Last Updated on March 31, 2021 by Jeremy
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We are big fans of caves, and in southwest Pennsylvania, our options to go underground are a bit limited.
Closer to the city it is much easier to find an old coal mine to go deep into (like at the Tour-Ed Mine and Museum) than it is to find a cave. But for those who want to make the drive in order to explore a gorgeous cave system (and the largest cave in Pennsylvania), the 90 minute trip to the Laurel Caverns in the southern Laurel Highlands is for you!
The Laurel Caverns Offers a Cool Trip Into a Cave
For those who go on the regular cave tour, you'll be in for a 60 minute trip with a guide through gorgeous natural rock formations all while learning the history of the cave, the geological formations (and why there are no stalactites or stalagmites), and a bit about the resident bat population as well (don't worry, we didn't see any- their population is quite low!).
Even better? The cave is a cool 52 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, making this one the perfect escape on a hot summer day!
Going beyond the natural beauty of the cave, there are also a few man-made attractions found along the way worth talking about.
The first is the mini sound and light show set to transpose “Appalachian Spring” by Copland into a light display based on the colors of the rainbow (and an opportunity to experience complete darkness in the same space- something that never gets old no matter how many times we experience it).
The second is a miniature waterfall that was recreated in the cave to mimic a formation that once existed.
Finally, you get to see a rather neat optical illusion when climbing up one of the steepest sections of the cavern. We don't want to give this one away but have to say that you really lose all perception of grade when you are completely removed from the horizon. What is flat, what is up, what is down? You really won't know until you see this one!
Overall, while the regular tour may be just a quick 60 minutes and covers just about a mile of cavern pathways, you really get a lot out of this one and it is a whole lot of fun!
Multiple Exploration Options Available
For most visitors, the ~60-minute trip down into the cave is plenty to get an understanding of the cave system and to see some rather impressive rock formations. But for those who want something a bit more intense, you have a few more options to go a few miles further into the cave!
The first trip option is known as Upper Caving and is a two-hour trip that takes place at 2pm every day, while the Lower Caving option is a three-hour trip that departs at 10am each day. On weekends the trips are offered at 10am and 2pm each day.
These are more extreme exploring tours, which require squeezing through tight passages, crawling, climbing, and more. As such, you should be prepared to get dirty and have to accommodate potential claustrophobic conditions as well. For those who want to do these more adventurous options, we recommend reading more about the rules and requirements on the Laurel Caverns website as there are a number of extra requirements (including age restrictions) beyond the base 60-minute tour.
Luckily, the regular 60-minute tour can be easily tackled by most visitors insofar as you are able to go up and down stairs and walk on a few sections of somewhat steep (and potentially slick) stone. For what it is worth, no one in our group (including a guest who I would estimate was close being 80), had trouble with these sections.
When it comes down to it, the Laurel Caverns are one of the furthest attractions we've visited for this site to date, and the spot is definitely worth the roughly 90-minute drive from Pittsburgh for the experience. We can't wait to go back for one of the lower cave tours soon!
The Laurel Caverns are located at 1065 Skyline Drive in Farmington, PA and is only open late April through the end of October. I was a guest of the Laurel Highlands Visitor Bureau for this tour. As always, all opinions are my own.
Looking for accommodations in the Laurel Highlands? Check out some great options on VRBO!