Pennsylvania is a really great state to explore and one that is often underrated when it comes to its variation of biomes and terroirs.
In other words, when many think of Pennsylvania they imagine the colonial townships, the sprawling wooded areas and meadows, but many often forget how close Pennsylvania is to the coast of the Atlantic Sea.
Due to Pennsylvania’s eastern ‘coast’ there are many coves and caves that have been exposed over the years, and many of which are really fun to explore.
Despite the fact Pennsylvania actually doesn’t touch the Atlantic at all, it is still accessible through the Delaware Estuary and Lake Erie.
If you feel like you have seen everything Pennsylvania has to offer, you may be surprised to hear there are many caves to explore in the area that can offer some variety. Keep reading to find out the best caves in the area.
1. Penn’s Cave
Penn’s Cave is most definitely the most popular cave in Pennsylvania, and if you have driven around Pennsylvania before, then there’s no doubt that you have seen the billboards for the cave and its wildlife park.
The cave is located near Centre Hall in Pennsylvania, and there is even a Penn’s Cave Airport nearby.
Penn’s Cave can make the claim that it is the only all water cavern in the US. You can see the whole cave entirely from a boat on a 45-50 minute tour, which isn’t true for the other caves in the area.
The cave is even on the National Register of Historic Places and features some really cool rocks such as stalactites and stalagmites which form in interesting and spooky shapes.
Some of these rocks have formed in familiar shapes like The Statue of Liberty as well as The Garden of Gods.
Dripping water sculpts many of the rocks in the cavern into these unique shapes, and makes many interesting rock features such as curtains, cascades, and pillars. When the weather permits, you might get a chance to catch a ride on Lake Nitanee.
You can easily make a day out of your trip to this Cave and Wildlife Park as the cave tour, while the highlight of the trip, is only 45 minutes.
This allows you the rest of the day to explore the amazing part they have constructed around the cave, which has all kinds of things to see and do.
This cavern is a super cool one, if you want to hear lots of interesting stories related to the cave. It’s located near Hershey in Pennsylvania in Hummelstown.
It was once used by Native Americans as a place to store food, and likely for other reasons we can’t understand. The inside of the cavern is beautiful, but it also houses many interesting stories from the cave’s history.
In terms of rock formations there are many, with their own unique names such as ‘The Pipe Organ’, ‘The Mummy’, ‘The Giant’, ‘The Cave Guardian’, and more. They have all been formed over hundreds of years but resemble things in our everyday life.
The tour lasts around 45–50 minutes and there is also some other stuff for kids to do back on dry land, like a petting zoo and gem mining area.
Perhaps the most interesting story from the cave is the Mystery Box that was found there back in 1919. Two boys were exploring the cave when they came across a small black wooden box in a square shape.
On the exterior there were interesting engravings that seemed like ancient runes, and the contents of the box contained relics from as far away as China and Germany.
The coins were checked by experts who verified all the dates, with one dating back as far back as 480 BC.
The whole thing is creepy, and the mystery remains unsolved. The boys kept it for years until they sold it back to the new owner of the cavern, who put it on display in the gift shop.
Another interesting story is about William Wilson, a hermit who lived in the cave in exile for 19 years. His own story is equally fascinating, like the mystery box. If you like spooky stories, or just enjoy rock formations, it is really cool.
3. Laurel Caves
Here are some more cool caves that are located in the Western Area of Pennsylvania, located along Chestnut Ridge and not too far from Ohiopyle State Park.
The Laurel Caves are actually one of the largest caves in the country, so they are worth a visit to see our country’s own great geography.
The first to discover the cave were clearly Native Americans who had left things like arrowheads and other trinkets, but Non-Native Americans seem to have discovered it in the mid-18th century.
As the caves are so large there are quite a few touring options, and as it is so large you can even go spelunking, a name for cave exploring with climbing gear, or even rappelling.
The traditional guided tour of the cave lasts about an hour, and you get to see the best and most appreciated parts of the cave, as well as a surprisingly cool light show.
Perhaps what makes this cave so different to the others described is its complete lack of geological rock formations. In other words, the cave has low calcium content, meaning few stalagmites or stalactites exist in the cave.
Put simply, the cave is pretty empty, and the walls remain quite smooth, making it easy to get around.
You can visibly see the fault line in the cave which is cool, and there are some columns from when water once came through the cave. Now dry, there are a series of easy to walk through passages that were molded by water historically.
If you are in the area it is really worth looking around, which you can do for free as well, or take a guided tour and you won’t regret it.
Think you have seen all the caves in PA already? Well, this one was closed for 70 years until early 2021! What’s even cooler about this cave is the fact that you have to access it through the basement of a private home.
The caverns, once known as Baker Cavers, are now called Black-Coffey Caverns; they are located in Franklin Country.
The cavern was discovered in 1830, although likely inhabited by Native Indians prior to this. It was even desolate during this period for nearly 100 years until it was opened to the public in 1933.
Although during this time people did break in and write their names on the walls, some of which are still visible today.
Around 1954 the cave was purchased by Bethlehem Steel, who most Americans have heard of, who wanted the area for limestone mining. Fast-forward to 2023 and they have been partly reopened.
The areas that you tour don’t have lights, so the whole thing is done by flashlight. The caverns take around 45 minutes to tour and a good portion of the 3000 feet of passageways are open to explore.
The other areas are not yet safe, and are also still being explored without the commercial goal of limestone mining in mind. Exploring it by flashlight is cool, but caution should definitely be erred.
Originally a small structure was built over the entrance to the cave, but this has now been extended into someone’s real home due to 70 years of the caves being closed.
The homeowner is the main person who has allowed the caves to remain open and tours happen at their discretion. So you do have to book in advance, and the tours are certainly private.
This said, it’s really surreal to see them swing the door open to the cavernous passages below – who knows what lies in these relatively unexplored caves.
There are plenty of cool things to see like rock formations, and you can even see the roots of trees hanging down from the ceilings which can even form pools of water in the cave.
If you really want a proper exploration experience in caves that have been closed to the public for nearly 170 years, this is the cavern to try.
It may surprise you to know that Pennsylvania has so many cool caves to go see.
Many of them were formed eons ago when water from the Atlantic did run through the state, and there are loads of cool rock formations to see, stories to be heard, and exploring to be done.
Whether you want something large with infrastructure to make a day out of with your kids, or you want the authentic exploration experience of the less traveled caves, searching them by daylight, Pennsylvania really has it all.
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