Pennsylvania ranks among the best states in the country for rockhounding, both for the wide variety of rocks and minerals that can be found here and for the sheer number of prospective rockhounding locations. Most of the best gemstone collecting sites are in the southeastern part of the state where there are countless quarries and old mines.
The complex geology and surface topography of Pennsylvania is the perfect recipe for rockhounding. The ancient Appalachian mountains have been repeatedly intruded and metamorphosed, and subsequently eroded over time to reveal all of those interesting rocks and minerals. River and stream gravels all throughout the state have the potential to hold nice material like quartz crystals, petrified wood, and many other, less common minerals.
The biggest obstacle to rockhounding in Pennsylvania is the lack of public land open for collecting. While there are plenty of state-owned hunting wilderness areas, many of the best rockhounding sites are privately owned and will require advance permission to collect. I’ll give you some resources to help figure out land ownership issues later in this article.
Pennsylvania can be a veritable playground for rockhounds and amateur geologists. There are countless locations to explore and almost no end to the cool specimens you can collect, but you first have to have a general idea of where to look.
The best places to rockhound in Pennsylvania are quarries, outcrops, and gravels in the southeastern part of the state, particularly along the Maryland state line. You can find nice quartz crystals near McAdoo, and there are several mines accessible to the public including Brookdale Mine and Crystal Cave.
|State Mineral||Celestine (unofficial)|
|State Gemstone||Amethyst (unofficial)|
|State Fossil||Phacops rana (trilobite)|
I’ll dive deeper into the types of material you can find here and exactly where you can being your search, along with a handy map and some additional resources to help you along the way.
Rocks and Minerals Found in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has about as wide of a selection of collectible rocks and minerals as any state in the country. The complex and varied geology of the Appalachians and surrounding areas is ideal for the creation and exposures of interesting minerals ranging from common quartz-family minerals like agates and jasper to less common minerals like tourmaline, epidote, and copper minerals.
Some of the most sought-after material in Pennyslvania are the high-quality varieties of serpentine found in the pits and quarries along the Maryland state line. Williamsite in particular is a gem-grade, beautifully green colored serpentine gemstone that is often used for lapidary work.
As with many other states, quartz-family gemstones are probably the most common and widespread minerals collected in Pennsylvania. Nice quartz crystals and clusters, amethyst, agates, jasper, and petrified wood are all relatively easy to find if you’re looking in the right area.
The most commonly found and collected rocks and minerals in Pennsylvania are:
- Quartz crystals
- Petrified wood
If you’ve already found a rock and you’re not sure what it is, I’d highly recommend that you go take a look at my rock identification guide which is filled with useful information and tools.
Where to Rockhound in Pennsylvania
Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in Pennsylvania which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of old mining prospects, washes, streams, and historically known rock and mineral collecting sites. For additional reading, I’d highly recommend these books you can find on Amazon:
Please remember that rock collecting locations are constantly changing. Specimens may become depleted from other collectors, the location may have been built on or altered, locality information in literature may be inaccurate, and property ownership may have changed hands. Please note that I have not been to these locations. I have found records of these rockhounding sites over a variety of sources and offer these locations as a place to start searching. I cannot personally attest to the accuracy of the given locations or the quality of the material there.
Joining up with a local rockhounding club for a group trip can often get you access to otherwise off-limits locations like privately owned mines and quarries. There are many rockhounding clubs in Pennsylvania so you can most likely find one you like nearby.
I have tried to take care not to list locations within National Park boundaries since collecting is illegal there, but please remember that it is up to you to make sure you have permission to collect wherever you are. Even if you are on land that is generally open for public use there may be privately owned mining claims inside those boundaries and you’ll need to get permission to collect on that location.
Though there are many locations listed here, this list is far from exhaustive. A location’s listing here is not a guarantee of accuracy. Be safe, never go underground, and make sure to get permission from the landowner to search for and collect specimens.
If you’re planning on heading to the field, make sure you have all the gear you’ll need! To get started, you can check out my recommended gear page which contains my full reviews for every Geologist’s favorite rock hammer and the best hiking backpack I’ve ever owned.
Most of the best rockhounding sites in Pennsylvania are privately owned. Many are commercially operated mines and quarries, and gaining permission to collect on any of these properties is, as always, absolutely essential. Some are open to the public for collecting at select times of the week, often on weekends.
Western Pennsylvania Rockhounding Sites
Rockhounding in western Pennsylvania is almost entirely limited to the southwest part of the state. To the Northwest, the surface geology and topography are relatively uninteresting and don’t make for great collecting material. The southwest, however, is home to many old mines and quarries which have historically produced a lot of interesting rocks and minerals like calcite, barite, and quartz crystals.
Tip: Check out my Complete Rockhounding Guide for tips on planning your rockhounding trip and getting the most out of your time in the field!
The bulk of the easily collectible specimens you’ll find in southwestern Pennsylvania are in the quartz family, like petrified wood, amethyst, jasper, chalcedony, and quartz crystals. These types of finds are most common in local fields and the gravels of streams that cut through igneous and metamorphic rocks upstream.
Northeastern Pennsylvania Rockhounding Sites
The rockhounding in northeastern Pennsylvania is a little hit-and-miss when compared to the areas to the south, but there are definitely plenty of great spots to get out and spend some time collecting. The collectible material around here is mostly quartz-family minerals like jasper and quartz crystals, but in the dumps of some old mining districts you can find other minerals like azurite, pyrite, fluorite, and copper-associated minerals.
The highlight of the area is McAdoo and the surrounding area where you can find high-quality quartz crystals. In particular, ‘The Echo’ is a well-known and popular rockhounding destination where you can find nice quartz crystal clusters with nice points.
The Echo requires some climbing and is reportedly best searched with appropriate gear, technical ability, and local knowledge. For directions and more information I would recommend checkout out the Pennsylvania Rockhounds Facebook group.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Rockhounding Sites
The entire region of southeastern Pennsylvania is famous for its rocks and minerals. The surface geology is dominated by old, heavily mineralized bands of the Appalachian mountains which have been eroded by the many rivers and streams which now cut through the area.
This part of the country is one of the most heavily mined areas in the entire country, with many large strip mines and quarries scouring the surface. Most of these quarries are focused on coal, sandstone, and marble, but there are often many associated rocks and gemstones which will be of interest to the collector. Some of these quarries will allow local rockhounding clubs to collect on their property if arrangements are made in advance, so if you are hoping to search in one that will be your best bet.
The types of rocks and minerals you can find in southeastern Pennsylvania are seemingly limitless. You can find quartz-family minerals like quartz crystals, amethyst, petrified wood, agate, and jasper in gravels and fields all across the region. Near the Maryland state line you can find gem-quality varieties of serpentine in quarries and mining dumps.
Some of the most popular and well-known old rockhounding locations are the Rossville Road Cut and Prospect Park. Both locations have reportedly been pretty worn down over the years, but if you bring a decent sized sledge and are prepared to use it you can likely still find good material there.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Adams County, mines and quarries near state line||Azurite, Cuprite, Malachite|
|Fox Hill, area W of Cashtown||Garnet|
|Piney Mountain, W flank||Piedmontite|
|Caledonia State Park (outside boundaries)||Agate, Jasper|
|Gettysburg, many area quarries||Copper (native), Chabazite, Epidote, Malachite, Quartz, Feldspar, Magnetite, Olivine|
|Bucks County, Countywide creek gravels||Petrified wood|
|Reading, in gravels of Schuylkill River||Jasper|
|Boyerstown, W in Ironstone Creek||Magnetite|
|Birdsboro, area quarries||Zeolite crystals|
|Brookdale Mine (enquire at golf pro shop)||Quartz, Pyromorphite, Azurite, Cerussite, Fluorite, Galena, Pyrite, etc.|
|Eureka, area quarries||Quartz crystals (smoky quartz)|
|Feasterville, area outcrops and gravels||Sunstone, Agate, Feldspar, Chalcedony, Chert, Silicified wood|
|Morrisville, gravels of Delaware River||Jasper|
|Newtown, in gravels of Neshaminy Creek||Jasper, Petrified wood|
|Crystal Cave (fee)||Geodes, Quartz crystals, Gemstones|
|Riegelsville, area stream gravels||Jasper, Quartz|
|Avondale, area gravels just E||Quartz crystals (clear, smoky), Rutile|
|Coatsville, area to W south of highway in pegmatite||Amethyst, Beryl, Epidote, Garnet, Quartz crystals (smoky)|
|East Bradford, in gravels near Brandywine Creek and Plum Run||Quartz crystals (rock crystal)|
|Hauto, general area||Quartz crystals|
|Knauertown, mining dumps around French Creek||Apatite, Apophyllite, Azurite, Calcite (green), Chrysocolla, Malachite, Pyrite crystals, Quartz crystals, Rhodochrosite, Stilbite|
|Nottingham Park, area of Black Run in exposures||Serpentine, Garnet, Feldspar, Tourmaline, Albite|
|Wrightsdale, area quarries and mines to S||Brucite, Chromite, Magnesite, Serpentine, Soapstone, Williamsite|
|Warwick, area mines near French Creek||Chalcopyrite, Copper, Hematite, Limonite, Magnetite|
|Willowdale, area of Red Clay Creek||Quartz crystals (rock crystal)|
|White Rocks, area SE of Boiling Springs||Crytomelane, Goethite, Fluorite, Quartz crystals, Tourmaline, Zircon|
|Carlisle, area fields and gravels||Agate (banded), Quartz crystals, Jasper, Amethyst|
|Mt. Holly Springs, area fields and gravels to W||Agate nodules|
|Little Rocky Ridge, area outcrops||Hematite, Quartz|
|East Branch Naamanm Creek, near Boothwyn in pits||Sphene, Quartz crystals, Garnet|
|Brandywine Creek, in gravels near Chadd’s Ford||Amethyst|
|Chester Creek, in gravels near Chelsea||Amethyst, Quartz crystals (smoky)|
|Marple, general area||Amethyst, Quartz crystals (clear, rutilated)|
|Blue Hill, general area N of Media||Albite, Amazonite, Beryl, Feldspar, Sunstone, Quartz crystals|
|Crum Creek, in gravels and quarries near Swarthmore||Geryl (golden), Amethyst, Garnet, Quart crystals|
|Upland, area around Waterville road||Geodes (amethyst)|
|Bainbridge, area fields and gravels to N||Petrified wood|
|Churchtown, area 3 mi. to NE||Petrified wood|
|Lancaster, Blue Ball, and Brownstown, many area quarries||Calcite (dogtooth), Fluorite, Hematite, Quartz crystal, Rutile, etc.|
|Grubb Lake and Mud Lake, general area in gravels and soils||Geodes (limonite)|
|Meckley’s Quarry near Mandata (clubs only, by appt.)||Celestine (gem-quality)|
|Rock Springs Run, general area||Agate (moss agate)|
|Rossville Road Cut||Copper minerals, Malachite, Azurite|
|Lebanon County, very many are quarries and dumps||Azurite, Chalcopyrite, Magnetite, Malachite, Pyrite, etc.|
|Cornwall, many old mining dumps S of Rte. 322||Actinolite, Andradite, Calcite, Chlorite, Diopside, Epidote, Fluorite, Garnet (grossularite), Labradorite, Magnetite, Moonstone, Prehnite, Pyrite crystals, etc.|
|Schuylkill County, many area coal mines||Pyrite (cubes)|
|Allentown, area washes, fields, gravels, etc.||Jasper, Chert|
|Valley Quarry, Gettysburg (clubs only, by appt.)||Copper, Epidote, Chrysocolla, Chalcopyrite, Chabazite, Stilbite, etc.|
|Macungie, general area just N of Shimerville||Corundum (blue), Sapphire (crystals, asteriated)|
|Marlboroville, general area to S in hills and gravels||Jasper (red, brown, yellow), Sapphire|
|Alsace Township, area gravels||Chalcedony, Jasper, Agate|
|Prospect Park, Morton Homestead in stream feeding Darby Creek||Kyanite (blades), Feldspar crystals|
|Bridgeport, quarries along Schuylkill River||Calcite, Chalcedony, Dolomite, Goethite, Jasper, Malachite, Quartz crystals (rock crystal), Sphalerite|
|Maple Glen, area gravels and pits||Petrified wood|
|Philadelphia, area to NW in stream gravels, fields, etc.||Agate, Petrified wood, Chalcedony, Chert, Jasper, Quartz crystals,|
|Harrisburg, general area to S||Agate, Amethyst, Chalcedony, Garnet (andradite), Opal, Quartz crystals, Silicified wood|
|Yellow Breeches Creek, in gravels near Lisburn||Conglomerate (‘Potomac Marble’)|
|York Haven, area fields and gravels to SW||Petrified wood|
Where to Find Geodes in Pennsylvania
Geodes are some of the most popular rocks sought by rockhounds all over the world, and Pennsylvania is no exception. However, even with the seemingly limitless cool rocks and minerals you can find here, geodes are a relatively rare occurrence.
A determined collector can still find some geodes with a little luck and knowledge. The geodes found in Pennsylvania are typically lined with minerals like quartz, amethyst, and limonite and would make a great addition to your collection if you can get your hands on one.
Tip: Not sure if the rock you’ve found is a geode? Check out my article about how to identify a geode.
The best places to find geodes in Pennsylvania are in the gravels and soils around Grubb Lake and Mud Lake west of Lancaster, the town of Upland, and Gravel Bar Hollow near North Vandergrift. For a small fee you can also reliably find them at the popular Crystal Cave Mine which is open to the public.
Where to Find Amethyst in Pennsylvania
Amethyst is one of the most easily recognized and popular minerals around and is extremely popular with collectors. If you’re rockhounding in Pennsylvania you will be delighted to learn that it’s actually fairly common around here and there has even been a relatively recent attempt to adopt it as the state gemstone.
While amethyst isn’t exactly rare in Pennsylvania, you can’t find it just laying around anywhere. In general, the best places to find amethyst in Pennsylvania are in the southeastern part of the state in igneous and metamorphic exposures and the gravels of streams that cut through those formations.
The best places to find amethyst in Pennsylvania are:
- Harrisburg, the area just to the south
- Upland, around Watervill Road
- Swarthmore, around Crum Creek
- Marple and the surrounding area
- Chelsea, in the gravels of Chester Creek
- Chadd’s Ford, in the gravels of Brandywine Creek
- Carlisle, in surrounding fields and gravels
- Mount Pleasant
- Morrison Cove
Pennsylvania Rockhounding Laws & Regulations
One of the most common questions rockhounds have is whether or not they are allowed to collect at a certain location. It is the responsibility of each rockhound to obtain permission from a landowner to search and/or collect on a piece of property.
The ownership and status of land can and does change frequently, making it impossible to document accurate information for every location on this page. However, I have compiled a list of resources here so that you may investigate and obtain permission for any locations (found here or elsewhere) for yourself.
Public Land Resources
I have written entire articles which cover the rockhounding laws and regulations for nearly every type of public land you can think of. I encourage you to check them out if you are curious about the legalities of rock and mineral collecting.
- Rockhounding on Public Land: Laws and Regulations
- Can You Collect Rocks in State Parks? All 50 States Answered
To determine what type of public land a particular location is on, I would recommend starting with this interactive map from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Here are some additional resources to help you check on land ownership and mineral claims:
- US Forest Service Interactive Map
- BLM’s Mineral Land and Records System – to check for mineral claims
Private Land Resources
As with most states, each county in Pennsylvania will have records of who owns each piece of property. You can also usually get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. I would probably start by contacting the county courthouse in the county you’re interested in and getting whatever contact information you can for the landowner.
Sources & Further Reading
The locations and information contained in this article are primarily derived from academic papers, online resources, and other outside sources. If you would like to read some of the source material for yourself I have listed them below. The majority of these locations are my interpretation of Robert Beste’s A Location Guide for Rock Hounds in the United States. Other sources include:
- Mineral Resources Data System
- Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
- Pennsylvania Bureau of Geological Survey
- American Geosciences Interactive Map of Pennylvania Geology
- Pennsylvania GEOlogic Data Exploration
- Annual Reports on Pennsylvania Mining Activities
- Pennsylvania Mine Map Atlas
- Pennsylvania Geology Educational Booklets
This post is part of my State-By-State Rockhounding Guides series. Please check out more states for thousands of additional sites to go rockhounding!