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- Distance: 5.3 miles
- Time: 3 hours
- Difficulty: 3 out of 5
Asheville is one of the southeast’s premier adventure capitals, with hundreds of miles of hiking, biking, and whitewater rafting within a short drive. Among this heavy competition, Looking Glass Rock holds its own, with professional-level rock climbing on one side and a strenuous summit trail on the other. From the trailhead just off US Route 276 (35.2909, -82.7765), begin the hike into dense woods across a stream. Work your way along the shady trail as it begins climbing switchbacks up through rhododendron thickets. At about the 2-mile mark, the forest opens up to a patch of exposed rock used as a helipad during search-and-rescue missions. From the rock, a popular rest stop, head up the final mile to the summit, then continue on to the cliffs on the northwest side for some of the best views in Pisgah National Forest. Be careful on top, though—the 400-foot drop is unforgiving.