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Climbing John Rock in Pisgah National Forest: Success at Last!
September 1, 2011 by Susan Murray
|Monument at Trail Base|
Those of you who have been following our adventures in Asheville and Western North Carolina will know that James and I enjoy hiking but have had limited success so far in finding a really great hike. Chimney Rock was interesting but not very challenging (and crowded), we got lost trying to find the trails at Bent Creek, and Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway was a total disaster (our fault–not the location)!
Anyway, we decided to try one more time and this time we found it: John Rock Loop in Pisgah National Forest. We owe it all to a wonderful website: HikeWNC.info The website has a feature called “Best Hikes” which gives very detailed explanations of the hike, what you can expect to see, and also allows for feedback from people who have taken the trail (kind of a TripAdvisor for hikes). It also allows you to pick your hike by difficulty or special feature (i.e., waterfalls, etc).
I chose John Rock Loop because we only had half a day free and it seemed a good length (5 miles) while offering a variety of terrain. Since we had never used this website before, we decided to try a “more difficult” hike instead of a “most difficult” one.
This turned out to be a good call as the trail climbs over 1000 feet and is quite steep and rugged in some places.
The trails starts out at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. Pisgah National Forest was originally owned by George Vanderbilt who donated the land to the National Parks Service.
(Mount Pisgah was the biblical name of the mountain Moses climbed to find the promised land. Our Mt. Pisgah was supposedly named by a “Scotch-Irish, gun toting, Indian fighting Presbyterian Minister”, Reverend James Hall, in 1776. I have been unable to find out why John Rock is called John Rock.)
In 1933 Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corp and Camp John Rock was the first established in North Carolina. There is a monument to the men who stayed here and worked in the forest from 1933-1942 at the beginning of the trail.
|View From John Rock|
The hike is wonderful. It takes you over bubbling streams, past waterfalls, and through strangely barren forests before delivering you out on the large “pluton”, or granite dome, that is John Rock. Unbeknownst to us, there is a shorter trail which can be used to ascend to the rock so we were rather surprised to find people there after hiking for two hours in total solitude!
The beginning of this hike is only 30 minutes from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast in Asheville, NC and while I would not recommend it to anyone who has difficulty climbing or hiking long distances, the more adventuresome will enjoy it. I have posted just a few pictures here. For more pictures please visit our Facebook page: