Serpentine Barrens

Chrome Barrens is part of the State-Line Serpentine Barrens, the largest occurrence of serpentine barrens (extremely rare areas characterized by thin soil and bare, light green rock) in the eastern United States. Even the most casual visitor to the Chrome Serpentine Barrens will notice the striking difference between the two primary serpentine grassland communities (see grassland notation on the map) and the surrounding deciduous forests. You can literally step from one plant community to another and find very few species common to both areas.

The Barrens used to be known as the State Line Mining district due to the chromium, feldspar, and magnesite mining that took place at various sites, mainly in the 19th century.  The sun-baked conditions on bare serpentine rock and gravel create desert-like habitat for rare and unusual plant species that are especially adapted to withstand heat and drought. However, while lacking nutrients, this habitat supports numerous species—many rare or endangered—that have adapted to the harsh environment over thousands of years.

Rare plants found on the barrens include: serpentine aster, long-haired barrens chickweed, glade spurge, fameflower, lyre-leaved rock cress, prairie dropseed, and arrow-feather.  Moths and butterflies, including red-banded hairstreak, cobsew skipper, barrens buckmoth, mottled duskywing and dusted skipper. The barrens also are home to other rare species such as the rough green snake and various insects, some only found on the barrens.

For many years the Chrome Barrens have been protected as conservation lands and public green space under the ownership of Elk Township and the management of The Nature Conservancy. Farmlands within the preserve are protected by agricultural easements and managed by The Nature Conservancy. In 2012, Elk Township and Chester County, with the cooperation of adjacent private property owners and the collaboration of Brandywine Conservancy, protected adjoining forested property from future development and provided a trail easement to extend the trail system into these private lands.

Be Prepared for the Hike

There is one parking lot but no restroom facilities. Wear sturdy shoes. Hiking these trails can be strenuous if unaccustomed to varied terrain and uneven walking surfaces. Be prepared for ticks and other biting and stinging insects during warmer months. Bring plenty of drinking water, as temperatures in the barrens can be as much as 10-15 degrees hotter than the surrounding forests.

Serpentine Aster

Care for the Land / Regulations

These forests and grasslands have been set aside for all to experience. Take time to enjoy them, but know the rules and regulations designed to protect these lands and you. Be extremely cautious entering these lands during hunting season.

Hours for Public Use: Dawn to dusk

Permitted Uses:

  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Bicycling
  • Hunting with Elk Township permit

Prohibited Uses / Actions:

  • Fires
  • Motorized vehicles
  • Removal or destruction of plants, animals or rocks.
  • Littering
  • Disturbances
  • Camping
  • Discharge of firearms (except as permitted above)

Special Thanks

These trails are made possible by the efforts and resources of Elk Township, Brandywine Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, AmeriCorps NCCC, and Friends of the State Line Serpentine Barrens, who continue to be a force in conserving the Barrens.

For More Information

Elk Township:
(610) 255-0634
Friends of the State Line Serpentine Barrens:

trails map