This hike is part of the WPA & Conserving Carolina White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 5. It takes you to the best view in Florence Nature Preserve, with lovely creeks and forests to enjoy along the way.

View from Rattlesnake Knob in Florence Nature Preserve

Protected Forever for All to Enjoy

Florence Nature Preserve in Gerton, NC, offers a network of 5+ miles of hiking trails on 600 beautiful acres on the slopes of Little Pisgah Mountain. The preserve features pristine creeks and cascades, scenic rock outcrops, the ruins of an old homesite, and areas of old growth forest.

It’s the perfect place to go for a quiet and pleasant walk in the woods, off the beaten path. This land is home to many special plants and wildlife, from pink and yellow ladyslippers to rare salamanders. Keep your eyes open and you never know what you might see!

Dr. Tom Florence and his wife Glenna left a legacy of natural wonders when they donated their 600 acre property on Little Pisgah Mountain to Conserving Carolina. The couple started acquiring this land on the southern slopes of the mountain in the 1960s and they made regular trips from Georgia to enjoy it. In their retirement, they lived on the land for 20 years. They came to have a deep sense of connection to the land and they didn’t want its natural treasures ever to be lost. And they didn’t want to just keep them to themselves.

The Florences donated 300 acres to Conserving Carolina in 1996, which was the first property that the land trust owned. They went on to donate an additional 300 acres in 2001. Conserving Carolina adopted and improved nearly five miles of existing trails and has opened the land to the public as the Florence Nature Preserve.

“That land just spoke to my dad,” said the Florences’ daughter, Cheryl Florence Pratt. “It was what mattered most to him.”

“Both my mom and dad were so passionate about that land,” she said. “They wanted people to be able to hike that land and be able to bring their kids and grandkids to show them something as nature intended it, not paved or built up. It is just a beautiful piece of property and I am so pleased that people can go there to enjoy it like my parents did.”

The Florences’ property was the first land to be protected in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge and it offered the first publicly accessible hiking trails in the area. This conservation project proved to be a springboard for much more land protection, encouraging nearby landowners to pursue conservation. Today, nearby nature preserves and trails include Wildcat Rock Trail, Bearwallow Mountain, the Trombatore Trail, and Blue Ridge Pastures.

CHALLENGE: Hike to Rattlesnake Knob

Primary Route: Lollipop loop using the FNP Access Trail, Blue, White, and Red Trails to reach scenic Rattlesnake Rock
Hiking Distance: 4.2 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 760 feet
Difficulty:  Strenuous


Click here to enter your address and receive turn-by- turn directions to the trailhead. GPS users may enter N35.4735, W-82.3323 in their units. The trailhead for the Florence Nature Preserve is the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead on Highway 74A near the community of Gerton. A trail kiosk and stone wall and chimney with a wide gravel parking area marks the trailhead.

Hiking Directions

From the parking area, take the yellow-blazed FNP Access Trail that begins behind the stone chimney. Ascend it using switchbacks, passing an old wooden shed at 0.4 miles. until you reaching the junction with the Blue Trail at 0.7 miles. Turn right on the Blue Trail and ascend it as it parallels a picturesque stream, passing a junction with the Yellow Trail at 1.0 miles. and reaching a junction with the White Trail at 1.3 miles; turn left here. At 1.5 miles, reach a junction with the Red Trail; turn left again, and hike along a ridgeline until junction with the Rattlesnake Knob Trail (Orange) at 2.2 miles. Turn left and follow the orange-blazed trail shortly to arrive atop Rattlesnake Knob at 2.3 miles.

To complete the lollipop loop, return to the Red Trail, turning left to hike it downhill (not in the direction that you came). The Red Trail descends steeply before joining a gravel roadbed that passes several private cottages. At 3.1 miles total distance hiked thus far, reach the junction with the Blue Trail; turn left here and veer off of the gravel road to rejoin a singletrack footpath. Ascend the Blue Trail as it passes two scenic cascades on the right until arriving back at the junction with the yellow-blazed FNP Access Trail at 3.5 miles total distance. Turn right and hike the FNP Access Trail back to the trailhead, completing the 4.2 mile roundtrip hike.

Florence Nature Preserve Trail Map

Download map as a PDF.

Other variations to reach Rattlesnake Knob are possible (including a clockwise direction of this lollipop loop hike). The only requirement to complete this challenge is to reach Rattlesnake Knob, regardless of route or distance. Choose your own route of adventure!

About the WPA & Conserving Carolina Hiking Challenge

Hiking Challenge 5 PatchThe popular White Squirrel Hiking Challenge is back! Take the challenge and go on 8 hikes, all on lands protected by Conserving Carolina. If you complete all 8 hikes and you are a Conserving Carolina member, that makes you a Hiking Challenge 5 Champion. You will earn an awards package, including your white squirrel patch and a $10 gift card to Mast General Store in Hendersonville. Most importantly, you get to experience 8 great places and deepen your personal connection to land conservation. 


Hiking Challenge 5 is brought to you by Witherspoon Platt + Associates (WPA)—a full service, conservation-focused real estate brokerage that connects people to the beauty, history, and culture of Western North Carolina through both the built environment and land protection

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See All the Hikes

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  • sassafrass mountain overlook
  • Grey Rock - Photo by Clint Calhoun
  • View from Eagle Rock
  • Drip Falls at Norman Wilder Forest (2)
  • Oklawaha Greenway
  • Bearwallow vista
  • View from Rattlesnake Knob in Florence Nature Preserve – photo by CMLC