When simple pleasures meet natural wonders, there is a marriage of time and place so innocently beautiful that generations of humans have shared in the same experience time and time again. To think that there is still a place where you can enter a forest, gaze upon a waterfall, and walk onto a well-worn boulder to slide down a slab into cold, Carolina water with a plunging swimming hole. This is the making of childlike stories brimming with nostalgic folklore.
The magic of this simple pleasure is none other than Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Falls in the midst of Pisgah National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains. In just forty-five minutes, the journey from Asheville, North Carolina to Looking Glass Falls will take you to a place adored by many. If you have the time for a scenic route, the Blue Ridge Parkway also offers spectacular overlook views of the mountains along the way. Looking Glass Falls is an ideal pit stop for the everyday adventurer. Accessible by road, you can park and walk right up to the 60 foot waterfall.
“Looking Glass” Falls gets its name from Looking Glass Rock, the stone face in Pisgah National Forest with an elevation of 3,970 feet that can easily be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The story of Looking Glass is that the sides freeze with water in the winter and glistens in the sunlight like a mirror or looking glass. While experienced rock climbers will take to climbing the face, there is also a moderate hike on the other side. A few miles nearby from this impressive rock are the Looking Glass Falls. In the summer months, this area is incredibly popular so we set out for Pisgah as soon as the sun came up. The Looking Glass Falls were wonderful to see early in the morning with just a few people among us admiring its beauty.
Shorty after, we continued down the road with anticipation for Sliding Rock. Derek was bursting with excitement for me to slide down this natural water slide. He hadn’t been to see it since he was a boy at summer camp. (He remembered that he had forgotten his swimming suit and had to slide down in his underwear!)
During the busy mid-day hours, sliders wait in a long line to ride down the rock one-by-one. Since we had arrived before the park had even opened, there was no gate fee and we almost had the place all to ourselves. The mountain air was just over 60 degrees and I had been told the water was about 50 degrees. So as we looked down upon what I believed to be my impending doom, a few children shrieked with joy as they rushed into the pool below.
Sliding Rock is a 60-foot flat, sloping boulder fueled by 11,000 gallons of water each minute. I told myself that I only had to do it once, so I mustered up my courage and peeled back my layers. The first toe in the water was is hardest as I waded with each icy step. We stood at the top and strategized as to where the best place was to walk and which side to slide down. In the meantime, a few sliders fresh off the thrill passed us to ride again.
With hesitation, I finally made my move onto the rock and carefully lowed into the crack between two rock flats. Finally with a gentle push, I steered myself along the smoother flat and in just seconds made a great splash into the eight-foot pool. Oh how the plunge shocks the system! I swam a few strokes to the shore, stepped up onto the observation deck and cheered on Derek making his way onto the rock next. He took his time getting seated and then in moments was sliding down the rock to his icy plunge.
Giggling with excitement, we took our selfie for proof. Then I shrieked, “It wasn’t so bad. I’m going to do it again!” Derek eagerly replied that he would record a video! With no line of people to wait through, I walked into the water with confidence and quickly made my way up. Taking my time onto the rock for fear that I would fall, I was soon in ready position for my second slide. The water was just as cold the second time and I yelped as I slid down!
I felt like I had been a part of an experience that people have been doing for years. What could be more wonderful than sliding into a swimming hole in the middle of a gorgeous forest? In the moment, it was impossible to describe the joy of Sliding Rock without belly-aching laughter. What a way to start the day!