots of poison ivy in this area.

INSIDER’S TIP
Dolly’s Dairy Bar sits right at the entrance to the Pisgah National Forest and has great ice cream with a big porch with rocking chairs to sit in while you enjoy your ice cream. A great way to finish off your hike!

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Trail Features

Seasons Fall, Spring, Summer, and Winter
Surface type Dirt
Elevation gain 859 ft.
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains Yes
Bathrooms Yes
Pet friendly Yes
Nearby convenience store Yes
Camping Nearby No
Emergency support
within 5 miles
No

Trail highlights

Creek / River, Mud Puddles, Natural Play Area, and Wildlife Viewing

WHY IT’S A FAVORITE
“We have taken our little one on this trail since he was in my belly. He is now almost 3. He usually starts out on foot for the first 0.75 mile and then ends up in the carrier for the rest of the way. There are many areas where you have access to creeks as well as waterfalls with swimming holes, so be prepared to get wet!” —CHELSEA BEHFOROUZ

Trail Contributor

[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

Hike it Baby Trail Guide is managed by the Family Trail Guide team. If a trail has been “abandoned” by the initial owner, it gets adopted by the team. Also, if there are no trails in the area, the Family Trail Guide team researches trails that are family friendly in the area to insure that hikes cover all areas where Hike it Baby hikes.