Looking Glass Rock Hike Route Map

Looking Glass Rock

Overnight on January 6th-7th of 2017 a quickly moving storm system moved through the Southern Appalachians blanketing the region in its first widespread snowfall of the season.  All told my home county, Transylvania, received around 7 or 8-inches of the white stuff and, before the last flakes had fallen, I had already decided I needed somewhere to go play in it.  By noon of the day following the storm the southern sun had broken through the clouds and begun the slow process of thawing out the roads...it was time to go.  I had decided I would revisit one of the more special hikes in my home county, Looking Glass Rock.  

Arguably one of the most famous mountains in North Carolina, Looking Glass Rock rises like a giant stone sentinel from the surrounding forest. Located about 10 miles north of Brevard in the shadow of the Great Balsam Range, and rising a rather tame 3,970', Looking Glass is a type of peak known as a pluton. In layman's terms, a pluton is a mountain composed of really, really hard rock (granite to be precise). Over time the landscape surrounding the mountain, comprised of relatively softer rock, eroded out.  The rock of Looking Glass, however, resisted these forces to a greater degree and what that left is the peak you see today with it's nearly 1,000-foot shear cliffs. Pluton's are by no means uncommon in this portion of the Appalachians, but Looking Glass Rock is definitely the most striking and famous example of one.

The trail to the summit of Looking Glass is one of the more popular in the Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest.  About three miles in length one-way, the trail follows a very well-planned route up the eastern slopes of Looking Glass eventually crossing its summit and ending at the peaks spectacular northern cliffs.  As a bonus you can also visit the equally beautiful western cliffs if you look for a faint side trail as you pass the emergency helicopter pad, high on the mountain, a little over two-miles into the hike.  Overall it is a fairly strenuous hike, as around 1,600-feet of climbing is required to get from base to summit but compared to other trails in the area I'd only rate this one as moderate in difficulty.  

So...come along with me as I visit one of North Carolina's most iconic peaks in a season which most people never see it.  This hike never fails to disappoint and, draped in winters finest, it surely didn't disappoint this day.  Lace up your boots, dress in layers, and grab your gloves...its time to hike Looking Glass Rock in the snow...ENJOY!!

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.290991, -82.776671

Route Type:  Out-and-back + spur   Difficulty:  HARD  (Petzoldt Rating:  9.74 )

Mileage Hiked:  6.2 miles                    Hike Duration:  3:30

Trailhead Temp:  25'F                         Trail Traffic:  5-10 people

Min. Elevation:  2,300'                         Max. Elevation:  3,970'

Total Vertical Gain:  1,770'                  Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  516' (ascent)

Trails Used (Blaze Color):

Looking Glass Rock Trail (yellow)


  • Dave Kathy Weemhoff

    on January 13, 2017

    What a different kind of beauty in the winter! Awesome, humbling. Thanks for the hike!