Located slightly less than an hour from downtown Asheville, Looking Glass Rock is a natural formation of quartz off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Pisgah National Forest. With its stunning view from the top, the Cherokee count this landmark as one of their holy sites. While the face of Looking Glass Rock looks next to impossible to climb, the Looking Glass Rock Trail makes reaching the summit of this impressive structure attainable for those seeking a moderate to slightly challenging climb.
The Looking Glass Rock Trail spans about a 6.5-mile round-trip distance with an elevation gain of around 1,700 feet. Usually, you’ll find light to moderate traffic on the trail, and many switchbacks along the way contribute to the length of the climb.
You could underestimate the Looking Glass Rock Trail, but keep in mind that the last half mile or so is rather steep. It’s a doable hike for healthy adults, and most children 6 and older can handle the ascent as well. The trail features well-marked yellow blazes.
While the elevation gain does challenge you, you’ll find the panoramic view at the summit near Upper Looking Glass Cliff simply amazing. Gaze out over the Davidson River Valley with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. Since the trail is open year-round, you can take in the scenery when the leaves change in the fall and fresh greenery washes over the area in the spring.
As you begin your hike, you follow a little stream where the water cascades gently down. Switchbacks begin to take you up to higher elevations. As you go, you’ll see assorted rhododendron and mountain laurel amid the landscape.
At the 2-mile mark, you’ll come upon a flat area of rock. This area, used by local emergency services personnel as a helipad to airlift injured hikers from the area, is a good place to take a break and prepare for the more strenuous part of the journey ahead. If you walk to the left past the helipad, you can get a beautiful view from Lower Looking Glass Cliffs.
As you continue on the main trail, you’ll find your way to the summit. While you’ll find a few campsites in this area, you won’t be treated to the best scenes. But the summit is not the end of the journey. Continue to follow the trail and you’ll find yourself at Upper Looking Glass Cliffs. You want to keep a tight grip on children and dogs in this area as the edge of the cliff is a steep drop and slips can easily happen.
When you start to make your way back down, move carefully, as the walk back down can be tough on the joints. Take extra care on the trail during wet weather.
Whether it’s a family trip or a solo getaway, a hike up the Looking Glass Rock Trail is a great way to spend some time in the beauty of mountain scenery. When the day is done, relax at one of the hotels or vacation rentals in the Asheville area.
- Bring plenty of water with you on this hike. Summer weather in the area is generally hot, so plan your hike for early in the morning during the summer months.
- The closest restrooms and vending machines are at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, 1401 Fish Hatchery Road, in Pisgah Forest.