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Looking Glass Rock itself is a pluton. Speaking geologically for a moment, a pluton is a big ball of molten magma that would have liked to make it to the surface to become the more popularly known 'volcano.' However the magma (which would have liked to make it to the surface so it could be called the easier to pronounce 'lava') cooled before it made it to the surface, or erupted. So this big ball of granitic rock lay under the surface of the Blue Ridge mountains in their early formation. As time and weather slowly wore down our mountains (mostly gneiss), this ball of stone became exposed. Wow! To see Looking Glass Rock from the Blue Ridge Parkway, it looks like a great stone dome... which is what it is. Hiking it to the top affords one a fantastic view. A similar hike a little bit to the Southwest is John Rock. After hiking this trail, tell your friends you've scaled a granitic pluton.

This view is from the Blue Ridge Parkway looking Southeast at the rocky face of Looking Glass Rock. It's name probably derives from its spring clothing: moisture (or ice) streaming down the face, glittering in the sun.


Off NC 276, just south of Looking Glass Falls, there's a paved FS road #475B that leads to the Fish Hatchery. Take this road and your first paved pull-off on the right is the parking lot for the trailhead. More than likely there will be a car or two already there, either people who spent the night up on Looking Glass, or people like Ed who get to the trailhead by zero dark 30.


This is a very popular hike with locals and visitors. Even on a hike with Ed in February, there was one other car in the parking lot. During a summer weekend it can seem like a party. While i personally avoid such collections of humanity, this can be a good hike for people hiking alone because there will be other people around. Also, the rockface is one that is popular with rock climbers. It is not a good hike for children unless you have them well under control because the view is made from an open rockface without benefit of guard-rail. It can be strenuous, but remember, coming down will probably be easier.

After a comfortable stroll thru rich open woods following the creek up the hollow, it starts switching back and forth to wind its way up the back side of the dome. For a while it is a bit of work, but closer to the top it stops being so steep. You will start chancing upon open rock areas that speak of the hidden granite pluton underneath your feet. On one switchback to the left there is a beautiful bent tree overlooking quite a nice view, but you have to continue on a little past the switchback. Think of this as the half-way point. It is a beautiful place to stop and meditate on improving your lung capacity, or to watch for soaring raptors. Not long after this it will stop being quite so steep. One of the first big open balds you come to has a large "H" painted on it for helicopters to land and take away injured, but don't focus (or count) on this. Once you make it to the top, it will seem like a let-down. You're in a wooded area where people have camped probably since Indian times. Worry not, but continue on the direction you were going (north-ish) and after some 200 feet of going down you will reach the spectacular 180 degree view that makes this hike really worthwhile. This is the place, however, to be careful. The gentle slope of the rock can be deceiving, and you can be lured (following the the tiny eroded valleys that form rivulets in the rain) too far down the slope. Remember, there won't be anything to hold on to if you slip! Remember, too, that there's a reason for that helipad i mentioned earlier. Be careful, and enjoy. Do explore around for a secluded spot to share your lunch with the ants.


This picture was taken in very early spring before much of the deciduous foliage came out. Many rock climbers use Looking Glass as a training ground for repelling and climbing up. I'll just cling to the regular earth, thanks.

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