Butter Gap is well known as one the most fun downhills in the forest. It is easy to get to, and Butter itself is not overly technical or steep, so it's really just a good time on the bike. Many loops start and end at the North Carolina State Fish Hatchery, but this one is my favorite by far. The loop is mostly trail and comprised of challenging uphill and joyful downhill. Near the bottom of the loop, Butter Gap turns back onto Cat Gap trail, which parallels a decent sized creek that's great for post ride dips. This is a popular camping area, so if you're wanting to spend the night, you're in luck.
What Makes It Great
From town, turn into the main Pisgah National Forest entrance and drive about 10 minutes to the first road on your left. You will see signs for the Fish Hatchery. Park in the lot; there are spaces for campers and trailers also. There is a gate to the back right of the parking lot if you're looking at it coming into the main entrance. Ride through this gate, and immediately on your right is the trail head for Cat Gap (#120). Climb Cat Gap trail until you come to an intersection. This "T" will be Butter Gap (#123) coming down to your left, and you will descend back to this point at the end of the ride. Head uphill, to your right on Long Branch trail (#116) and stay on this trail until you hit gravel. Long Branch is a favorite quickie of "downhillers" who only climb gravel, so be on the lookout. When you hit the gravel, turn left up the hill. This is FS 475, and climb until you reach Gloucester Gap, about ten minutes up the hill. When you reach the gap, there is a four way intersection, you want to turn to your left and continue climbing. You will crest the hill and descend gravel for about five minutes. This gravel road is not heavily driven, but there will be some traffic, so use caution. When the downhill flattens out, there will be a small parking area on your left, and above it, a gate. This is the climb to Butter Gap (#123). This double track climb is about ten minutes long. Stay on the well traveled path as there are several off shoots along the climb. Crest the top and head downhill for about fifty yards and you will see the sign for Butter Gap trail on your left at a small camping area. This area is popular with rock climbers headed to Cedar Rock and thru-hikers on the Art Loeb trail, so be careful and yield to foot traffic. Descend Butter Gap trail all the way back to the intersection with Long Branch (#116) and Cat Gap (#120) where you climbed up earlier. Make the right onto Cat Gap (#120) and descend back to the Fish Hatchery.
Who is Going to Love It
This is a very difficult, heavily used trail, but super fun for advanced riders!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Cat Gap trail is Seasonal, and is only open to bike traffic Oct 15-Apr 15.
The fish hatchery is located at 1401 Fish Hatchery Rd, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768. It has bathrooms, a water fountain and vending machines. The bathrooms close at 5 pm.