Looking Glass Rock - 'The Nose' -- 3,500'

Sunwall Trail (11-24-18)

The North Face Trail is one of three paths which access the base of the famous Looking Glass Rock in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. Looking Glass really needs no introduction. A massive pluton with sheer cliffs rising 600-feet from the surrounding forest, Looking Glass Rock is one of Pisgah’s most popular climbing and hiking destinations. Rightfully so as this massive dome of granite offers incredible vistas from its clifftops or, from a distance, offers a beautiful vision of stone bursting from the forest below. Hiking to the base of Looking Glass Rock isn’t quite as popular among hikers, it’s understandably the climbing community who makes greatest use of the trails to the cliffs. I’m here to tell you though, if you haven’t made one of these short treks to the bottom of Looking Glass, you’re missing out.

The trailhead for this hike is located about midway along Forest Road 475-B which runs from U.S. 276 near the Cradle of Forestry south to Forest Road 475 near the Pisgah Fish Hatchery. It starts at a place known as Gumstand Gap about 3.4 miles from US-276 or 2.7-miles from F.R. 475 just west of the Fish Hatchery. The Sunwall Trail is the shortest of the trails leading to the base of Looking Glass but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Climbing about 400’ over its half-mile length this is a trail which will warm you up in a hurry, however brief it may be. At first the path climbs through a dense thicket of rhododendron before breaking out into a fairly open hardwood forest. Climbing at a steady, moderate pace it doesn’t take long for the massive cliff-face known as “The Nose” to appear through the trees ahead. Arriving at The Nose you’ll certainly agree with its moniker. It’s a curving 400-foot wall of pot-marked rock protruding nose-like out from the northwest side of the mountain. It literally erupts from the forest floor as well. In places you can stand sideways, extend one arm and touch the rock wall, then extend the other and touch a neighboring tree. Odds are you’ll see a few climbers here as well, I’ve read this is an extremely popular route up Looking Glass to climb. All this together makes this quite a fascinating place to experience.

That said, the Sunwall Trail offers yet another enjoyably short way to see Looking Glass Rock from below. The trail is easy to follow and, though a bit strenuous, pretty much suitable for anyone to hike. Though I wouldn’t make this hike the focal point of a visit to the area it’s a nice short option to add to the itinerary if you have a spare hour or so. So, without further adieu, I present to you the Sunwall Trail to the base of Looking Glass Rock. As always…ENJOY!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.310231, -82.799963


Route Type:  Out-and-back        Difficulty:  EASY  (Petzoldt Rating:  1.80 )

Hike Length:  1.0 miles                 Hike Duration:  0:45

Trailhead Temp:  40'F                  Trail Traffic:  1-5 people

Min. Elevation:  3,100'                   Max. Elevation:  3,500'

Total Vertical Gain:  400'             Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  400' (approach)


Trails Used (blaze color):  Sunwall Trail (yellow)


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