Mount Holly Marsh Preserve
The Mount Holly Marsh Preserve is a perfect spot for hikers and nature lovers and is open dawn to dusk. Primary activities within the preserve include hiking and the observation of birds, plants and other wildlife. The preserve features approximately 7 miles of trails ranging from easy to difficult. One might also be able to discover the location of a hidden geocache. Hunting is permitted in accordance with Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations. Fishing is permitted along Mountain Creek. Mountain Creek has been designated an “approved trout waters” and is stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. NO CAMPING OR FIRES ARE PERMITTED!
Marsh Loop Trail is approximately 2.2 miles (out and back) and is marked with blue blazes. The Marsh Loop begins at the parking area and is the starting point for the park’s trail network. Follow this trail to connect with the Spring, Creek, Briar and Ridge Trails. For an easy hike, try this trail.
Lamberton Trail is about 1 mile (out and back) of steep, rocky terrain marked with a white blaze. This trail is best left to more experienced hikers. The Lamberton Trail begins near the parking area.
Spring Trail is about 0.5* mile long (one way) and marked with green blazes. Take this easy path to view the bountiful, bubbling spring.
Creek Trail is about 1.4* miles (loop) in length and is indicated with red blazes. For an easy to moderate hike, try this scenic trail.
Briar Trail is about 1.2* miles (one way) and is marked with orange blazes. Hikers who want a moderate challenge should try this trail.
Ridge Trail is about 2.2* miles (out and back) of moderate to steep, wooded terrain marked with yellow blazes. Hikers who want more of a challenge should take this trail.
EcologyThe Mount Holly Marsh Preserve is a 900 acre natural area along the rocky slopes of the South Mountain. The preserve consists of a 700 acre upland forest and a 200 acre marsh preserve.
The ridge top is dominated by pitch pine and chestnut oak with an under story of huckleberry, blueberry and mountain laurel. In the valley, where several springs feed into a marshy area, you will find black ash, red maple, winter berry, spice bush, holly and poison sumac.
The preserve is inhabited by a great variety of wildlife including: painted and snapping turtles, muskrats, minks, northern copperhead snakes, turkey, white tail deer, mallards, wood ducks, Canada geese, great blue herons and American woodcock.
HistoryThe Mount Holly Marsh Preserve was acquired in 1992 by The Nature Conservancy with the assistance of the Holly Gap Committee, a group of local community members who raised funds to permanently preserve the land. Today, the property is owned by Cumberland County and managed in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy.
The area now called the Mount Holly Marsh Preserve has a long and fascinating history. The lands were believed to be utilized early on in American history by the iron industry to support nearby furnaces and forges. In the 1800’s, the lands were owned by the Mount Holly Paper Company. During this period, Mountain Creek was dammed to supply water and generate power for the nearby paper mills. In 1863, Confederate soldiers passed through the Holly Gap on their way to defeat in Gettysburg and raided many of the paper companies to supply the government in Richmond.
Around the year 1900, the area was transformed into the famous Mount Holly Park, a summer resort. The resort was owned by Pat Russ, principal stockholder in the Carlisle and Mount Holly Railway. People would come from miles away and ride the “Trolley to Holly” and enjoy the many recreational activities at the park. The resort boasted a dance hall, concerts, bowling, boating, hiking, ball fields and even a roller coaster and Ferris Wheel. The nearby springs also offered cold, clear water, which prominent physicians touted for it’s medicinal qualities.
Mount Holly Park prospered for nearly fifteen years before experiencing a decrease in visitors with the advent of the automobile and eventually closed in 1928.
Today, there is very little evidence of the preserve’s rich history. The dam on Mountain Creek was breached in the late 1980’s but the earthen wall and foundations of the spillway still remain.