Along US 276 coming out of Brevard, you'll pass the Ranger Station. A few more miles along and you'll come to a stretch of windy road (it's all windy) where, on the right hand side, cars are packed in like sardines (not if you get there early enough, though). During the afternoon, the close proximity of Looking Glass Falls to 276 makes is a ripe tourist stop-off. Get there before 11am on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Take the first parking spot you find as you may, like me, find that the spots closer up are all taken. Then you'll be screwed out of a parking spot.
There's probably a set of one hundred stone steps leading down to the falls which can easily be seen from the road. At the bottom you'll find a small stone viewing area from which very few people partake in the views. Instead there's a well worn path off the the left that brings you out directly into the river. And presently, into the spray-zone of the falls. This icy mountain water is refreshing on a hot day as the temperature by the falls is easily 10º-20º cooler than up by the road.
If you decide to rock-hop and/or swim (I suggest you bring a pair of Keens) then head around to your right hand side of the falls. Here you'll find that the water has carved out an infinitely deep plunge pool. There's a couple of good rocks to jump off on this side, straight into the freezing cold plunge pool. Just be careful of the waterfall's undercurrents and be sure to scout for rocks before jumping!
If, instead, you'd like to get out "behind" (you can't really make it all the way behind) the falls then go back up the stone stairs to where the first turn is in the switchback. There's a small trail here that goes off toward the waterfall over lots of strewn boulders and precarious angles on wet mossy stones dozens of feet above the ground. Like me, you probably think this sounds like fun. So pick your way around, over, across, and through these rocks until you're up and around behind the waterfall. You can jump in from here if you have the balls, or just pose for a good picture.
Here's my suggested trip itinerary:
|Common afternoon view from Black Balsam Knob|
Head out from Brevard, NC early in the morning going north on US 276. Hit up Looking Glass Falls before the crowds arrive. From there continue north on 276 deeper into the national forest. You'll hit the Blue Ridge Parkway after another 20 minutes or so. Head west on the parkway from here. After another twenty minutes and scenic overlooks of Cold Mountain and Looking Glass Rock as well as passing the Mountains to Sea Trail you'll arrive at the Graveyard Fields trailhead and parking. Here you can check out the Lower Falls (yep, that's their name). There's a great plunge pool for swimming here, too. You can jump right off the falls if you climb the face, there's a good 6 foot drop. Then you can opt to either head up the MTS Trail to Skinny Dip Falls. Or go up Black Balsam Knob Road to Black Balsam Knob for an afternoon picnic and relaxation with beautiful views in 360º at over 6000ft.