March 5, 2016
“I like the mountains because they make me feel small,’ Jeff says. ‘They help me sort out what’s important in life. – Mark Obmascik
There are three challenging, yet short trails surrounding Looking Glass Rock. I believe they are meant for rock climbers, but they offer the day-hiker an up-close look at the base of a monolith.
I parked my car at the entrance of F.S. 475B, directly across the street from the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. Since the gate was locked, I hiked on foot.
Slick Rock Falls Trail
It is 1.5 miles along the F.S. to Slick Rock Falls Trail. Slick Rock Falls Trail is unique, in that the falls are at the beginning of the hike and the trail simply leads to the base of Looking Glass Rock. The trail is only .7 miles, but it is a moderate climb. The first .4 miles lead beside a creek, present several camping opportunities and have tons of mountain dog hobble, rhododendron and lush overgrowth.
It is a further 1.5 miles down F.S. 475B to the Sunwall Trail. While short (.4 miles), it is again, moderately steep. As I made my way up the trail, I began to hear voices up ahead. As I neared, it sounded more like voices from above. I finally saw the source: climbers scaling the mountain. The sun peaked over the dome shining down on the climbers, standing in stark contrast to the blue, cloud-filled sky.
North Face Trail
Just beyond Sunwall on F.S. 475B is the North Face Trail, a .8-mile hike to Looking Glass. The signage at the beginning of the trail indicated part of North Face was closed to protect the nesting Peregrine Falcons. The trail is very gradual and not difficult at all. Clusters of young hemlocks bloomed in large number, streams rushed past and soon the dome of Looking Glass appeared. I was again surprised to see climbers on the wall. Only, this was no picnic, this was true mountain climbing. Some of the hikers resting on a hanging platform about 500 feet above me must have heard me coming up, as they poked their heads over and waved hello. One of their friends was several hundred feet above them laying line. It was very impressive. The north end of any mountain is always cooler, this being no expectation. It may have been 50 degrees, but the air was chilly, dank, more so for the climbers.
After watching them for a while and eventually becoming cold myself, I made my way back to F.S. 475B and the gradual 3-mile descent to my car.
Total mileage is 9.8 miles.