Sticking close to home this week, the Meanderthals hit the tried and true Cat Gap Trail that climbs above the Fish Hatchery and Wildlife Center in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC. We created a loop by combining Cat Gap with Forest Road 475C and the Art Loeb Trail. The weather was ideal, high-50s when we set out, rising to the high-60s by the time we finished.
If you’ve never tried the Cat Gap Trail, it is one of Pisgah’s most popular because it is a connector to so many potential destinations. You can go to John Rock. You can go to Cedar Rock and Butter Gap. You can go to Picklesimer Fields and Horse Cove. It starts off on the Davidson River, so those who enjoy fly fishing also use it as a starting point.
About a mile up it connects with Forest Road 475C and that is the route we chose on this day. The forest road winds in and out of ridges and valleys as it passes East Horse Cove, follows Stillwater Branch and Shut-in Branch, before meeting the Art Loeb Trail just east of Chestnut Knob.
The climb from the junction to the summit of Chestnut Knob is the most difficult part of the hike. Otherwise, I would rate it only moderate difficulty. Along the way we saw blooming galax, carolina rhododendron and flame azalea. On the knob there is a campsite with some nice logs for sitting, so we enjoyed a leisurely lunch and caught our breath.
On the downward side of the knob, the Art Loeb plunges first to Catpen Gap and then on to Cat Gap where it rejoins the Cat Gap Loop. There are other options at these junctions, including continuing the Art Loeb to Cedar Rock, and then the Butter Gap Trail for a return to the Fish Hatchery.
Today, though, we planned a shorter hike. On the way back down off the mountain we scared up a couple wild turkeys. One took off running through the woods, while the other flew up into a tree. The Cat Gap Trail is very peaceful through Horse Cove as it follows the Davidson River. The photo here is from this area that is enjoyed by campers and fishermen.
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