Conquering The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Sideling Hill Tunnel

you may recall a year ago i attempted to walk through Sideling Hill Tunnel, part of the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike, but chickened out without getting very far in. well, i decided to finally conquer it. i came armed with a (much) stronger flashlight and some music to keep me company.

i’ve updated the map from last year’s entry to cover what i’ve discovered. also, all the pictures i took (much more than what’s below) are on flickr.

The west entrance still looks pretty much the same

there were significantly more people this time around. i don’t know if word spread or i just came at the wrong/right time, but when i got up to the turnpike from the trail from the parking spot, there was a senior citizen hiking group (ok, just in case, maybe a 50+ hiking group?) milling about. (i heard one of them tell another he got into an accident right there at the west entrance to the tunnel. pretty cool to hear about when that stretch of the turnpike was still in use!) they were just leaving, so i’m not sure if they went all the way through the tunnel or not. some people had head lamps but others didn’t. while i normally like exploring in solitude, i’m glad they were there because now i really had to go through with it! i couldn’t let these people think i was a wuss!

and so i did. i popped my earphones in, turned my flashlight on, and headed in, heart pounding.

(In all fairness, the flashlight did quite well — not just a teeny spot like you’d think from this picture.)

once i got maybe 1/3 of the way in, i saw a light ahead, which i assumed was another group. i was glad a) i wasn’t alone, and b) they were ahead of me so i couldn’t be startled from behind. as i kept walking, though, i discovered it literally was the light at the end of the tunnel, at which point fear started to creep in because i realized i was alone in the dark.

BUT I MADE IT! it took me nearly 20 minutes (19 minutes and 53 seconds, to be exact; wikipedia says it’s about 1.28 miles long) of quite brisk walking, though it didn’t seem like that long, luckily. also, i didn’t know what to expect, but suffice it to say there weren’t tree roots coming in and water everywhere, or bats or rats or even vegetation of any sort.

The east end looks a lot like the west end

(not sure why this photosynth came out with some funny colors, but…)

Panorama — you can see the east end of the tunnel in the distance on the right

if you continue walking about 3/4 of a mile, you will come to what used to be Cove Valley Plaza (a rest stop — now nothing more than an asphalt clearing with an oasis of green in the middle), and then a quarter mile or so past that, a small parking lot (which you could use if you wanted to explore the tunnel the other way around).

West entrance to Cove Valley Plaza

Public access to the remainder of the Abandoned Turnpike seems to end at this easternmost parking lot

the ventilation system

as i was heading back, i decided to climb up the embankment on the left side of the east entrance and see what was up there. the staircase was broken from the downstairs office(?) (which is not continually flooded like the west side, so you can at least explore this a bit more).

Halfway up the embankment

i am so glad i did! i love abandoned machinery, and what was up there but two giant fans that provided ventilation for the tunnel. (i will assume the west side has the same thing, since the structures are the same.) just watch your footing — there are holes that go through to the floor below, and in the back rooms, you might just fall into the tunnel itself (i didn’t go that far in).

I was speechless!

So glad the ladders were not completely rusted out!

it started to rain, so i headed back through the tunnel, happy to have made it through, proving to myself that i could do it (perhaps more important than the actual exploration, but only slightly), and for discovering the big fans. totally made my day. oh yeah. about 2/3 of the way coming back, an older couple on bicycles passed me. if they (and i) can do it, so can you!


In one of the tunnels on the (current) Turnpike. So odd to think that one day this could all be in ruins as well.

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