Snake Den, Barnardsville

Snake Den appears in the 3rd edition of the Climber’s Guide to North Carolina by Thomas Kelley, but not in the new guidebook from Mountaineer’s press that has become the standard for the state. I went there briefly this weekend to teach Melissa how to rappel and thought it might be useful to put the topo online for those who can’t get a copy of the old book. They are online at Amazon, but they’re a bit steep because the book is out of print.

To be honest, Snake Den is a marginal crag at best. It’s mostly slab and the routes are nothing to write home about. Plus the guidebook warns against critters of all sorts like wasps and bats living on and in the rock. However, it’s the closest crag to Asheville and it has zero approach time since it’s right next to the dirt road. It also has a few very easy and very short routes to the left side of the crag that are nice, hike-up-accessible topropes for beginners or kids (and a good place to practice rappelling). The rest of the rock requires trad gear, which I think is too bad (though I normally love trad climbing so don’t give me hell for saying that :). This crag is very underused and not very exciting, but it could be a great training ground for new climbers. If there were just a few more bolted anchors at the obvious ledge systems, I think this place would be much more popular for toproping. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s not got a lot else going for it. And maybe it would relieve a bit of congestion on Looking Glass’s south side if this place were a bit more beginner-friendly. But before anyone breaks out the bolt guns, it’d be good to check with the NFS folks to make sure there’s no bolting ban.

If you hit up Snake Den and the two boulders out in Barnardsville, you can get a halfway-decent light day in when you don’t have a lot of time to drive somewhere else.


From Asheville, take 26 for about 12 miles towards Johnson City. Take exit 15 for Barndardsville / Jupiter / 197. Take a right off the ramp and go 6 miles until you are in a very small “downtown” area, and turn Right on Dillingham road. This road eventually has a few confusing semi-forks, but just stay on the main road; it’s pretty obvious as long as you don’t let the forks deceive you. The most obvious fork in the road is 3.8 miles after you turn onto Dillingham rd; just stay to the Right at the fork to stay on Dillingham. After another mile from the fork, the road turns to dirt and you’re in the Big Ivy wilderness. Stay on this dirt road for 4 to 5 miles as it winds up the mountain. The crag will be on your left and the best parking is just past the wall on the right.

Directions to boulders are in this post.

Note: Click to enlarge. The blue bolts are newer looking anchors I noticed above the corner. I haven't been up there, though, so approach with intelligence. Topo Copyright Thomas Kelley and published by Earthbound Sports.


1. Freddie’s Dead 5.2
2. Unknown 5.3
3. Dark in Bad 5.7
4. Sunny Daye 5.5
5. Wasp Flake 5.4
6. Scrambled Brains 5.7
7. Mist 5.6
8. Syringe 5.7
9. Desolation Row 5.8
10. Testosterone Bunny 5.7
11. Unknown 5.9 X
12. Bookends 5.6 (starred route)
13. Fer-De-Lance 5.9
14. Yo Mamba 5.10
15. Redneck 5.8
16. Unknown 5.9

Disclaimer: This info comes from a book that’s 15 years old. I’m supplying it as a reference, but keep in mind that things change, bolts rust, climbing’s dangerous, etc, etc. So don’t sue me if a bolt’s missing and you wet your Huggies on a big runout.

Other info to know:

You can camp just about anywhere out here; it’s all NFS land. Just follow NFS rules and regs.

This crag gets a lot of sun in the summer, so go early or late to beat the heat.

It's about 180 feet tall at the highest point.

The dirt road is closed in the winter, usually after the first snow. It opens in the spring, usually by May 1st.

You can reach Douglas falls if you keep driving up the road where it dead-ends and hike in for about a half mile. You can also find other small pools to cool off in one of the many creeks.

To wrap up, If you approach Barnardsville climbing as a diversion rather than a destination, it can make for a nice day. Just make sure you're comfortable with all things trad before you climb at Snake Den, and methinks you'll need double ropes for some of the rappels from the very top.


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