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Looking Glass Rock is a Carolina Icon

By Johnny Molloy

Looking Glass Rock is a Carolina IconLooking Glass Rock, one of North Carolina’s iconic peaks, is within easy driving distance of Johnson City. This monolith rises nearly 2,000 feet above the surrounding forest floor to an elevation of 3,969 feet. Sheer granite walls curve around the peak on three sides, giving it an unmistakable appearance.

The summit provides wonderful views of the surrounding Blue Ridge and the greater Davidson River Valley and other mountains, especially nearby John Rock or Pilot Mountain. The 2.8 mile-one way hike is a nearly continuous climb from the trailhead to the top. The switchbacks ease the gradient and make the hike very manageable.

A wider-than-average, hiker-only trail leads past a trailhead kiosk then bridges a small creek. Ferns, mosses, stinging nettle, and doghobble thrive under magnolia, black birch, and tulip trees. Curve along a side slope, then enter a streamshed you will be following for a while. Avoid user-created erosive shortcuts. The unnamed stream noisily drops below.

Fragrant galax lines the trailbed. Reach the nose of the ridge at 1.0 mile. Grab southerly views through the trees, where the Art Lob Trail traces the far ridge over Pilot Mountain among other peaks. The grade remains steady.

By 1.9 miles, a few rock slabs can be seen. At 2.1 miles, come to a wide open rock slab on your left. Walk out here and look for the painted H on the slab. This is a helicopter landing pad. The main trail keeps straight beyond the open slab.

Continue on a rooty, sandy track interspersed with occasional open rock slabs. Stone and log steps aid your passage. At 2.4 miles, a short spur leads right to a large open slab. Turn northwest atop the ridgecrest. Spurs lead to campsites and harder-to-reach vistas. Top out at 2.7 miles. Begin a downgrade, still in woods.

At 2.8 miles, open onto a huge sloped granite slab. Craggy pines and cedars cling to crevices where soil accumulates. Water seeps over the rock in channels. The granite slope sharpens below, to an incline over which no hiker walks. Before you, the crest of the Blue Ridge rises majestically, stretching across the horizon. Parkway overlooks are visible. Waves of mountains roll to the southwest. This is the most accessible open view on Looking Glass Rock, but there are other overlooks to explore, just be careful.

To reach the trailhead from the intersection of NC 280 and US 276 in Brevard, North Carolina, take US 276 north for 5.2 miles, then turn left on Forest Road 475 toward the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. Follow FR 475 for .3 mile and the trailhead will be on your right.

Get Johnny’s Book!
Hiking Waterfalls Tennessee
Tennessee is known for its natural beauty and great hiking, but it may be surprising that there are so many splendid waterfalls – from mountaintop cataracts to falls that flow among the hills along the Natchez Trace. Hiking Waterfalls in Tennessee provides driving directions and hike description, maps, and color photos for over 100 of the most scenic waterfalls in the Volunteer State. This guide will lead you through state and national parks, forests and wilderness areas, and remote and secluded corners of the state, hiking to Tennessee’s most spectacular waterfalls.

This guide includes:
. GPS-based trail maps and elevation profiles
. Detailed directions to trailheads
. Ratings for scenery, difficulty, trail condition, solitude, and accessibility for children.

Available at Mahoneys, Book-a-Million and Barnes & Noble and online.

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