Looking Glass Falls is one of the best known waterfalls in the Western North Carolina area. It’s not necessarily the tallest…or the widest…or the prettiest, but it’s roadside location and easy accessibility make it a must see attraction for people visiting the area. Located just 45 minutes from Asheville, this 60 foot waterfall is named after nearby giant pluton monolith, Looking Glass Rock.
Because of its roadside location, Looking Glass Falls attracts a lot of families and tourists. It is wheelchair accessible for the upper viewing platform, but there are quite a few stairs to traverse in order to get to the base.
Once at the base, there’s a shallow pool for kids and pets (and adventuring adults) to play in and to help in cooling off on warmer days. The water is cold year round, so it’s especially refreshing after long summer hikes or stuffy rides in the car. Be aware that during the summer months, it does get crowded. So, if you’re looking for peace and tranquility, this probably isn’t the spot for you. But it is worth visiting if you’re in the area and have time.
There are a few ways to get to Looking Glass Falls. From the Asheville area, head towards Brevard via NC-280. Then turn into the Pisgah National Forest on US-276. Once on US-276, it’s only a 5 mile drive to the pull-off parking area on the right. There are plenty of directional signs to show you the way. The more scenic (and my favorite) route is via the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can exit the parkway straight onto US-276 close to the Mount Pisgah recreational area.
There are two main viewing areas for the falls. One at the top beside the road, and one at the base of the falls. Both places give you unobstructed views (even driving by on the road gives you a good view). The top view has a large platform and some benches.
If you really want to get the full waterfall experience, venture down the winding stairs to the base. From here, you can feel the spray of the water, get your feet wet in the pool, and really feel the force of water and nature. There are lots of rocks to climb, and there is a little trail leading away from the falls down creek, and my favorite spot is down that trail on a rock that juts out from the bank toward the middle of the creek. The view from there looks like this….
Be advised that everything at the lower viewing area is going to be wet, and wet rocks can be slippery. So, take extra caution when climbing around.
To best enjoy Looking Glass Falls, I’d try to arrive early in the morning (9 am – 10 am), or later in the evening (6 pm and later). The middle of the day is going to draw the most crowds. If you’re only looking for a quick pit stop and cool relief, then anytime during the day is fine. I think it’s most enjoyable when people are scarce and you can reflect on the marvel that is tons of water spilling over a high ledge. Although, keep in mind, you’re never going to be too far away from people….you can literally throw a stone from the road into the waterfall (Grim Grinning Adventure Blog in no way endorses or condones throwing stones from roads into waterfalls).
The best time of year to visit Looking Glass Falls is during the fall…particularly early November. The fall foliage is a beautiful contrast to the harsh terrain surrounding the falls. Plus, the Blue Ridge Parkway is only a short drive away for awesome mountain views. If you can’t make it during the fall, the next best time is during any of the summer months. The weather is hot, the water is cold, and the plunge pool is inviting and refreshing. However, keep in mind that everyone else will have the same idea, so you won’t be enjoying the waterfall on your own (more opportunities for friend making!).
All in all, Looking Glass Falls is a must see attraction if you’re in the area and have a little time. I wouldn’t make a special trip just for it, but if you’re close by and have some time to spare, you’d be doing a disservice to yourself if you didn’t at least check it out. There are picnic areas lining most of US-276, as well as other attractions and waterfalls, so ample opportunities abound for making a nice day of adventure out of the trip.
Leave a comment below about your favorite time to visit, or your favorite thing to do at Looking Glass Falls.