Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Looking Glass Rock
One of the great views from the Blue Ridge Parkway is of Looking Glass Rock. Every time we’ve stopped at the overlook at milepost 417 with Looking Glass Rock so prominent in the distance, we say we’re going to hike that someday. We finally made a plan to hike to the top of Looking Glass Rock.
This massive rock gets its name from the way the sun is reflected from the rock face when water freezes on the surface. They say it looks like a mirror. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see it in winter sometime.
As we were coming down from the Blue Ridge Parkway on US 276 we stopped at Looking Glass Falls. Since this waterfall is right by the relatively busy US highway, it gets a lot of visitors. We were lucky there were only about a dozen folks there when we stopped. A stairway goes down from the road to the lower level for good views of the falls from several points. The falls drops about 60 feet into a pool deep enough for swimming. No one was brave enough to be in that cold water when we were there, but there were several climbing on the rocks just at the edge of the water.
The Looking Glass Rock trailhead is located on Fish Hatchery Road just off of US 276 not so far from the Cradle of Forestry and only a couple miles from the falls. This is a popular trail and the parking lot is large enough to accommodate several cars.
The hike begins gently by way of switchbacks for about the first mile. The trail is wide and well maintained. When the switchbacks came to an end we enjoyed a relatively flat trail for a short distance. Then the real climbing began; up and up to gain the rest of the 1500 feet of elevation to the top.
Just over 2 miles into our hike we came to a large, flat rock to our left. This is the helipad used by search and rescue teams. It’s marked with a large white “H” near the center. Any exposed rock face such as this is an invitation to rock climbers and Looking Glass Rock has its fair share. Accidents happen all to frequently. Since we are hiking up the “back” side of the mountain, we didn’t see any climbers.
After a short break on the helipad, we continue our trek to the top. I keep saying the “top” and that’s how I think of it, but the granite rock face we’re headed to is actually below the summit. About mile 3 we actually reach the highest point on our hike--an overused campsite without any views. The trail continues across this area and then down for about a tenth of a mile to the exposed granite at the edge of the mountain.
After a leisurely lunch break, we pack up to retrace our steps to the car.
This is a popular hike and there were several on the mountain with us. Unfortunately, many try to save a few steps by cutting the switchbacks and the terrain surrounding the trail is scarred and unsightly. Still, the view from the top is awesome, so I guess I can ignore some of the destruction.
That’s it for today. Thanks for tagging along.