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Ascent of Little Snake Hill on 2011-08-08

Climber: Michael Schwartz

Date:Monday, August 8, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Little Snake Hill
    Location:USA-New Jersey
    Elevation:70 ft / 21 m

Ascent Trip Report

For a 70-foot hill, this one took a lot of work.

First of all, use the aerial photos to show the route, as the topo is badly out of date and virtually useless.

The only report I could find of an ascent was in the 1992 USGS benchmark recovery, which described a route from the present-day area of the massive Secaucus railroad transfer station. From the area of the station, Little Snake Hill is barely over 1/4 mile distant, but access is now totally blocked by the New Jersey Turnpike (high barrier fences, plus the suicidal requirement to cross the road on foot) and the Amtrak northeast corridor line.

Using the aerial photos, I found a route that worked nicely. From the NJ Turnpike, take exit 15X, follow the extremely long exit ramp, turn left at New County Road, and follow it over a mile into the Laurel Hill Park. See my report for Laurel Hill (aka Snake Hill), which is nicely combined with Little Snake Hill.

Once in the park, take the paved road all the way to parking on the left and right, just before the road is gated and signed for official vehicles only. I hiked the paved road continuation, passing a security guard who ignored me. The road circles around the west end of Laurel Hill, then turns SE, passing under the NJ Turnpike and Amtrak, paralleling an old railroad spur now used for storing excess freight cars. Hike 1/2 mile past the Amtrak overpass to a gravel road on the left. Hike that road north (large gate at the beginning which looks as if it may stay open full-time), pass the two rectangular areas shown on the aerials, and turn left onto the road shown passing the hill on its SSW side. The hill is completely surrounded by a stout fence, but about halfway along its side, look for a walk-in gate, number 16. (N40.75591 W74.07885). The gate has no provision for being locked, and is obviously intended to facilitate entry by foot.

I scrambled straight up the hill, through rocks and poison ivy, but if one keeps slightly right, there is a faint use path that offers easier access to the top. Follow your nose to the highest point, where I placed a small cairn. For extra credit, search for the USGS benchmark nearby. You'll see the rusting remnants of an ancient Coca-Cola sign near the BM location. I only found reference marker #1 and never found the BM. I did find a piece of sheet metal with three nails that penetrated the sole of my shoes and scratched my feet, so beware when walking near the site of the old sign.

Distance from parking to the hill is 1.5 miles.

The rectangular areas south of the hill are used by PSE & G for fly ash leaching(?)from their nearby power plant, so there is a fair amount of activity there. Otherwise, the area is very lonely once you leave the park. Pay attention to your surroundings.
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