Laurel Caverns: Into Darkness

Achievement: #2. Laurel Caverns

Continuing on our last-minute post-heavy slide into the home plate of December 31, we take you today into the bowels of Fayette County. No, really. Really, really deep into Fayette County. Much deeper than even the Fayette County Fair took us in July. Because on the last weekend of October, we actually went underground in Fayette County, to complete an Achievement that had been on our list for a handful of years: visit Laurel Caverns.

Laurel Caverns
Laurel Caverns is a natural cave of about three miles in length — the largest cave in Pennsylvania. It’s open from the end of April until the first weekend in November each year for cave tours and spelunking of all levels, from casual visitors (us) to the hardcore spelunkers (people who have no fear of getting caught between two giant rocks in the dark).

Laurel Caverns
The journey begins in the Visitors Center. We signed up for our tour, and then wandered around looking at some photos and maps while waiting to begin. Tours run every 20 minutes, so you never have to wait too long to go.

Laurel Caverns
There are a lot of fabulous signs around Laurel Caverns, but this was my favorite.

The tour is suitable for basically anyone who can do a hilly hike, but I would caution about shoes: you can’t wear flipflops or anything with a heel, and I wore flat boots, but if I did this again, I would absolutely have something grippier, like my Vibrams. The floors are dirt for the most part, and I had a few ‘oh no I’m going down’ moments (although thankfully I never actually did).

Laurel Caverns
Once you descend into the cave, things get pretty dark pretty fast. Here is the last daylight you see, and it’s very early on in the tour!

Laurel Caverns
There are a few areas that have wooden stairs, and those are the easiest stretches to descend. (Full disclosure: I am terrible at walking down hills! My skill set is totally in walking up them.)

Laurel Caverns
This section of cave is called the Hall of the Mountain King. Since that is one of my favorite pieces of music of all time, I had to get a picture here!

Laurel Caverns
In addition to narrow passageways, there are a lot of low ceilings. It was one of those times when being short really came in handy!

Laurel Caverns
This hill in the cave was one of those gravity-defying places where balls roll ‘uphill’ and you are free to act out the music video for “Smooth Criminal” over and over.

Laurel Caverns
Another stretch of the cave was lit by what I called ‘Tinkerbell lights.’ Much like in Peter Pan when you have to clap really loud to keep Tinkerbell alive, to keep the lights on in a little hallway, you have to be loud as hell.

Laurel Caverns
After making a fool out of yourself talking to a row of lamps, you are rewarded with this fabulous room, home to the Pillar of Hercules. You’ll notice that this pillar looks like it is holding up the ceiling… and if you look closer, you’ll notice that there is a nice, fat cushion of air between the top of this formation and the bottom of the ceiling. Quite a nice false sense of security!

Laurel Caverns
Finally, the tour ends at this lovely little pool by the exit of the cave.

Laurel Caverns
But the beauty of Laurel Caverns doesn’t end with the end of the tour: just outside the gift shop is their balcony, with this amazing view.

It may have taken us a few years to finally get to Laurel Caverns, but it was worth the wait! Our tour was excellent and informative, and we had a great time. In addition to the traditional guided tour that we took, there are longer, more difficult spelunking tours, as well as rappelling inside the cave. Laurel Caverns even has its own mini-golf on the premises! They are open from the last weekend in April until the first weekend in November, and we definitely recommend that you take the short trip to Fayette County to go on a spelunking adventure of your own!

2 Comments

Filed under #2, #2-14, caves, fayette county, nature, Uncategorized

2 Responses to Laurel Caverns: Into Darkness

  1. Woubbie

    Last time we went was when the boys were on the way home from Cub Scout summer camp at Heritage Reservation. I don’t know if I could do it again, though. My claustrophobia is much worse than it was then! (I went to Tour-Ed mine twice back then too! Second time was a real trial!)

    • steelcityfox

      Yeah as cool as the 2 or 3 hour deep spelunking trips sounded, I was pretty sure I would have had a full-on panic attack in those conditions. We were looking at some of the photos from previous tours, and there were some TIGHT squeezes. Also, Tour-Ed Mine is on our list for next year (had hoped to go to Haunted Tour-Ed Mine this year, but they weren’t running it), so, good to know I have something terrifying to look forward to haha!

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