Hike to the top of the iconic Looking Glass Rock in Pisgah National Forest for mesmerizing views of the undulating beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Chris & Mac
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Length: 6.5 Miles Round Trip
Trailhead(s): Looking Glass Rock Trailhead
Elevation Gain: 1,700’
Trail Type: Out & Back
Permit Required? No
Considerations: Seasonal Ice
Season: Year Round
A hike to the top of the iconic Looking Glass Rock is a must do in Pisgah National Forest. Make the trek up and enjoy breathtakingly mesmerizing views of the undulating beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
LOOKING GLASS ROCK & LOOKING GLASS WATERFALL
A landmark in the Appalachian Mountains, the granite dome of Looking Glass Rock wears a majestic cape of trees down its backside while its stark granite face looks silently out over endless mountain peaks and valleys. Formed by volcanic activity and shaped by erosion, it gets its name from the mirror like reflection of water and ice off its sheer face in the sunlight. Below, a uniquely symmetrical waterfall, Looking Glass Falls, is easily viewed from the side of the road on US 276 South. It is lovely, and we recommend taking a few minutes to stop and enjoy this popular waterfall either before or after the hike up the rock.
LOOKING GLASS ROCK HIKE
A Steady Climb Through the Forest
The only trail leading up begins at the Looking Glass Rock trailhead sign at the edge of the parking area. Marked with yellow blazes, it climbs steadily as it follows a stream running down from the summit. Although the lower section is a minimal climb the trail gets steeper. Fortunately, numerous switchbacks are employed which help make them a little less taxing.
While the trail winds its way in and out of small coves on the way up, hikers enjoy tranquil forest scenery that includes beautiful areas of Carolina hemlock, rhododendron and mountain laurel. Whereas summer hiking begets the blooms, it shields some of the peek-a-boo views near the top. Alternatively, a winter hike is less lush, but does reveal more due to the lack of foliage. Therefore, while views for much of the hike are interior forest, we find them charming no matter how the forest is dressed.
Surprises and Views
As it nears the top, the trail passes through a more open area of huge flat rocks. Look for the rock with a big white “H” painted on it. Because this area is used as a helicopter pad by a local rescue for assisting injured rock climbers, the H marks the spot. Stop to enjoy a rest while exploring this unique area, because the trail to the summit is steeper and more eroded.
From the helicopter pad area it is not much farther to the summit. However, once the summit is reached don’t get discouraged by the lack of views. The show here is NOT at the summit, it is just below the summit a little further along the trail. Continue to follow the trail as it descends from the summit to its termination at the Upper Looking Glass Cliffs. Explore carefully (see safety note below) and soak in the gorgeous, serene scene. Then, with heart full and face wearing a wide grin, turn around and make the trip back down.
A Note of Caution
This is a huge, sloped, often wet rock. The rocks flat face drops hundreds of feet straight down at its edges. Enjoy the views, but be careful as this rock can be slippery. For instance, in hotter months the water trickling down over the rock creates patches of algae. Alternatively, in colder months the water turns to ice. Both ice and algae are slippery, as are the pine needles which litter the top of the rock. Great care should be exercised up here to avoid the potential of a catastrophic fall off the edge.
Scroll down to learn about the GEAR WE USE and OTHER OUTVENTURES in this area.
Looking Glass Rock Slideshow
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