The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike (and the Spooky Tunnel!)

this has been on my almost-bucket list for months now, ever since i randomly stumbled across this gem while googling abandoned pennsylvania (since, you know, i usually have weekends free if i’m here for work and i’m a freak in heat, a dog without warning for abandoned things).

but yeah. ever wonder what happens when a freeway outgrows its usefulness? apparently sometimes they just build a whole new one, leaving the old one to rot. (luckily this one has a conservation effort behind it, so visit it now while it’s all abandoned and creepy!) the wikipedia article is excellent (and perfect to have your phone read to you while you’re driving there) in terms of history and present-day use.

about an hour southwest of harrisburg lies a stretch of abandoned turnpike, along with a couple of tunnels, ready to be conquered. there are several sites that describe the turnpike nowadays, but none better than i used the november 2009 entry as my reference for this trip.

the best part about all this is that the abandoned turnpike is pretty much legal to explore (the main stretch of it), which is why i’m not holding back any details. i’m not sure if i have the semantics right (officially it’s closed to the public, but you’re allowed access at your own risk?), but suffice it to say, you shouldn’t be bothered as long as you are on foot or biking (no motorized vehicles).

red circle is where i parked, blue circle is the western end of the sideling hill tunnel. click for the interactive map (and better scale).

here is my cheat sheet with the coordinates i plugged into my GPS. after you pay the toll exiting the turnpike, continue until you get dumped out at route 30 (quite a ways). turn right, drive into the hills a bit, and keep and eye out for route 915 (aka valley hi road). note that “route 915” is indeed a gravel road on the left (paved on the right, but you want to turn left onto the unpaved part.) pass under a bridge and turn right at the intersection, oregon road (i believe it could be marked as oregon drive, but same thing). it’s quite a drive down to the parking area that i’ve chosen, but take it slow and the gravel shouldn’t cause too much damage to your car 😛

i took this picture as i was leaving; a pretty heavy downpour was my cue to go!

floor9 described the parking area as a clearing three years ago, but now it is the home (literally?) to a ranger or some sort of forest official. there is some parking in front to the side of a gate that gives you permission to cross as long as you are not in a motorized vehicle. (for the record, i did not see any other humans during the time i spent there.)

It's starting to rain but I didn't come this far for nothing!

walk past the gate to the clearing, then past another gate that leads you to a trail (pictured). follow the short trail all the way until you reach the turnpike. you do not need to scramble up the steep embankment, like i stupidly did.


looking west. the part on the right is the path leading back to the parking area, iirc (if not, it looks just like that).

I brought a flashlight but dare I go in? Thundering.

west end of sideling hill tunnel


the entrance to the office(?)


office ceiling. i did not try to venture upstairs because the floor was flooded with about an inch or two of nasty water.


office doorway


looking down in the office


and the chickenshit begins

[flickr video=7578787000 show_info=true secret=42b0c46411 w=500 h=667]

the tunnel

My $5 gas station flashlight is not cutting it.

my $5 gas station flashlight is not cutting it.


looking back

Light at the end of the tunnel.

about where i turned back

i estimate i made it maybe 200 feet(?) into the bore (there was an upside-down metal lampshade at the point where i turned back, twice). every time i wanted to go further i swear i heard a sound in the distance and i hightailed it out of there!

Use lights #lowdownground

use lights, it says


abandoned shack on the side of the trail heading back to the car

i will for sure be going back, next time armed with headphones (so i can’t psych myself out and to drown out any errant noises from the end of the tunnel) and a bright lantern! i didn’t want to leave, as a matter of fact. i just wanted to sit there in the cool air (from the tunnel and the impending thunderstorm) reveling in the abandonedness of it all. (and yes, that’s something i can revel in.)

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