View – John Rock is a knob with a high, rock cliff that overlooks the Fish Hatchery giving a good view down to the hatchery and the ridges beyond. The Cat Gap Loop trail also has a small waterfall accessible by a short spur trail.
Hike Profile – this popular hike starts from the Fish Hatchery parking lot and can be either a long loop hike or a short out and back hike via the Cat Gap Loop and John Rock trails. Both routes have moderate ascents and descents to the John Rock cliff at an elevation of 3000 feet.
Trail Surface – the trails are rocky, eroded tracks that have some areas of mud and roots.
Environment – the east side of the loop and parts of the west side pass through an open forest area. The areas near John Rock and some of the west side pass through damp areas of rhododrendron.
Navigation – for the loop hike, start at the west trailhead for the Cat Gap Loop trail (the trailhead nearest the buildings). Follow that trail for 0.8 miles and look for a spur trail on the left that leads to a small waterfall. After viewing the waterfall, continue on the Cat Gap Loop trail. After about 1.2 miles from the waterfall, you will come to a fork. The left fork is a by pass trail and shortens the loop somewhat and avoids one of the more steeper climbs. The right fork is the full loop.
The John Rock trail will branch off the Cat Gap Loop trail on the left. That trail proceeds to the summit of John Rock (3209 feet) and then descends to the John Rock view spot. Continue on the John Rock trail to reconnect with the Cat Gap Loop trail and return to the Fish Hatchery.
For the out and back hike, start at the east trailhead for the Cat Gap Loop trail and take a right onto the John Rock trail to the view spot.
Directions to Trailhead – from the intersection of NC 280 and US 276 north of Brevard, take US 276 north to FS 475 (Fish Hatchery Road). Go approximately 3 miles to the Fish Hatchery on the left. Park in the parking lot at the Fish Hatchery. The Cat Gap Loop trail starts at the west side of the Fish Hatchery parking lot near the buildings and finishes at the east end of the parking lot near the picnic area.