Fall is an ideal time to explore the many caves and caverns hidden deep in the Pennsylvania ground and hillsides.
Fall is the perfect time to explore a part of the state you maybe haven’t seen yet, like underground.
Pennsylvania is home to many caves and caverns deep in the ground and within our hillsides. Some are commercial properties featuring paid walking excursions while others are more hidden.
We’re highlighting some of the caves and caverns that are open to the public. Word to the wise: Be cautious if you’re exploring a cave without a guide, and always bring the necessary gear as well as a friend. If you’re interested in more serious caving, get connected with the Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy; they can direct you to many other caves in the state that are worth exploring. But no matter your level of cavern expertise, there’s a cave in the commonwealth just waiting for you to enter.
Laurel Caverns – Farmington
The largest cave in Pennsylvania, Laurel Caverns, is located just 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Like most caves, Laurel Caverns is a karst cave, meaning it formed from water slowly dissolving soluble rock—in Laurel Caverns’ case, sandstone. The cave has more than four miles of passageways, but the easy walking tour takes tourists through just 1,200 feet on a 600-foot walk. Alternatively, a self-guided tour allows visitors to explore the cave on a strenuous 1,800-foot walk. And for the more adventurous, weekends at Laurel Caverns feature caving programs that require crawling and climbing through tight cave passageways.
The caverns are open between late April and late October each year, with the inside temperature always a cool 52 degrees.
Penn’s Cave – Centre Hall
Penn’s Cave, which advertises itself as “America’s only all-water cavern & farm-nature-wildlife park,” is a major tourist attraction with a cave tour, farm tour, maze, and gemstone panning. But let’s focus on the cave. Penn’s Cave itself is a limestone cave filled with water, meaning that the cave tour is taken by boat. The guided tour allows you to learn about the history of Penn’s Cave and see some of the cooler cave formations, like the one known as “the Statue of Liberty.”
Coral Caverns – Manns Choice
Pennsylvania has a ton of cool caves, but Coral Caverns is unique: it’s one of the only caves in the world with a fossilized coral reef. The cave, just a short drive from Bedford, was found when it was part of a limestone quarry operation. In fact, the entrance to the cave is part of that old quarry. Once you head inside, it becomes clear that hundreds of millions of years ago, this cave was underwater. You will see fossilized coral and other marine life embedded in the cavern walls. Learn more about the history and geology of Coral Caverns in the small museum located in the cave’s visitor’s center or while participating in a guided walking tour of the cave. Note that Coral Caverns does not have a website—more proof that the cave is not a tourist trap.
Lincoln Caverns – Huntingdon
Central Pennsylvania’s Lincoln Caverns is home to not one, but two crystal caves full of spectacular cave formations as well as crystals. The first of the pair—Lincoln Caverns itself—was discovered in 1930 during construction of Highway 22. Since then, it’s been open to the public. The second cave, Whisper Rocks, was discovered in 1941. The two caves are connected by nature trails so that you can combine a hike in the woods with your cavern outing. Guided tours are available and last about one hour.
Caves of Wissahickon Park – Philadelphia
These caves are found in Philadelphia’s urban oasis, Wissahickon Park. Kelpius Cave is named after Johannes Kelpius, a leader of a Lutheran sect with a doomsday, occult twist that lived in the remote Wissahickon Valley at the end of the 17th century. While the cave may have been nothing more than a root cellar, legend says that it was the place Kelpius went to meditate on the end of the world. It’s also, fittingly, known as the Hermit’s Cave.
Also in Wissahickon Park, two caves can be found near the confluence of Gorgas Creek and Wissahickon Creek. The Gorgas Creek Caves are small, man-made mining caves excavated in the mid-1700s. Look for the grottoes in the hillside—one is at the foot of a tall, noticeable extension of rock.
Montour Woods Conservation Area – Moon Township
The Montour Woods Conservation Area is a 320-acre park in Allegheny County’s Moon Township with miles of hiking trails and one small but fascinating man-made cave. To check out the cave, park at the lot on Hassam Road. Follow the aptly named Cave Trail until you cross Meeks Run. Soon after, the cave will be on your right.
Montour Woods also features a long hiking trail as well as an old, decommissioned missile site. During the Cold War, Pittsburgh’s Nike missile sites were developed for air defense. There were several of these sites around the North Hills of Pittsburgh; the old missile site at Montour Woods is now pavement and a field of flowers.
Black-Coffey Caverns – Greencastle
Black-Coffey Caverns was reopened to the public in 2021, having previously been closed since 1954. Tours of the Franklin County cave are now operating out of a private home. Tours are free, as the guides are volunteers and post their schedules a month in advance on the Block-Coffey Caverns’ Facebook page. The cavern is thus quite different from other show caves that aim to earn a profit. Instead, the owners are simply sharing the beauty of the cave with you. When you book a tour, be sure to also check if you can join any fun events in the caverns—like cave yoga.
Fairview Park – South Fayette Township
In Allegheny County’s South Fayette Township, you can find a relatively spacious cave in an otherwise unassuming suburban park called Fairview Park. The cave is a little difficult to get to, as it’s located down a steep hill and back along an outcropping of rock facing Chartiers Creek. Covered in graffiti, the cave is well-known among the youth of South Fayette, but otherwise you’re unlikely to find mention of it on Yelp. Take the rightward trail in the woods near the park’s water towers, take another right toward a log bridge, and then take one more (careful) right down the steep, rocky trail that leads to the cave. Helpfully, someone has strung up ropes to make your descent down the hill easier!
More caves to visit in Pennsylvania:
Lost River Caverns – Hellertown, Northampton County
Tytoona Cave Nature Preserve – Tyrone, Blair County
Echo Dell And Indian Echo Caverns – Hummelstown, Dauphin County
Crystal Cave – Kutztown, Berks County
Wind Cave – Pequea, Lancaster County
Woodward Cave – Woodward, Centre County