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How to Visit Looking Glass Falls in North Carolina + Accessibility and Parking

Learn about parking, accessibility, and viewing the spectacular Looking Glass Falls in Brevard, North Carolina.

By Jason Barnette | Travel writer and photographer with 15+ years of road tripping experience

Located on these road trip routes:

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Looking Glass Falls is only 60 feet tall and 10 feet wide. But with a tremendous amount of water falling over a rocky cliff into a shallow pool and surrounded by lush greenery, it’s one of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina.

And it’s one of the few accessible waterfalls.

Looking Glass Falls is the most popular waterfall in Pisgah National Forest. It’s sometimes difficult to find parking. But if you snag a parking spot, the short walk to the scenic overlook will certainly make you smile.

Continue reading to learn about how to park safely, how to reach the waterfall’s base, and details about the accessibility.

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Map of Looking Glass Falls

How to use this map | Click the icon in the top-left corner to open the Map Legend, then click on any of the legend items to display more information. If you have a Google account, click the (very faint) star at the end of the map’s name to save this map to your account, then access the map from your smartphone during your trip.

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Pisgah National Forest

The 500,000-acre Pisgah National Forest boasts some of the best outdoor recreation and scenic drives in North Carolina. Northwest of Asheville, the national forest includes iconic destinations like Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi.

Near Brevard, the national forest includes the scenic route along U.S. Highway 276 – the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway – to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The route includes several waterfalls, hiking trails, and picnic areas.

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Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway

The Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway through Pisgah National Forest is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in western North Carolina. The loop route follows an old logging railroad along U.S. Highway 276 from Pisgah Forest toward Waynesville, turning onto N.C. Highway 215 to Rosman, and then returning to Pisgah Forest along U.S. Highway 64.

The first 17 miles of the route are designated a national scenic byway because of its historic quality. The route passes the Cradle of Forestry in America, the site of the country’s first forestry school.

But it’s also a scenic route connecting outdoor recreation. The two-lane road winds past Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock, two of the most popular waterfalls in the area. And it connects Brevard visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mount Pisgah. Summer and autumn are the best times of year to enjoy this drive.

The entire route takes about 2 hours to drive. The national scenic byway route takes about an hour out and back.

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North Carolina Waterfall Byway

The 98-mile North Carolina Waterfall Byway is a scenic route along U.S. Highway 64 between Murphy and Rosman. Dozens of waterfalls populate the two-lane highway, many within a ten-minute walk from the parking lot.

Read More | Road Trip on the Scenic North Carolina Waterfall Byway

When I wrote a road trip itinerary, I extended the route into Brevard to include DuPont State Recreational Forest and Pisgah National Forest. The 140-mile road trip on the scenic North Carolina Waterfall Byway features 25 waterfalls and five destinations where you can spend the night.

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Best Time to Visit

Looking Glass Falls is one of those waterfalls with enough water volume to stay churning year-round. But aside from the amount of water that spills over the cliff, there are other factors to consider about visiting.

Spring finally ascends into the national forest about mid-May. This is my favorite time of year to visit the waterfall because the trees are a deep, vibrant green with new leaves. But it’s still too cold to dip your toes into the water.

By July, the water is about as warm as it ever gets – still chilly, but you’ll be comfortable splashing around in the shallow pool at the waterfall’s base.

Autumn typically descends into the area about mid-October. This can be the most scenic time of year to visit because the waterfall is surrounded by trees that showcase spectacular colors.

On bitter cold winter days, the waterfall will sometimes freeze. It never freezes solid, but enough ice creates a stunning winter scene. Needless to say, you should dress very warmly.

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Getting to the Waterfall

Are you ready for a scenic drive? Getting to Looking Glass Falls is effortless, and it’s one of the prettiest drives in North Carolina.

From wherever you start, head toward Brevard. At Pisgah Forest, an unincorporated town, U.S. Highways 276 and 64 meet in a four-way intersection. Continue along U.S. Highway 276 toward the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Pro Travel Tip | Stop at the Pisgah National Forest Ranger Station along U.S. Highway 276 and ask about current conditions at the waterfall. You may find that large crowds limit parking or that the waterfall is less spectacular than usual.

It’s a 5.6-mile drive to the waterfall that typically takes about 15 minutes. It can last longer on summer days and autumn weekends when the throngs of tourists and leaf peepers crowd onto the two-lane road.

There is no admission fee or day-use fee to access this waterfall. It is open twenty-four hours a day throughout the year.

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Safely Parking

Parking is the most difficult aspect of visiting Looking Glass Falls. There are limited parking spaces on the right side of the road when traveling toward the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The authorized parking begins at the national forest sign announcing a waterfall ahead. This parking area is around the final curve before the waterfall. It’s a graveled area, wide enough to pull off safely but without a sidewalk. I advise caution walking along the parking area to the waterfall.

Unfortunately, there are no alternatives if no parking spaces are available. Parking along the road’s shoulder is prohibited and dangerous.

There is a large pull-off about a quarter of a mile past the waterfall. However, I would not recommend walking back to the waterfall along the road’s shoulder. There is only barely enough room for safety. This pull-off area is used for turning around after visiting the waterfall.

If you find parking, the forest service rangers ask that you pull off the road. The parking area is almost twice as wide as a typical parking space, allowing plenty of room to park off the road and for passengers to exit the vehicle safely.

Pro Travel Tip | Would you like to know how I find parking on busy days? Take note of some of the distinctive cars parked at the waterfall. Then, drive about a quarter mile toward Brevard to a large pull-off. Wait for one of the cars you saw parked at the waterfall to go by. You’ll have about a 50/50 chance of getting to the parking spot before another driver heading in the opposite direction.

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Viewing the Waterfall

Looking Glass Falls is the easiest waterfall to see in Pisgah National Forest – and one of the easiest spectacular

waterfalls to visit in the country. In fact, you can see the top of the waterfall from the road.

The best way to view the waterfall is from the bottom. A concrete staircase descends 95 steps to the rocky river at the waterfall’s base.

No official trails or boardwalks are at the bottom, so you’re left to navigate the area at your own risk. It’s not difficult to walk around the waterfall’s base, especially if the water level is low.

Read More | The 15 Best Waterfalls in Brevard, NC + Trail Info and Parking

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Smooth, wet river rocks are extremely slippery, though. Whenever you visit a waterfall, I recommend a pair of trekking poles to help cross the shallow parts of a river.

There are several boulders and patches of ground where you can easily perch. And there are several good places to hang a hammock if you want to experience a waterfall like I do.

Looking Glass Falls is in a narrow ravine surrounded by towering cliffs and trees. This limits the sunlight and indirect light at the waterfall, which means the best time to see it is from an hour after sunrise until an hour before sunset.

Photographing the waterfall is a different story. About 3 p.m. is the best time of day to capture photos of the waterfall with sunlight.

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Accessibility

Unfortunately, no parking spaces at Looking Glass Falls are marked for disabled users. This is even more unfortunate because the only ramp for wheelchairs to get onto the concrete sidewalk is at the last parking space closest to the waterfall. If another vehicle is parked there, it will be very difficult to bring a wheelchair onto the sidewalk.

However, if you’re fortunate enough to get that parking space, it’s easy to see the waterfall. It’s one of the few waterfalls of this magnitude to have an accessible overlook.

The overlook has a wire mesh beneath the handrail to prevent anyone or anything from falling off. This allows people in wheelchairs a moderately good view of the waterfall.

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Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
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