Waterfall Week II: Looking Glass Falls, NC
Back in the first installment of Waterfall Week we checked out Moore Cove Falls on US Route 276, the Cradle of Forestry Highway, between the town of Brevard and the Blue Ridge Parkway. In doing so we chose to bypass its far more popular cousin that lives just down the road.
It’s time we put the Old Buick in reverse and back down the road a few miles to visit Looking Glass Falls.
Looking Glass Falls is possibly the mostly popular waterfall in North Carolina. The other candidate might be the Linville Falls off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Though not a particularly tall waterfall (60 feet) it is both a straight plunge and a high-volume fall. We’ve never seen it in anything less than a state of considerable fury. This helps explain some of its immense popularity.
The main explanations for its popularity, however, are threefold…Location, location, LOCATION. It is right by the side of the road. And I mean, RIGHT by the road. To reach it, all you must to do is walk a very short paved path and two flights of stairs, and you are there — right at the base of the plunge pool.
Looking Glass Falls is almost always a crowded place. We have come by a few times in winter and seen it deserted, but mainly it’s forever destined to be overrun with people. The scant roadside parking (there is no actual lot as such) is very often full, and cars can be seen parked along the sides of the highway for hundreds of yards.
In fact, it is one of two almost adjacent waterfalls this can be said about. Further up the road is Sliding Rock, which in summer is a popular destination for kids, daredevils and the well-insured who enjoy sliding downhill on a slippery wet rock.
Though both falls can be dangerous if caution is not exercised, our opinion is that the most significant danger at both, by far, is traffic related accidents along the side of this narrow and winding road.
Looking Glass Falls – which gets its name from nearby Looking Glass Rock – is impressive. It reminds us a lot of Abrams Falls further west in Cades Cove. Though only twenty feet tall, tons of water pours over Abrams Falls every second, making it look (and sound) like something much bigger. It’s our opinion that height alone is a poor standard of measurement in judging the grandeur of a waterfall. The reason this one is judged to be the Best In Show ain’t because it’s particularly tall, but rather because of the remarkable volume of water that continually goes crashing over it.
You can get a fairly good glimpse of Looking Glass Falls right from the roadside. But if you want a better one, you need to descend to the viewing platform. One of my favorite things about this falls is the massive stone bluff that overhangs it…complete with tree roots dangling down like decorations.
The platform below repeats an odd phenomenon that we have witnessed at many North Carolina waterfalls. Namely…they have built a dry and stable platform to allow people to safely observe the falls without having to hop about on slippery rocks. But they have chosen to build the platform in a spot where the view of the falls is partially obstructed – therefore encouraging people to venture off the platform and onto the rocks to get a better view. 😊 We noted the same phenomenon at Rainbow Falls.
Many people do in fact venture off the platform and onto the slippery rocks. We witnessed one near accident last time we were there. We also noted some obvious rocket scientist behavior. One of the main reasons that Brian does not prefer to visit popular waterfalls is because they are touristy, and often overrun with people who think they are the first in the world to attempt something foolish around a waterfall.
Though there is absolutely NOTHING difficult or dangerous about a walk down to Looking Glass Falls, it is still entirely possible to get yourself injured or killed here if you have a desire to do so. We encourage everyone to visit North Carolina’s many fine waterfalls, and to be adventurous and get as close as possible if you can — but do so safely. The world does not need more rocket scientists, but it sure could use some more respect for its natural treasures.
You can easily make a single trip to the Brevard area and see all that this place has to offer. Looking Glass Rock, Looking Glass Falls, John Rock, Moore Cove Falls, several smaller waterfalls down the road from the local fish hatchery…and the Town of Brevard itself, which stand with Southport as our favorite small town in North Carolina. For a longer adventure, the Art Loeb Trail starts at Davidson River.
If car camping is your thing, we think the well-managed Davidson River Campground (just down the street) is one of the very best in the region. It’s often crowded, but the sites are large and private enough so that it doesn’t feel that way. Also, the staff is friendly and professional.
Combine all this with a trip to Asheville, less than an hour away, and you have the makings of a fine Appalachian Adventure!