If you’re hoping to do some rockhounding in Pennslyvania, you’re in luck! Pennsylvania is a great state for mineral hunting. It’s not always easy to get started looking for good mineral samples, but there are wide varieties of gemstones and minerals to be found if you know where to look.
Pyrite makes for an excellent and attractive addition to any mineral collection, and luckily it can be found in a variety of locations throughout Pennsylvania. If you’re looking for the best places to get started I would recommend looking at the French Creek Mine, the Blue Ball Stone Company, the Cornwall Iron Mine, Sullivan Trail Coal Company, and Bossardsville Quarry.
While extremely common, quartz is a very pretty mineral and is worth searching for. You can begin your search at the Brookdale mine in Phoenixville, the Rossville road cut (a little more than half a mile north of Rossville on Old York Road). Mud Grubb Lake is another great option – it’s an old abandoned iron mine and you can also find geodes and other minerals here.
Calcite isn’t very prevalent in Pennsylvania, but it can be found if you know where to look. York County is definitely the place to start – particularly Codorus Stone and Supply Company Quarry in Emigsville. This is in the middle of a limestone belt and you can also find other minerals here including fluorite and quartz. You can also try York Building Supply Quarry, as many great variations of calcite have been uncovered there.
Attractive dark green variation of pyromorphite can be found in Chester County. The Wheatley Mines – particularly the Brookdale Mine in Phoenixville, have produced many fantastic specimens. Most of the old mines in the area will have some quantity of pyromorphite. Bright green and greyish colored samples have also been found in this area.
In the Southeastern part of Pennsylvania you can score some good petrified wood samples if you’re lucky. If you go rooting around in creek beds you are likely to score some great finds. The trouble is that a lot of the best places to scour are on private land, so you’ll need to be sure to get permission before searching. Most of the petrified wood that you’ll find is Triassic in age. Many of the samples are reported to have an amazing variety of colors including light blue, light red, white, and yellow.
Not only can you find Eastonite in Pennsylvania, but it’s one of the only places in the world you can find it! Typically pale green in color, this mineral was named after the town near which it was discovered. It is a specific type of mica and would make a very unique addition to any rockhound’s collection. Sherrer Quarry has produced some samples, as has C.K. Williams quarry on College Hill. You can also find williamsite in this area, another fairly rare mineral.
There are some fantastic twinned rutile crystals to be found near the Maryland state line. Near Fawn Grove on Route 851 there are many fields where these treasures are commonly found. You’ll need to get permission from the owners, but as long as crops aren’t actively being grown in the field at the time it usually isn’t a problem. You can also try panning in the streams nearby, as it is very likely that some of these rutile specimens have been washed away from the soil and are just waiting to be discovered in the water.
You can also find some spectacular rutile crystals near Parkesburg, PA. They are often found in loose soil, so searching in or near farm land is probably your best bet.
Three types of garnet have been found in Pennsylvania – andradite, spessartine, and almandine. Andradite, can be found at Cornwall Iron Mine as well as Teeter Quarry near Gettysburg. Very pretty red to dark red spessartine samples have been found in Boothwyn and Sharpless Quarry, while almadine specimens are commonly found near Constitution and in Deshong’s Quarry near Leiperville.
Beautiful samples of kyanite with distinct purplish-blue coloring have been found at appropriately-named Prospect Park near the Morton Homestead in Ridley township in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The best way to search for your own is to find streams feeding Darby Creek and sift through the mud and soil carried by the streams. Good kyanite samples can often be found in quartzite matrices, so it can be worthwhile to break open any quartzite you find with a rock hammer.
Strikingly blue azurite can be discovered all over eastern Pennsylvania. The Cornwall Mines in Lebanon Country is a good place to start. The Rossville road cut (mentioned earlier in the quartz section of this article) is another very accessible place to look for your very own azurite sample. If you go this route, make sure to bring a hefty rock hammer. You will likely need to bust up some fresh rock to find anything as this site has been heavily picked over by fellow rockhounds.
What Else Is There to Find?
This list, of course, is not exhaustive.The Pennsylvania Topographic and Geologic Survey once compiled a list of approximately 430 unique mineral species that could be found in the state. Many of those minerals were only found in trace amounts or in sizes that were hardly suitable for display purposes in a mineral collection.
Precious metals such as gold, silver, and copper have all been found in Pennsylvania. If you pan for any minerals in streams or creeks you may be lucky enough to find some trace amounts of these metals.
While out hunting for gemstones you may be lucky enough to run across fossils – most notably the trilobites which have the distinction of being Pennsylvania’s official state fossil. They are especially prevalent in the Paleozoic rocks in central Pennsylvania.
Do I Need A Permit to Hunt for Minerals?
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, as long as you are collecting only for your own personal collection, you don’t need to worry about obtaining a permit. If you plan on selling or trading your finds then you will need to go through the process of obtaining a mining permit.
Of course, you will want to make sure that you aren’t trespassing on any private property while hunting. Make sure you check who owns the land you’re planning to visit and get permission if needed. If you’re searching on public land, I would highly recommend this article I wrote detailing the legalities of rockhounding on every type of public land. Many of the mines mentioned in this article are abandoned but they are still owned by private entities or local municipalities.
Whether you’re searching for minerals on private or public land please make sure to treat the land with respect. Fill in any holes you dig and pack out any trash you might generate.
Where to Buy Minerals and Gemstones
Not able to search for your own minerals? That’s okay! There are plenty of great rock shops in Pennsylvania where you can find just about anything you might be interested in.
Just to the west of Scranton you can find Back Mountain Jewelry & Rock Shop which has a pretty good inventory.