Looking Glass Rock Trail

Looking Glass & Parkway in Fall

Looking for a challenge? Earn your view from the top in Pisgah National Forest

Looking Glass Rock is a white-granite “pluton” (igneous rock), rising to nearly 4,000 feet from the floor of Pisgah National Forest. Visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mt. Pisgah and even the Black Balsam, it’s hugely popular with both hikers and rock climbers, especially during winter when there’s less concern about the heat radiating off the rock. Challenge yourself to a partially steep hike and you’ll be rewarded with amazing 360˚-views in every season. Just think of the pictures you’ll get from the top.

What To Expect

The trail starts past the signboards in the parking area and immediately crosses a stream. At this point, the path through the woods is shady, wide and smooth. The next mile becomes much steeper and gains 600 feet as you enter a section a rhododendron thicket and a series of switchbacks. This section is particularly lovely in the spring when the mountain laurel and rhododendron are in bloom.

At the end of the switchbacks, the trail is rougher and you’ll need to climb over rocks in some places. This section lasts for about .7 mile until you come to a patch of exposed rock used as a helipad. This is about the 2-mile point and people often take advantage of the open space for a rest or to pitch a tent for camping. Continue on to the summit by taking the trail from the right for about 1 mile. Finally, you’ll come to the exposed rock top of Looking Glass Rock. Go slightly down to the ‘cliffs’ on the northwest side for the views you came here for. This is an extremely perilous place. When you are taking photos, do not get close to the edge.

Looking Glass Rock gets its name from the appearance of the surface of the rock when water freezes on top of it in the winter. That ice can make things slippery and dangerous, so exercise caution if hiking in the winter.

You’ll return to the trailhead the way you came, although for some reason, it takes less time on the way down.

Hike Details

Difficulty: Moderately difficult

Distance from Asheville: About 36 miles; 45-50 minutes 

Length: 6.4 miles total

Region: Pisgah National Forest, Brevard 

Duration of Hike: About 1.5-2.5 hours up, 1.5 – 2 hours back, 3-4.5 hours total 

Elevation Gain: 1,649 feet, from 2,320 to 3,969 feet

Pet-Friendly? Leashed dogs welcome

Multiple Use? No

Blazes? Yellow

Facilities & Parking: Small parking area, no facilities (nearest is Coontree Picnic area, 1 mile away on Hwy 276 or at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education)

Natural Features: Granite rock face, hardwood forest, streams, views

Directions

From downtown Asheville, take I-240 west, to I-26 east Exit 40. Turn right onto Hwy 280 and go for 16 miles to the intersection of US Hwy 276 and 64. Turn right onto US 276 and follow it for 5.2 miles; turn left onto FR 475. The trailhead parking area is on the right after 0.4 miles.

GPS Coordinates

N35.290937, W82.776548