The boulder Field in the Hickory Run State Park is hidden gem deep within the woods of this 16,000-acre state park in Carbon County, PA. In addition to the boulder field, the Hickory Run features some incredible hiking trails ( such as the popular Shades of Death Trail ) and the beautiful Hawk Falls. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
The boulder field is about 16 acres in size and spans nearly 1,800 feet at its widest point. It is said to be the largest boulder field of its kind in all of the Appalachian Mountains. And, while it might not have the interesting ringing quality of the boulder field in Bucks County’s Ringing Rocks County Park, this is an incredible spot and a ton of fun to explore.
There are several theories on how exactly this boulder field formed. While its origins are up for debate, it likely was created during an ice age as there is evidence of glaciers within about a mile of the field. In fact, the park map even denotes the glacier boundary that runs through the park.
From a distance, the boulder field looks like simply a large pile of humongous rocks. However, once you get out on the field, you can really appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of this spot.
The boulders here range from a foot or so long up to nearly 30 feet in length. There are places where the field is almost all the smaller boulders and spots where it is primarily the larger rocks.
Most of the rocks in the field are sandstone, though there are a few conglomerate rocks scattered throughout the field which are interesting in contrast to the primarily solid gray rocks that dominate the landscape.
Interestingly, there are also spots where the rocks have created circular depressions in the ground, almost as if the pressure of the boulders caved in the ground below. It is estimated that the field of rocks is about 10-12 feet deep, which is a lot of weight for the ground to bear over thousands of years.
Probably the most interesting area of the boulder field is located on the right side of the boulder field (if facing it from the parking area) about a third of the way into the field.
Here, there are several small areas of trees that have popped up in the middle of the boulder field.
In the middle of this area, there is one single gnarled pine tree that has somehow managed to root its way through the rocks and grow alone in the middle of the boulder field. Without a doubt, this one of my favorite trees in all of Pennsylvania.
For those that want to learn more about the history and geology of this area, there are signs near the parking area that offer a great overview of the theories about the field’s formation.
How to Get to the Boulder Field Hickory Run State Park
You can reach the Boulder Field by hiking a trail from within the park, or, the more popular way, by car. From State Route 534 there is a rough, bumpy road that leads a few miles to a parking lot next to the boulder field. While the road is rough, you won’t need a four-wheel-drive. You could take any car on the road (in good weather conditions), you’ll just need to drive slowly. GPS coordinates 41.050634, -75.645633
The parking lot is just steps away from the field. From there, walk over the boulders and explore the area. Be careful on the boulders as some of them will move. Wear shoes or hiking boots with good grip, and ankle support would be good too.
The boulder field can be a popular area, so at times when there are a lot of people it can be a little challenging to get the photos that you want without including people. If you walk around a little you can get the right views. Most visitors stay relatively close to the parking lot.