The hike to Looking Glass Rock is a 6.4-mile round trip walk that summits a popular climbing area and an iconic feature in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and a remote feel, despite being located less than 30 minutes from Brevard and an hour from Asheville.
From the trailhead on National Forest Road 475, this trail begins gradually but soon climbs steeply along a ridge, switchbacking through groves of Carolina hemlock. The steepest portion of the trail begins around the 1.5 mile mark and continues until the 2.5 mile mark, where the trail levels off and a large flat rock is used as an emergency heli-pad. More commonly (and preferably), it makes a great picnic area.
Above the heli-pad the trail becomes much more varied and eroded, passing large rocks and the occasional muddy patch. A wide campsite can be found on the left of the trail shortly before the summit, which is thickly wooded and provides no views. Continuing downhill along the trail will reveal the true prize of the hike: excellent views of the Pisgah Ridge, Black Balsam Mountain, and the Blue Ridge Parkway from the brink of a granite outcrop that juts several hundred feet above the valley.
The rock is slippery when wet, and it curves gradually away, so use caution when exploring this area. It is impossible to get a clear view of the vertical portion of the cliff without actually climbing up, so stay on the flatter portions near the forest and enjoy the view surrounding you.