Boxcar Rocks

  • Grade context: US
  • Photos: 1
  • Ascents: 4




Interesting conglomerate area characterised by technical face climbing on embedded pebbles, with good trad protection to be found in cracks. A couple of routes are bolted, and most can be top-roped.


Boxcar Rocks (a/k/a 'Chinese Wall') is an interesting area to visit, being a unique geological formation for PA. The main climbing area forms part of an approximately 1km long ridge top cliff band. The rock itself is a very old conglomerate sandstone with embedded pebbles, not unlike the 'puddingstone' that can be found in some parts of New England. The style of climbing is unusual and not to everyone's fancy, but can be quite enjoyable once the technical pebble pinching is mastered. There are only a couple of sport climbs at Boxcar, while a larger number of trad lines exist where cracks form. Most routes can be easily top-roped by walking to the top of the formation. Bouldering potential is expansive here, but many landings are poor and trails may be patchy further east of the main wall.

Access issues

Located on PA State Game Land, so no private property access issues. However, the area is known to be patrolled, and camping and fires are strictly prohibited.


Car park is located at 40.545, -76.536

From the south, east or west: drive (most likely via I-78 or 81) to PA route 72 north near Swatara township. Follow it through Swatara Gap - crossing the Appalachian Trail - and through Swatara State Park as it becomes PA route 443 north.

2.1 miles past the 443 north junction, turn left onto Gold Mine Road. Follow it a total of 4.4 miles, over a short, steep mountain pass (Blue Mountain) and a second uphill grade. The pullout will be the largest on your right hand (east) side, with room for several cars to park before the dirt pullout road is blocked by a closed gate.

From the north, approach by driving east or west on PA route 325, then turning south onto Gold Mine Road. Cross over the first mountain, and park in the pullout on the left as indicated by the GPS coordinates.

Park here and walk east past the gates until you reach a burn site - if you're attentive you might see a small wood sign saying "Boxcar Rd" on the left. Continue waling and take the first real trail on the right (southward). This takes you to the back side of the rocks near the "turtles head" (Moby Neil end) on the Main Wall.


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Grade Route

Start at the flake, move up through some jugs to a ledge (5.4), then into an left facing dihedral/corner to the top.

First splitter crack on the Main Wall. Climb the crack straight to the top.

Climb the thin crimpy face straight up to the top.

Crimpy, exciting face climbing. Look for 2 bolts on the wall to the right of Russell's Ruin.

A near vertical face with some fun crimps and pinches. Climb the thin face straight up. 1.5m left of Curt's Crack.

Classic (for the area) crack that goes from fingers, to thin hands, to hands, then to fists and/or offwidth above the horizontal.

You can climb the fingers to hands crack to the horizontal then instead of continuing onto the fist/offwidth above, crawl (an average size human can fit) through the passage/tunnel and build an anchor.

Climb a bouldery right facing flake to a bolt and a rest. Delicately climb the face above past 2 more bolts to a horizontal. Clip a 4th bolt and pull the small roof using nice finger pockets. Finish on the fun face past a 5th bolt to a 2 ring anchor.

Climb the crimpy delicate face to the right of Snap Crackle Plop. Use SCP's anchor to set up the toprope.

Toprope this route using the anchors of Please Don't Pop. Follows a black water streak.

Start on a shallow, red, right facing flake. Climb past 5 bolts to a 2 ring anchor.

Classic bolted line just to the right of Please Don't Pop. Crimpy with a few, various, small features to use on the way up.

Crimpy mixed line just to the right of The Apprentice. Requires solid footwork.

Fine, fun crack. Third splitter on the Main Wall.

Above the horizontal at 35 feet, you can finish up the offwidth (5.6) or climb the face to the right of the crack (5.4R), to reach a 2 ring anchor at 50 feet.

Well protected with plenty of options for feet outside the crack as well.

Climb up the Margies Curves crack but instead of following the crack left or right, go straight up onto the face and to the top.

Up the face. The hard part is the first 10 feet off the ground - (could try starting close to the Margies Curves crack, or farther away right). Above that sustained 5.9. Top rope from Margies Curves anchor, though difficult to set up given the lack of gear for directionals.

Fun face climb through 2 bolts. Start in the left facing corner, move up to the horizontal and diagonal left to the first bolt; straight up from there. Hunt for the amazing finger tube above the small roof.

Two bolts for a top anchor. Note, however, that as of March 2020 the bolts did not have hangers on them.

This is the easiest bolted/mixed route here.

Nice introduction to Boxcar.

Up the obvious crack. Interesting crux sequence mid-way. Fun moves below and above.

The obvious bottom-to-top crack at the far right (east) end of the wall. Just left of a narrow gully rising gently up right-ward.

No bolts at top or along the way. Trad gear for the crack. Top-Rope straightforward to set up with long slings.

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