|A spectacular overhanging outcrop on Snake Mountain.|
I first met +Peter only three years ago, though I knew of him for somewhat longer as being the second person to complete the list of 136 Southern Fivers (the peaks in the Southeast over 5,000' in elevation and having at least 300' of prominence - and he also did the remaining 64 peaks with 200' of prominence that is the standard in the Northeast), and through his first book, Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers. That led to some correspondence with him about a couple of the towers, as well as about a couple other peaks I was interested in that I knew he had been up. One thing led to another and we eventually met up for a hike when we realized how much of an obsession with mountains we had in common. Now we share a friendly competition trying to stay ahead of each other in the number of peaks we have visited in our respective states of Virginia and North Carolina, and get together for a hike whenever possible. In fact, we recently spent a week in the Adirondacks of New York and he also completed the Northeastern Fivers on Mount Marcy while we were there.
|Three Top Mountain and The Peak.|
|Snake Mountain looming above.|
I would have preferred to gone up the old jeep trail that leads to the summit, a steep and direct route that is quite a grind to climb, but there is a new trail that was still under construction the last time either of us was here. Peter needed to be able to describe that trail accurately from the perspective of someone going up it, so that is the way we went. While I thought the old trail was more than adequate and even have a certain affection for it (that whole steep trails thing), I must admit the new trail is very nicely laid out, aesthetically appealing, and has a very moderate grade while still not milling around too much to get to the top - though its two mile length is about twice as long as the old route. But it also is not as much "fun".
|Looking north from Elk Knob at The Peak, Three Top, and Bluff Mountain.|
We hiked back down the short, steep way on the old jeep trail and hopped in Peter's truck to go the last few miles to Rich Mountain Gap. From here it's only about 3/4 of a mile to the 5,580' summit of Snake Mountain and about a 1,160' climb. But it's more interesting than that. There is no trail, at least in the constructed sense. A faint path leads, Northeast style, straight up the fall line of the South Ridge. And 1,000' of that gain takes place in the first half mile. It is steep! And fun! And slow. Near the top of the climb, the route breaks out into the open on a narrow spine of rock that requires some mild scrambling and leads to ever wider views. Rich Mountain Bald is just to the south and Elk Knob is less than two miles to the east.
|Elk Knob from the south shoulder of Snake Mountain.|
|Narrow ridge on Snake Mountain.|
There are some abrupt dropoffs and the trail is forced to skirt around a couple of them, very steeply so at times. It quickly becomes wide open just below the north shoulder and the route moves onto bare rock and grass for the remainder of the descent. There are "wow" views behind at what we just came down and more "wow" views of the route ahead, not to mention great views of The Peak, Three Top, and lots more. It's a trek to savor and we made the final descent to my waiting vehicle in twilight, having made full use of the day.
|The north summit of Snake Mountain and it's rocky spine.|
The route of this hike. To see a larger map click here.
940' elevation gain
1,400' cumulative elevation gain
More pictures from this hike
Pictures from other hikes to Elk Knob and Snake Mountain:
Resources and contacts:
Elk Knob State Park
Elk Knob State Park Map & Directions
Elk Knob SummitPost page
Snake Mountain SummitPost page
gpx file and topo maps
Elk Knob 36.33206,-81.68962
Snake Mountain (North) 36.34283,-81.69667
Snake Mountain (South) 36.32096,-81.71037
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