Boxcar Rocks is probably one of the most impressive rock formations in the entire state of Pennsylvania. It is a sharp knife edged ridge which makes up a portion of the Sharp Mountain ridge-crest. Its name comes from the way the rocks sit together as they look like huge boxcars piled on top of each other when viewed from the north. From the south the first thing that will probably come to your mind is the Great Wall of China. It looks like an impenetrable fortress, unless you've brought your climbing gear!
Located about thirty miles to the northeast of Harrisburg, PA, this is a "must visit" summit in the greater Central Pennsylvania region. This area is also a climbing mecca and sees visitors from all over the state. The reason being that this is one of the only natural walls that provides anything worth attempting. The rock is also wonderful as it consists of a conglomerate with large quartzite pebbles mixed throughout. This allows for great hand and foot holds. The walls rise vertical with heights between forty and eighty feet. The ridge is also nearly a quarter mile in length so there is no shortage of routes. The top of the ridge is a very thin knife edge with lots of little pinnacles rising up even higher and you must be very careful on windy days.
There are not as many views as there are at places like The Pinnacle and Pole Steele , but there is lots of fun on the rocks. This is not to say though that there are no views at all. From the central section of the ridge and the top of the highest pinnacles, you'll get a 360 degree panorama of the valley near Swatara Gap State Park and back to Gold Mine Mountain. This summit provides many excellent outlooks along its entire length and is well worth the effort.
Technical Climbing Routes
If anyone has any more detailed information on routes please let me know so I can add it to this section.
Moby Neil- 5.6
Bam Bam- 5.10a
Moby Direct- 5.7
Russell's Ruin- 5.5
Rob's Line- 5.9
Finding the actual trailhead can be tricky so don't try to find this place unless you have a little bit of time!
Head north on Interstate 81 to the exit for Tower City and Williamstown. Take this exit and follow Route 209 South (west). Continue to Tower City and turn left in town at the intersection with Route 325 West. Follow this road for about three miles to Gold Mine Road which will be on your left. (There will be a little country gas station on the right.) Head up Gold Mine Road but take it easy because it is a pretty steep highway and there are two hairpins near the top. Continue over the first ridge and start counting gates. You'll pass a large parking area with a gate on your left but continue on. Pass by another gate and at the third, park your vehicle as it will be on your left. This is the trailhead.
From Swatara Gap:
Take Route 443 East out of the state park and take a left onto Gold Mine Road. From Gold Mine Road cross one ridge and then near the top of the second you'll see the road and gate for the trailhead. If you get to the top of Gold Mine Mountain and reach the hairpin turns you've gone too far. Turn around and start heading down. The third gate on your left, from the top, is the one you want.
There are no permits or fees required to hike or climb in this area as it is located within state game lands. Do not attempt to drive this road during or after a winter storm. They do try to keep it plowed, but the grades here are extemely steep on the north side of the mountain. For conservation purposes follow the “LEAVE NO TRACE” program and you'll be fine.
When To Climb
This summit is attainable at all times of the year but the best time to do this hike is in the fall or winter. If you're hiking in fall though you will want to make sure you have something bright on because it's hunting season.
For rock climbing, late spring and early summer are the best times to climb here. If you're really brave and PA is having a warm winter, head out because you'll have it all to yourselves.
There is normally no camping allowed on PA State Gamelands, but there is one exception. There is a campsite just to the north of Boxcar Rocks right off the trail that already has a firepit built. Whatever you do, again, pack it in and pack it out so that its cleaner than before you arrived.
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- Rock Climbing
This is from Rockclimbing.com's site and has some information on the technical routes at Boxcar Rocks.
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