The Absolute Coolest Thing to Do Just Outside Philadelphia
You wouldn’t even know it’s there. We had to follow a winding road through the woods, the houses few and far between. I only knew it was there because I saw it on the Travel Channel back in 2003. Back then we had cable, back then we were planning our honeymoon and were watching the Travel Channel a lot for inspiration. I saw a special on this place and I never forgot the uniqueness of it.
We’d been to Philadelphia several times since we saw that special. We even included a day in Philadelphia in our Ride the Rails weekend which you can read about here. I love exploring Philadelphia and that Sunday on our Ride the Rails Weekend we rode kiosk bikes all over the city. But this time we were in a car, not a train, so we had a lot more freedom.
Todd was in the market for a new car and had his heart set on a Toyota Highlander Hybrid (which is proving to be a really awesome car, by the way). He’d been looking for this car for about half a year, calling and visiting Toyota dealerships every chance he got. It’s a popular car, there were never any in stock, and the ones in transit from the factory were all spoken for before they even were shipped. He called dealerships within a 500 mile radius from our house and came up empty.
Then one in Fairmont, West Virginia called him. They explained that they had a brand new one on the lot, the person who intended to buy it had his situation change and could no longer do it. We jumped a plane to Pittsburgh the next day, ironically flying through Philadelphia, then we rented a car so we could drive south to Fairmont. We’d buy the car, return our rental in Fairmont and road trip home. We flew there Friday night then we had all day Saturday and Sunday to pick up the car and then meander our way home through West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and then home. At breakfast in Pittsburgh we downloaded the Roadtrippers app so we could find things to do along the way home. In Pittsburgh, where neither of us had ever been, we checked out Three Rivers Point and we marveled at the trams that went up the steep embankment of the mountains near by and decided that someday we would go back there to explore some more. I never really thought of Pittsburgh as a destination. But that’s the thing about going somewhere new—everywhere can be a destination if you are open to the idea that no matter where you go you are able to see something cool.
These trams travel up and down the massive hills near Pittsburgh.
Todd talked about going to the Hershey factory on the way home, which would have been cool. Like, do they give away free samples? Then I brought up the place I’d seen on Travel Channel. “I think this is the time to do it. And it’s on the way home too if we go north and bypass Philly…” Of course I was talking about Ringing Rocks.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Ringing Rocks since I’d seen it on TV. It sounds simple, but it’s really not. It just looks like a meadow in the middle of the woods where a glacier likely dumped hundreds of boulders. Nothing special, right? But these rocks are special. The people on TV carried hammers as they walked a few minutes into the woods and then climbed over the boulders until they got into the center of the field. Once they got into the center of the field they started hitting the boulders with a hammer and bells rang out.
We spent Saturday night in Allentown, and of course Billy Joel’s song Allentown was stuck in my head the entire time. We found a Home Depot and I ran in to purchase an $8 hammer and we made our way to Ringing Rocks. But other cool things happened on the way. We happened upon an old narrow canal on the west side of the Delaware River. There was a lock in the canal that we stopped to check out. We stopped to read the signs and learned that narrow canal boats were used to carry goods back and forth to fur trappers and traders working along the canal back in the day. We probably learned about it in 4th grade social studies—I definitely remember learning about the strategic positioning of Pittsburgh on 3 rivers that year.
This is where the three rivers in Pittsburgh meet. The put in this park, of course I am sure it's hoppin' in the summer.
This is the Delaware River canal. Very narrow canal boats traveled on it back in the day. Here's the part where the canal is contained by a bridge. I love it when they do that.
From there we headed on small roads into the woods and we stopped at a dirt parking area in the middle of nowhere. We walked for a few minutes on the path and ended up at the entrance to the field of boulders. I could see divots in the rocks along the path and at the edge of the boulder field where overzealous visitors struck rocks with hammers hoping to hear the ring. We did it too.
“I don’t know. Is this bogus?” I asked Todd. We climbed onto the boulders and hopped from rock to rock until we got to the center of the field. And that’s when it happened. We hit a boulder with the hammer and it sounded like a church bell. We hit the rest of them adjacent to that one and they made different tones. We struck them rhythmically and tried to make up little songs. We climbed out further and made noise all along the way. Ding! Dong! Ding ding! Dong!
This is what the field of rocks looks like. Click on it to find out what the rocks actually sound like.
So these rocks ring. Like bells. And they make different tones depending on the size of the boulders. And so far this is the only place in the world where the rocks do this. And it’s in the middle of the woods about an hour and a half directly north of Philadelphia.
We hung out for about a half an hour trying to make little songs among the rocks, until we decided we needed to hit the road and head east back to Rhode Island.
added on 06.23.23