Looking Glass Falls Trail | 0.3 Miles
Looking Glass Falls Trail Map | Alltrails
Looking Glass Falls Location | Google Maps
Looking Glass Falls is located in the heart of the 76-mile U.S. Highway 276, stretching from the entrance of the Pisgah National Forest in Brevard to the East Fork Pigeon River. This road is so revered for its’ natural beauty that in the 1980’s it was designated as the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. Home to the Cradle of Forestry in America, the predecessor to the U.S. Forest Service, it also contains an endangered ecosystem of Appalachian Mountain bog which can be toured along the Pink Beds Loop. Its idillic setting, coursing through a high elevation mountain valley, is considered one of North Carolinas must see drives. With such a high concentration of scenic landmarks and trails within the Pisgah Ranger District, one could devote an entire trip to exploring it. Having sped past this waterfall on my journey to the Blue Ridge Parkway throughout my recent jaunt in the area, I saved a sunset view of the falls for my last night in town.
From the entrance to the Pisgah National Forest, just past the Visitors Center, it is a short 4 mile drive to Looking Glass Falls. En route to the falls you’ll pass some of the trailheads and recreation areas that helped put Brevard on the map for outdoor enthusiasts; Sycamore Flats, the Art Loeb Trail, Black Mountain Trail, Pink Beds Loop, Moore Cove Falls, Sliding Rock, and the Looking Glass Rock Trail. Weaving in and out of the deeply cut mountain ridges of Highway 276 at a snails pace, it’s hard to conceive anything much bigger than a car traveling up the steep grade. The origins of this road do in fact go back to 1912, when it was originally built as the Carr Lumber Line. This narrow gauge rail line transported timber from logging camps in Flat Laurel Gap, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, down to a depot on the outskirts of Brevard.
Catching sight of the Looking Glass Falls sign, I pull off onto the long stretch of empty parking spots situated along the highway. There are very few waterfalls of this magnitude that are so easily accessible that one can view them from the comfort of their vehicle. A wide sidewalk, complete with an overlook, allows anyone to catch a glimpse of this 60 foot tall wonder. Even as I stood here gazing out at the rapids, a steady stream of cars would casually stop to allow a curious visitor to walk out to the overlook, take a selfie, and get back into the car, all within a matter of minutes. If that’s not an ode to the age of convenience, then I don’t know what is.
To get a better view, head down the stone staircase to the plunge pool basin. From here, looking out at Looking Glass Falls, one can literally feel the force of the falls as it splashes down on the jagged rocks below. Strong gusts of wind carrying water have the potential to soak anyone standing along the railing. Even from a distance of five feet behind the overlook, I managed to get a good douse. Refreshing on a hot summers day, bone chilling on a cool fall evening. Normally the stream bed is open for visitors to wander closer to Looking Glass Falls and even sit amidst the massive boulders in the creek, but it is currently off limits. Much of the area was devastated by landslides and washouts caused by the aftermath of Tropical Storm Fred. As a results, several large rocks along with debris have been carried downstream and over the falls into the basin below, temporarily prohibiting access to the plunge pool.
Loved by many as a swimming hole during the summer, this year round waterfall also manages to see some action during the bitter cold months. Though it doesn’t happen often, periodically as the temperatures dip below freezing for a stretch of four days, Looking Glass Falls freezes over completely. This rare event draws out ice climbers, normally practicing their skills on a nearby northern ridge known as Ice Cliffs along NC Highway 215. If that sounds extreme, in 1990 South African kayaker Corran Addison kayaked over this very waterfall and successfully landed in the plunge pool below. Though these occasions are far and few in between, it only takes a simple walk out onto the overlook to be mesmerized by Looking Glass Falls. Who knows, this may even become a regular stop on your future trips throughout the Land of the Sky!