Ascent of Snake Mountain on 2019-12-30

Climber: William Sanderson

Date:Monday, December 30, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Snake Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5560 ft / 1694 m

Ascent Trip Report

Well, this one continues to be a bit problematic. Hopefully it will not become even more inaccessible in the future. I spoke to the Elk Knob State Park superintendent last week, and he reports that the landowners of the property that includes Snake continue to have unpleasant encounters with belligerent hikers, and that he would like to ask everyone to stay off the Snake Mtn. trail, reason being that the park system is trying to purchase or ease that property to add to the Elk Knob property and he feels that continued issues are counterproductive re the acquisition.

That being said, the southern end of the Snake Mountain ridge is now a state game land. Signs along Rich Mountain Road are very explicit, that entry is allowed only for the purposes of hunting/fishing, and only during open seasons for deer, turkey, raccoon, and grouse, and that entry for all other purposes is strictly prohibited. This is the same verbiage as is found in the game lands booklet (and online maps). Since the southern end of the ridge is where the actual high point of the ridge is located (while the popular hike destination peak is farther north along the ridge), access via the game land is actually ideal.

The game land maps from the NC Wildlife Commission are not very precise, and I was not sure if the upper end of the parcel included the high point or not. Having not been grouse hunting in years, and since it is grouse season, I swapped out my hiking poles for a 20 gauge side-by-side loaded with high brass #6s and drove up to Rich Mountain Gap to try my luck.

After crossing the gate I followed the road which angled up the hill to the right (South). in a couple of places the road junctions with a switchback road heading north, but I passed all those and continued traversing up and south of the main ridge. I can report seeing plenty of decent grouse habitat but saw no birds (my old Labrador Retriever is not up to hunting any more so he was at home napping, and finding grouse without a dog is a low probability situation). Finally the road peetered out and I began slogging upslope, grabbing game trails when they presented themselves. Lots of great turkey sign, as well as deer trails and droppings, were seen as I moved upslope, becoming more numerous the higher I went. This place is loaded with game!

Finally I hit a fenceline and began following it upslope toward the high point. Eventually I encountered an ATV track and followed it. No signs were present indicating the end of the game land property, or posted signs discouraging further progress, so I continued walking uphill in my quest for the elusive grouse. The ATV track eventually stopped in an open grassy area, but a foot trail continued on upslope. Following the trail was easy enough, and eventually I popped out on the rocky ridge just below the high point. A few minutes brought me to the high point (Meat Camp is the designation on the topo map). I was not able to locate a benchmark, but the high point is obvious, though brushy.

Bottom line: in order to legally access this summit you have to be engaged in hunting/trapping deer, turkey, grouse, or raccoon (there is no fishable water on in this side of the road). Check the NC Wildlife website for seasons and equipment requirements (hunter orange cap/vest), and don't forget your license.

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Game land sign along Rich Mountain Road, with the high point of Snake Mountain in the background (2019-12-30). Photo by William Sanderson.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack

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