How to Laurel Caverns Farmington, Pennsylvania
Driving through southern Pennsylvania will take travelers through the Allegheny Mountains, near Pittsburgh and through many state parks. The countryside is beautiful and many small towns invite travelers to visit and stay awhile. Just off the beaten path on SR-40 is the Forbes State Forest. This area is home to various wildlife and beautiful mountains in the Allegheny Mountains. It is also home to Laurel Caverns.
Finding Laurel Caverns
Traveling to Laurel Caverns is an adventure in itself. The small road leading up to the state forest is paved, but unlined. Trees line each side of the road and taking it from the North (coming from Uniontown) the road starts with a huge incline sure to create problems in the winter. The caverns are open from May 1st through the end of October and open for holidays and weekends in April and November.
The drive up the mountain is calm and beautiful. On the right side of the road very little is present other than the young deciduous forest with a thick ground covering of ferns. A few residents can be seen on the left side of the road, although sparsely spaced along the way.
Once travelers reach the Laurel Caverns turn off the road is gradually declining. The turn off is clearly marked with a large sign. This is helpful because GPS systems rarely indicate the correct spot to turn to reach caverns.
The road leads to the picnic shelter where parking is available and then continues on turning back to the left to the parking area near the visitor center. The visitor center houses the entrance to the caverns, the restrooms, gift shop, and miniature golf course.
Access to a balcony is in the rear of the building. Visitors are welcomed by scenic view of the mountains and on a clear day Pittsburgh can be seen in the distance.
Tickets are required to tour the caverns and can be purchased at the front counter in the gift shop. Tours leave every 20 minutes or as needed. The guided Family tour last about 60 minutes with a brief history of the caverns, how the caverns were formed, and other interesting information provided along the way.
Be sure to stay with your group and wear quality shoes for the tour such as gym shoes or hiking boots. Steep declines, wooden stairs, and wet areas make the tour treacherous for some. If you need assistance, walking devices can be borrowed from the establishment. A cane or walker may help those who are unsteady on uneven surfaces.
The caverns were formed when the crust of the earth was forced upward millions of years ago and as the layers of Earth descended forming mountains the empty space beneath created the caverns.
The rock is limestone and sandstone combinations. Since the caverns are not formed like other caves such as the Tuckaleechee Caverns in Tennessee, there are very few cave formations. Only a few stalactites exist in a small area of the cave. Most of the area is covered with a fine sandy layer covering visitors’ shoes as they tour the caverns.
The cave walls are not “living” and therefore visitors can touch the walls without harming the caverns. Historical evidence show the caverns were visited or used for centuries to include Native American artifacts, wall carvings of initials and dates, and other items used in the early part of the 18th century during the colonization of America and the establishment of the United States.
The caverns are only affected slightly by ground water filtering through the layers of rock and soil above. There isn’t a natural stream or water source running through the caverns, although a small pool of water can be seen in the initial stages of the tour. It takes about 2 hours for the water to seep through the ground and reach the caverns after a hard rain or when the snow is melting.
Longer Spelunking Adventures
Longer tours are offered at Laurel Caverns to explore deeper into the caverns. These tours last about 3 hours and are not included in the Family tour. Personal equipment is needed such as gloves and flashlights, but hardhats are provided.
This tour provides a look at the caverns in a more natural state with small spaces and true darkness for adventurers. The paths are not paved or constructed as they are for the Family tour and better physical condition is expected to take this tour.
Boy Scout Adventures
Laurel Caverns is home to many local Boy Scout adventures to include Rock Climbing, Rappelling, and camping. Boy Scouts can earn badges and learn new skills. For more information contact the director at Laurel Caverns.
Places for Picnicking
With a beautiful view and fresh mountain air, Laurel Caverns makes a great place for a mid-day stop. Many school groups and travelers use the covered picnic area to enjoy the day. You can also sit on some of the grassy area to enjoy the view of the mountains before or after your tour of the caverns.
The gift shop provides a few snacks and drinks, but it is recommended packing your lunch before you arrive. Trinkets, artifacts, and other items are on sale and display in the gift shop.
Taking the time to visit Laurel Caverns in south eastern Pennsylvania can provide a lasting memory of a small adventure under the surface of the Earth. Whether it is your destination or if you are simply passing by, Laurel Caverns is a pleasant experience and one your sure to enjoy.
Have you been in Laurel Caverns? What are your recommendations to future visitors? Feel free to post questions or comments below.
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