Big Lick Mountain lies about forty miles to the northeast of PA's capitol in Harrisburg. This mountain is a part of the Short Mountain chain which stretches for twenty miles to Interstate 81 and forms a the southern wall of Bear Valley. Big Lick along with Short and Bear Mountains, form one of the larger ancient synclines which occurred during the uplift of the Appalachian Range along with the formation of "Pangea". As you can probably imagine, this is part of the reason for the rather large abundance of strip mining for coal in the area. Many of these coal cavities were exposed through this uplifting period over 500 million years ago during the Ordovician Period. Large variations of fossils can be found all over the northern and southern slopes of this mountain from this time of collision between the North American continent and Africa.
Another of the famous geologic features along this mountain is the Bear Valley Fault which runs parallel to the ridge. There are many places throughout Bear Valley along the base of the north side of Big Lick Mountain to view the fault. Many people don't think of Pennsylvania as a place for earthquakes, but this faultline is presently active and has produced numerous tremors since the beginning practices of seismography. In ending the drama, none of the quakes have ever reached past two on the Richter Scale, but it is still quite interesting.
Big Lick Mountain is a narrow east to west running ridge which is separated from Short Mountain by Big Lick Gap. As with most of the other mountains in the state of Pennsylvania, this is about as high as you'll get in the majority of the state. This is all that remains of the once mighty Appalachians in the region. Some suggestions are offered that thes mountains once stood as high if not higher than the present day Himalaya.
This mountain has endless hiking possibilities and can be accessed from all sides. No views exist from the actual summit, but there are many spots along the ridgeline that afford wonderful views into the Lykens Valley and south to Peters Mountain and Blue Mountain . On a clear day the view will extend fifty miles in the right direction towards the Peidmont Plateau in southeastern PA. For anyone interested in technical climbing, there are some short routes on the cliffs left behind from the strip mining. There are some sections which rise up to one hundred feet out of the mountain side. No matter what trail is taken, this mountain is a wonderful place to see some ancient geologic history along with great views and a good workout.
This mountain is best accessed from Lykens, PA along route 209.
Get onto Interstate 81 north and continue for nearly 45 miles to the Williamstown/Route 209 exit. Continue on Route 209 through Williamstown where you'll get your first glimses of the mountain on your right. Continue until you reach the traffic light in Lykens where you'll want to turn right and head through Big Lick Gap. Continue on to the desired trailhead or into Bear Valley.
Take route 147 south all the way to the square in Millersburg. From here turn left and head east on Route 209 through Elizabethville until you reach the traffic light in Lykens. You'll want to turn left towards Big Lick Gap and continue to the desired trailhead.
There are no permits, fees, or seasonal closures. Even in winter, you can get back there with a four wheel drive vehicle. The mountain is on State Game Lands and is open to the public at all times of year. There are many places to park all througout the surrounding area of the mountain although you usually won't find many people there anyways. Be careful in the fall because you will find hunters in the woods. For conservation purposes, follow the "Leave No Trace" program and everything will be fine.
When To Climb
This mountain is climbable in all seasons of the year, but as stated above, you'll want to wear orange in the fall because of hunting season. Late winter is a good time to hike in this area because views are better and there are no hunters in the woods.
There is no camping allowed in the area because it is State owned property.
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