Pennsylvania Highlands Geology

The Pennsylvania Highlands are the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The irregular ridges and deep valleys of this unique landscape feature common themes that reflect the region’s geology, which has influenced local history and land use. Much of the Pennsylvania Highlands are comprised of the Reading Prong Geologic Formation. The Reading Prong is found primarily in Berks, Bucks, Montgomery, and Northampton Counties.

Two types of rock are common to the erosion resistant, largely forested ridges of the Pennsylvania Highlands: diabase (basalt), and granitic gneiss and quartzite (see map). The diabase areas create natural limitations for agriculture and land development, due to the size and abundance of boulders. As a result, these areas feature large contiguous woodlands such as Hopewell Big Woods and Unami Hills.

The high iron content in the gneiss and quartzite rock ridges provided the raw material for the region’s industrial legacy of iron and steel. This legacy is reflected in the names of towns, historic sites and parks found throughout all thirteen counties of the Pennsylvania Highlands region: places such as Durham Furnace, Coventry Forge, Hopewell Furnace, Johanna Furnace, Cornwall Furnace, and Pine Forge Furnace. The unique combination of forests, rocky hills, historic sites, industrial towns, and fertile limestone valleys makes for a compelling story to be told through interpretive signage and online tools, enhancing the experience of trail users.

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PA Highlands Trail Signage Installation Underway in Quakertown

PA Highlands Trails signage marking the PHTN route through Quakertown is being installed in the Borough.  Read More

Highlight the Highlands: Riparian Forest Buffer of Tinicum Township

Tinicum Township, in Bucks County, is located entirely within the Eastern portion of the Pennsylvania Highlands. Abutting the Delaware River, Tinicum is an active and engaged community. The Tinicum Civic Association automatically includes all residents, giving everyone a chance to get involved. The Association puts on the annual Arts Festival, which last year was supported by over 200 volunteers and raised over $100,000 dollars for local non-profits. Read More

#SaveLWCF: Jacobsburg State Park

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) serves as the main funding mechanism for the Highlands Conservation Act, allowing for the yearly allocation to protect the Pennsylvania Highlands and the rest of the four-state Highlands region. Congressional authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund expires on September 30, 2018, and must be reauthorized in order for funding to continue.  Read More

Highlight the Highlands: Valley Forge National Historic Park

Located on the Southeastern edge of the Pennsylvania Highlands, Valley Forge National Historic Park is a major attraction for history buffs and recreationists alike. The site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army, the park is filled with historic structures and monuments as you wind your way through the vast array of trail offerings. Read More