By Carson Feather Whitmore
Who could ever get tired of Pisgah National Forest? For every day, season, and weather pattern, there is a new perspective. For every stream, rocky outcrop, and inch of elevation, change there is a new world to explore. Every dimension of the forest is a rich and wild haven of countless living things. If you are interested in a small but well-rounded sampling of the geological and biological bounty of this place, I invite you to take on the Cat Gap Loop trail. This trail has everything: cool woods, soaring open vistas, rambling creeks and splashing waterfalls.
The total distance is close to seven miles, with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. The trailhead is near the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, near Brevard, NC. The draw of Cat Gap Loop, aside from its name, is that it can either be a complete hike in itself, of the jumping off point an expansive network of trails. From this loop, there is the possibility of side excursions to the thirty mile, ridge-skirting Art Loeb Trail as well as John Rock, a fascinating example of intrusive igneous rock.
Because Cat Gap Loop is a well-loved and used trail, be mindful of your timing. Summer weekends may be crowded. Be respectful to other hikers and be gentle with the trails. To avoid trail congestion, try getting an early start; you can watch dawn break over the knobs and valleys as you practice your bird song identification. Creative timing can lead to unparalleled opportunities for uninterrupted adventure. This is near a heavily-used part of the Pisgah National Forest (itself, one of the most-used National Forests in the US) and Wild South works with support of partners like Diamond Brand Outdoors to monitor, protect and steward wild places like this in the Pisgah National Forest to advocate for clean water, abundant wildlife habitat, and wild places where we can all play!
For those of you interesting in taking your love of Pisgah a step further, join Wild South and our friends at Diamond Brand Outdoors and ENO to get outfitted and guidance for your next trek – and you can also lend your voice and get involved in the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan revision process. Public meetings will occur throughout the summer and into the fall. This is an important opportunity for the owners of the Nantahala and Pisgah forests (all of us) to voices our thoughts about the way these forests are managed. Keep an eye on the Wild South website and notices from our partners at Diamond Brand and ENO for further updates on the revision process. In the meantime, get out there and wander the wild!