Plan to Metal Detect in Pennsylvania? Here’s a few things you should know

This blog is for all my fellow searchers and history hunters. Most of us probably have equipment that we use daily, but some of you readers may be new to the hunt and need advice on where to start. There are a lot of options out there when it comes to metal detectors. My advice is if you are just starting out, start with something simple to make it easier on yourself.


When I first began metal detecting I started with the Garrett Ace 300 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews.) This machine works great and is perfect for beginners. Also, get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.

If you are new to metal detection in Pennsylvania it is important you familiarize yourself with the laws to ensure you don’t get into any trouble. The laws in Pennsylvania just like in most states restrict metal detecting for antiquities and historic items on state owned lands. Legally you cannot collect relics and other historical artifacts that you find on public lands, and you must have permission to metal detect in state parks. If you want to hunt for historic items with a metal detector in Pennsylvania, it is almost always best to look for places on private lands. Get permission from the landowner prior to detecting. In this blog, we’ll review the most productive metal detecting spots throughout the state. We’ll also review the federal and state metal detecting laws.

Pennsylvania’s history is rich and diverse. After all, the state is where the Constitution was written and thus deserves a visit. With its rare beauty and well over 100 state parks, Pennsylvania has a lot to offer, from a seemingly endless supply of parks to a historically rich atmosphere.

The Keystone state is a fantastic place for finding buried coins and treasure using your metal detector. There are several great stories about lost or stolen gold in every state, and Pennsylvania is no exception. There are an abundance of old towns and settlements which present some of the best places you can find coins, relics, and hidden treasure. I’ve listed 5 of Pennsylvania’s missing treasures in another blog, just click on the link to be taken to that story. One legend specifically seems to catch a lot of interest.

According to legend, 26 gold bars lie hidden in the northwest region of the state. They were supposedly buried by Union soldiers in the lead up to the Battle of Gettysburg.

gold bars

For a long time, the story of Pennsylvania’s Civil War treasure was brushed off as a myth. But in 2018 something interesting happened. In March of that year, the FBI conducted a search for the gold. Although agents claim to have found nothing, the fact that the FBI was interested at all convinced many treasure hunters that there must be credence to the claims.

Today, metal detector hobbyists travel from all over America to find Pennsylvania’s famous buried treasure. This is part of what makes Pennsylvania such an appealing state for treasure hunting.

The many stories about buried treasures in Pennsylvania are treasures that are hidden in caves, old mines, ghost towns and sometimes on private property. Most of the buried treasures yet to be found were buried by the outlaws in the early days of settlement in the state. Depending on where you are in the state you can get information on the hidden treasure by doing some research online and reading about the local history.

treasure cache

Another type of lost treasure in Pennsylvania are caches that were hidden by the early settlers of the state. Back in the day when banks were unreliable, people would often bury their possessions to hide them from thieves. Sometimes, no one knew the location of their cache when they died, and it remains hidden today. Some spectacular caches of gold and silver coins have been found and people are still finding more even today.

Metal detecting in Pennsylvania has been highly publicized in recent years. Therefore, competition has increased. However, I view this increased interest as nothing but a positive. Metal detecting is a community, as shown by the many clubs operating in Pennsylvania.

Don’t let the prospect of somebody beating you to a big find drive you away from the state. Let it motivate you. Plus, there are so many productive spots in Pennsylvania that everybody can potentially make an interesting discovery!

If you are serious about finding some real treasure and old coins here are several places you should use your metal detector. These should give you a general idea of the types of locations that are most productive for metal detecting. With 13 million people in the Keystone State, it’s worth taking the time to see the sites and detect the parks!

Busy Public Places 

Public areas with high traffic such as playgrounds, school grounds, old drive-in theaters, and other such gathering locations are perfect places for finding lost coins and other valuables in Pennsylvania. Most of the stuff you will find here is modern, although sometimes an old silver coin will turn up at these places.

It is important for you to check with the management before metal detecting any public arena. Some places restrict access to metal detectors, and you will not want to get in trouble. Each place has its own rules depending on the owner.

Other public spaces that yield a lot of coins and other valuables for metal detector users include public walkways. You can do very well searching around parking meters in the downtown areas. Before venturing into such places ensure that you go at the right time so that you don’t distract other users. Very early morning is generally a good time.

Metal Detecting in Ghost Towns and Abandoned Places

Pennsylvania has several ghost towns which are rich places where you can discover some real treasure. The key to metal detecting in abandoned places and ghost towns is to do your research and find out what are some of the less explored places. The well-known ghost towns have mostly been hit hard by other detectorists.

Visit local libraries, read about the local history, search online and join forums to find information about some of the towns in Pennsylvania that are now long gone.

One good thing is that several ghost towns are on private property. You will have to get the permission of the owner before starting your metal detecting, but the nice thing is that you don’t need to worry about breaking any antiquities laws.

Also consider searching abandoned railroads and railroad stations, as they are some of the places you can find valuable relics and buried treasure. Workers camped alongside the tracks while they were being constructed, and they left behind a lot of interesting things at those old mining camps. There is generally no evidence as to where they were, so you will have to do some searching and exploring to find them.

Rivers & Creeks

In the early days before the railroads were built or motor vehicles were available the early settlers in the Pennsylvania region and the nearby territories used the rivers as the main form of transport.

People camped and fished along the rivers. If you can find an early campsite then you are likely to uncover some very interesting relics.

Metal Detecting Clubs

Pennsylvania is one of the most active treasure hunting states in America. This has inspired the establishment of numerous metal detecting clubs in the state. Most of these clubs focus on one region of Pennsylvania specifically, although there is a lot of crossovers between members.

If you are planning a metal detecting vacation in Pennsylvania, then I suggest contacting a club in the area you’ll be staying in. Club members will be happy to guide you towards the most active nearby spots. Some of the top metal detecting clubs in Pennsylvania include:

  • Beaver County Detecting Club
  • Black Diamond Treasure Hunting Club
  • Central Pennsylvania Rock and Mineral Club
  • Lancaster Research and Recovery Club
  • Metal Detecting Western Pennsylvania


Metal detecting in Pennsylvania is regulated by the Archeological Resources Protection Act. The ARPA is a federal law regulating metal detecting across America. Its aim is to preserve items of historical and cultural significance. This law prohibits the removal of man-made objects more than 100 years of age from public ground.

The ARPA does not apply to metal detecting done on private property. Anyone planning to use their metal detector on private property should obtain the written permission of the landowner beforehand.

Pennsylvania’s metal detecting laws are among the most flexible in America. In Pennsylvania, metal detecting is allowed in virtually every state park. No permit is required. However, you can’t exceed the confines of what is considered “reasonable metal detecting.” There isn’t a lot of information as to what qualifies as “reasonable metal detecting.” Most metal detecting clubs in the area agree that it means avoiding fenced areas and busy parks.

Metal detecting on the state’s lakes and rivers is a little complicated. You are free to use your metal detector on the shore of any body of water between just after Labor Day and just before Memorial Day. Outside of this period, it’s up to the governing bodies of each lake or river to determine if metal detecting is allowed on its shores.

Metal detecting on public property is restricted to the hours between sunrise and sunset. For this reason, many treasure hunters plan their trips to Pennsylvania for the summer months when the days are at their longest.

Metal Detecting in State Parks

The reasonable use of metal detectors is permitted in many state parks. However, metal detecting is not permitted where this activity would conflict with a facility in use, nor is it permitted within fenced areas of swimming pool complexes.

Metal detecting on beaches and in lake swimming areas will be permitted within a reasonable distance of shore from the Tuesday after Labor Day until the Saturday prior to Memorial Day, unless posted otherwise. During the summer season, metal detecting in beach and swimming areas will be at the discretion of the park manager based on the manager’s knowledge of the use and type of facility.

Metal detecting in other underwater areas will be permitted within a reasonable distance of shore if it does not conflict with other activities or have potential for causing damage to the facility.

Many state park areas have the potential for the recovery of valuable historical objects. State Park areas with this potential may have part or all their area closed to metal detecting.”

Hopefully this blog has helped answer some of your questions regarding metal detecting in Pennsylvania. There is plenty of information online if you’re willing to do a little research. Some people find research tedious and boring, but for me research is one of my favorite things to do. I love to learn everything there is to know about the place I’m exploring and searching. For me, it’s all about the history.

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Wander Woman

I'm a Writer/Screenwriter fueled by proponent travel. When I decided to leave the only home I knew the journey grew into a fierce dream to travel and write about the places I explore. My adventures are a constant struggle between fear and courage, but we humans are explorers and pioneers, and we find our inner strength when the end state is the absolute unknown.