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How to get to the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike - Rays Hill Tunnel

Visiting the Abandoned PA Turnpike near Breezewood, Pennsylvania

Millions of people travel along the Pennsylvania Turnpike through Bedford and Fulton Counties each year. However, few realize that just a few hundred yards away from them is one of the state’s oddest attractions: The Abandoned PA Turnpike.

The Abandoned PA Turnpike was created by the rerouting of the highway in 1968. When it was originally built, the Pennsylvania Turnpike was a four-lane highway, but only had one-lane tunnels. Eventually, this created backups that had to be resolved.

In many areas, larger tunnels were dug next to the existing tunnels. However, for a stretch of the turnpike in Bedford and Fulton Counties, the turnpike was rerouted. Instead of going through the mountains, it went over them.

Looking out from Rays Hill Tunnel onto the Abandoned PA Turnpike.

Looking out from Rays Hill Tunnel onto the Abandoned PA Turnpike.

This rerouting created a 13-mile stretch of road that was no longer in use. Over the years, this section of abandoned turnpike in Pennsylvania had a variety or uses, including turnpike worker training and military training exercises. It was even featured prominently in the 2009 movie, “The Road”, starring Viggo Mortensen because it looked so post-apocalyptic.

How to get to the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike in Bedford County, PA

The overgrowth leads to the post-apocalyptic feel of the Abandoned PA Turnpike.

In 2001, this 13-mile stretch of abandoned PA Turnpike was given to Southern Alleghenies Conservancy by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Run by an organization called Pike2Bike, the ultimate goal is to turn the abandoned turnpike into an official biking and walking trail.

The information sign at the entrance to the Abandoned PA Turnpike in Breezewood, Pennsylvania.

The information sign at the entrance to the Abandoned PA Turnpike in Breezewood.

Today however, nearly 15 years after the transfer, little has been done to make this a reality. In fact, the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike is officially closed to visitors, as signs at the entrance tell you. However, the language on the signs lets you know that it’s not a no trespassing area, simply an area where you proceed at your own risk. If you do opt to visit, use common sense and be respectful of the area, so that there is no reason to actually restrict access to the area.

From the parking area in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, it’s 1.5 miles to Rays Hill tunnel. The hardest section of the hike is a steep hill right at the beginning. Once at the top, it’s a level walk or bike ride along the road all the way to the tunnel.

What's left of the Abandoned PA Turnpike in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

What’s left of the Abandoned PA Turnpike in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

The road has concrete barriers in place near the beginning, wide enough for a bike or stroller, to prevent motorized vehicles from accessing the abandoned turnpike. While the rest of the road is relatively wheelchair friendly, I’m not sure if one could fit through the barriers.

In many ways, the walk along the abandoned PA Turnpike to Rays Hill Tunnel reminded me of the abandoned Route 61 in Centralia, Pennsylvania. Fortunately, though, the abandoned turnpike has a surprising lack of graffiti on the road itself, and most of what’s there is relatively tame compared to Centralia’s Graffiti Highway.

Ray's Hill Tunnel in Breezewood, Pennsylvania

Ray’s Hill Tunnel

After about 30 minutes of walking, you’ll come to Rays Hill Tunnel, shortly after crossing the bridge over Mountain Chapel Road. The view of the tunnel from the turnpike is quite impressive, and it really does make you feel like you have survived some cataclysmic event that destroyed humanity.

Rays Hill Tunnel on the Abandoned PA Turnpike near Breezewood, Pennsylvania.

Rays Hill Tunnel near Breezewood.

The tunnel itself is heavily covered in graffiti, which does take away some of the beauty. Fortunately, though, the graffiti is relatively tame, though there are still some areas that are not family friendly, especially the further inside the tunnel you go.

Until a few years ago, it was possible to go inside Rays Hill Tunnel. Access is now blocked by large metal doors. However, it is possible to still see inside the first floor rooms, which feel very much like the set of a horror movie.

Inside the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike in Breezewood, Pennsylvania

The view of the interior of Rays Hill Tunnel as seen through the window in the metal door.

Construction began on Rays Hill Tunnel in 1881 for its use as a railroad tunnel. However, it was never used for that purpose and it was updated in 1938, opening to traffic along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1940. The tunnel is 3,532-feet long, making it the shortest of the original turnpike tunnels.

Biking the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike

A biker stands at the entrance to Ray’s Hill Tunnel.

When walking up to the tunnel, you can actually see a sliver of light from the far end. This might make you think that it’s not that far away. However, once inside the tunnel, it seems like you walk forever and the far opening is still just as far away.

I should note here that the interiors of the tunnels are very, very dark. While there is some ambient light from the entrance, it only lights up the first hundred yards or so. After that, you’ll definitely want to have a good flashlight or two with you. Along the way, notice the old sewer openings, the only real points of interest in the middle of the tunnels.

Rays Hill Tunnel in Breezewood, PA.

Looking into Rays Hill Tunnel. The sliver of light you see is the end of the tunnel, over half a mile away.

(Updated 1/22/16: The Pennsylvania Game Commission has confirmed that the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnels are home to protected hibernating bats. Please don’t enter the tunnels between October and April. Doing so can harm sensitive bat populations.)

Once a few hundred yards into the tunnels, make sure to give a shout. The echoes in the tunnels of the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike are awesome! I couldn’t believe how long my voice echoed, as it made its way through the tunnel. Really, it’s worth visiting the tunnels just for the echoes.

Rays Hill Tunnel Abandoned Turnpike

Near the entrance to Rays Hill Tunnel is a door through which you can see the inside of the tunnel’s rooms.

Once you are done checking out Rays Hill Tunnel, you have two options if you want to visit Sideling Hill Tunnel. The first is to walk through Rays Hill Tunnel and continue walking along the abandoned turnpike for another 3.8 miles until you reach the other tunnel. Conversely, you can do what I did, and drive to the other end for a 1.2 mile walk to the tunnel.

If you opt for this second route, walk the 1.5 miles back to your car in Breezewood, and drive 20 minutes to the other end of the abandoned turnpike.

Unlike the parking area in Breezewood, this side of the abandoned turnpike is in a very rural area of Fulton County. Despite this end being located in the town of Waterfall, Pennsylvania, there don’t appear to be any nearby waterfalls.

It’s pretty obvious that the 1.2 mile stretch of Abandoned PA turnpike between the parking area and Sideling Hill Tunnel is less frequented and less cared for than the section in Breezewood. The road here is a bit more overgrown, a bit more dilapidated, and there is a bit more trash. However, the walk along the abandoned turnpike is quite pleasant, even if it is uphill most of the way to the tunnel.

The remains of the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Sideling Hill Tunnel.

The remains of the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Sideling Hill Tunnel.

Along the way to Sideling Hill Tunnel, you’ll pass a long concrete area that used to be home to the Cove Valley Travel Plaza until the turnpike’s abandonment. While it’s interesting to see the open expanse, there’s nothing remaining of the plaza except a few manhole covers.

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    The western end of Sideling Hill Tunnel is located just downhill from the current Pennsylvania Turnpike, with the tunnel running directly under the road. Like Rays Hill Tunnel, it was originally built in 1881 for trains, opened to vehicular traffic in 1940, and was bypassed in 1968.

    This tunnel’s more off-the-beaten-path setting means there isn’t as much graffiti here, and it was still possible to enter the ground level rooms on the tunnel’s western end, though entering any of the buildings is not recommended as they are very unsafe from what I’ve been told.

    Sideling Hill Tunnel along the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike.

    Sideling Hill Tunnel along the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike.

    At 6,800-feet long, Sideling Hill Tunnel is significantly longer than Rays Hill Tunnel. From inside the tunnel, it is nearly impossible to make out any light at the other end. Should you decide to venture in more than a hundred yards or so, use extreme caution and bring a couple of flashlights with you. Of course, you might decide to turn back, as the inside of these tunnels have a very, very creepy quality to them.

    Overall, a visit to the Abandoned PA Turnpike is a fascinating look into history and one of the oddest places you’ll find in Pennsylvania. I definitely recommend taking the time to visit this amazing destination. But, if you need even more convincing, check out this really cool video I came across, and then scroll down for directions to the abandoned Pennsylvania turnpike.

    How to Get to the Abandoned PA Turnpike

    There are two primary access points for the Abandoned PA Turnpike. The first, is less than a mile from the center of Breezewood, at the intersection of Interstate 70 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

    To get there, head out of town going east, past the Quality Inn. As soon as you leave town, you’ll go down a big hill. Here, Tannery Road will fork off to your left, while Route 30 continues to the right. In between, there is a large, triangular-shaped area. This is the parking area for Rays Hill Tunnel and the southern end of the Abandoned PA Turnpike.  The coordinates for this parking area are: 39.999881, -78.228380.

    The parking area for the abandoned turnpike near Breezewood, PA.

    The parking area for the abandoned turnpike near Breezewood.

    After parking, head up the hill along the dirt path. At the top, you will see the abandoned turnpike.

    Many who visit ride their bikes along the roughly 8.5 miles of road between Breezewood and Waterfall, PA. (Note: There is not a waterfall in Waterfall, PA. Go figure.) This stretch of abandoned turnpike takes you through the two tunnels and along the old road in Bedford County and Fulton County.

    A side view of Sideling Hill Tunnel on the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike.

    A side view of Sideling Hill Tunnel.

    However, if you are walking, I recommend not walking the 4.5 miles to Sideling Hill Tunnel from the western side of Rays Hill Tunnel. Instead, return to your car and drive 10 miles to the northwestern end of the road. From here, it’s only 1.2 miles to Sideling Hill Tunnel.

    Here, parking is on the abandoned turnpike itself, accessed via a short road. The road does seem a bit like a private drive, but about 100 yards up is a parking area and access to the path. The parking area is located at the following coordinates: 40.048683, -78.095839. To access this parking area, you do not take the marked road that says it is for emergency vehicles. Instead, you take another road that is about 100 yards further down the road.

    The parking area for the abandoned turnpike near Sideling Hill Tunnel in Fulton County, PA.

    The parking area for the abandoned turnpike near Sideling Hill Tunnel in Fulton County, PA.

    While both sections of the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike are worth visiting, if you only have time to visit one area, check out Rays Hill Tunnel in Breezewood. The walk is a few minutes longer, but this tunnel is easier to reach, the old roadway is in better shape, and the tunnel itself is cooler in my opinion.

    However, if you have the time, I highly recommend visiting both tunnels along the Abandoned PA Turnpike.

    Ray's Hill Tunnel on the Abandoned PA Turnpike

    The entrance to Ray’s Hill Tunnel.

    Find a great places to stay near Breezewood and the abandoned PA Turnpike on Booking.com (affiliate link).

    (Updated 1/22/16: The Pennsylvania Game Commission has confirmed that the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnels are home to protected hibernating bats. Please don’t enter the tunnels between October and April. Doing so can harm sensitive bat populations.)

    Interested in more abandoned destinations? Check out this Abandoned Trolley GraveyardInterested in spending more time near the abandoned PA Turnpike? Visit East Bedford County Covered Bridges and Bedford County’s Gravity Hill

    [Click here for information on how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.] 

    See map below for other area attractions.

    Hiking the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike in Breezewood #hiking #pennsylvania #abandoned #spooky

    AUTHOR - Jim Cheney

    Jim Cheney is the creator of UncoveringPA.com. Based in the state capital of Harrisburg, Jim frequently travels around Pennsylvania and has visited all 67 counties in the state. Jim has also traveled to more than 30 different countries around the world.

    138 Comments

    • Carolyn

      Jim, thanks for this very intriguing post. I drove along the Lincoln highway (in the dark) on my way to York county this past December; I think I was relatively close to this attraction? This lonely, long stretch of road, rich with history, really made a lasting impression on me. I just might have to go back and check this out!

      • Jim Cheney

        Yes, Carolyn, the first parking area for the abandoned turnpike, the one close to Breezewood, is right next to Route 30. Definitely stop the next time you are in the area and check it out.

    • Larry Sampson

      I have through Breezewood many times on the Turnpike but never knew about this. Next time I am up that way I will have to check it out.

      • Jim Cheney

        It’s definitely worth stopping to see. Hope you enjoy the trip, Larry!

    • Heather Davis

      Is it strange that I am proud to live in a state perfectly structured for post-apocalypse-themed filming? I just particularly enjoy that genre. 😛

      • Jim Cheney

        Not at all, Heather!

      • jessica

        It was actually used for the movie “the road”

    • J Bassett

      And then there’s the Laurel Hill Tunnel which is now owned by Chip Ganassi Racing and has been turned into a secret wind tunnel. Google it. I think you’ll be amazed!

      Here’s one recent link. http://www.roadandtrack.com/motorsports/features/a24696/racings-secret-hideout-ganassi-tunnel/

      • Jim Cheney

        Thanks for sharing. I heard it was being used as a wind tunnel, but didn’t know anything about it. Very interesting read.

      • Murray Schrotenboer

        The Laurel Hill Tunnel is not owned by Chip, it is leased by the Turnpike Commission.

    • Kyle Mills

      Hi Jim, great article. I have been here a few times and absolutely love the place. The more the public becomes aware about it the better chance the state has at securing funding to do some upgrades and repairs and get it turned into an actual bike trail destination.

      I am from Canada and it is well worth the 8hr drive to come see it!

      Thanks!

      • Jim Cheney

        It is a special place, Kyle. I’m guessing by your link that you’re the one behind the drone video I included in the post. It’s really well done. Keep up the great work!

    • John fleet

      The best way to visit the tunnels is on a bicycle. It’s a quick ride to experience both tunnels. Be sure to sing as you ride through the tunnels it sounds amazing. If you are going to explore other areas of the tunnels make sure you have more than one light. I was deep inside the longer tunnel’s passageways when the thought came to me “what if my flashlight bulb burned out?” There are stairways, places flooded with water (not sure how deep, I crossed on a plank someone had laid across. It would be extremely difficult to find your way back out without a light. The main passage through the tunnels (where the cars drove) is in excellent shape and no danger of getting lost just keep going and you will get through. I explored these tunnels one year at my wife’s suggestion because she thought the adventure I was planning on doing was too dangerous. Lol, if she only knew?

      • Jim Cheney

        Most of the interior areas have been closed off now, which probably is a smart idea. I can imagine someone could get lost for a very long time inside.

    • Robert Baer

      I’ve been through the Sidling Hill tunnel a few times. The first time, several family members all walked through the tunnel. Nobody brought a flash light, which made it very fun! This tunnel, being so long, has a nice “dead zone” in the middle where you can’t see light from either end. I imagine it’s from the tunnel being dug from both ends to meet in the middle. There’s a slight curve where they apparently met, not to mention a little bit of an incline. These small variances give that center spot the dark spot that makes it so fun!

      • Jim Cheney

        I didn’t make it all the way through the tunnel, but I can imagine it was very dark in the middle of Sideling Hill Tunnel. It’s 1.25 miles long!

    • Sarah

      This totally looks like the inspiration for the tunnel you have to go through in the original “Left for Dead” game. Thanks for sharing! Never knew this was near Breezewood.

      • Kyle

        You’re absolutely right, it was the inspiration for the game, also used in the apocalyptic movie “The Road”

    • james weingart

      Wow I’m gonna go check this out this weekend

      • Jim Cheney

        I hope you have a great visit, James!

    • Calvin Bucheggee

      I so wish there was a website like this for Maryland! Ugh so many places in PA I want to go, but so little time.

      • Jim Cheney

        There are a lot of great places to visit in Pennsylvania, Calvin! Glad you enjoy the site.

    • The Guy Who Flies

      Great write up and review Jim.

      I must admit to seeing some abandoned roads and tunnels but never thought much of them before. The history sounds fascinating and the path looks like a great day’s cycle.

      Like you say it is a shame about the graffiti. It is always a big turn off for me that people can be so disrespectful to property which is not theirs.

      • Jim Cheney

        The graffiti really is a shame, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. Much less than Centralia, another abandoned area in Pennsylvania.

    • Rodney Small

      I would love to see someone organize a half-marathon run on this sight. As a avid runner, I would love to run this stretch of road from one end to the other. Being 13 miles, it would be a natural location with no traffic worries. Just may have to set up temporary lighting in the tunnels.

    • R. Blake Divelbiss

      As an FYI – there is also another place where you can get on the abandoned turnpike just west of the Sideling HIll tunnel. Following US 30 east from Breezewood, go approx 3.5 miles and turn left on Valley-Hi road, then right on Oregon Road (this is a dirt road) a little over 2.5 miles where Oregon Road goes under the abandoned turnpike. There is a small parking area there, and a few steps leading up to the turnpike. Please take note that these steps are rather steep, however, from here it’s just under a mile to the western portal of the Sideling Hill tunnel. Looking west from this overpass of Oregon Road also gives a fantastic view of a long straightaway of the turnpike.

      • Jim Cheney

        Thanks for the information. I had heard that there was a center access point, but I didn’t have a chance to check it out on this trip. Hopefully next time!

    • Aaron Ciotti

      I’m a little confused. Is it possible to go through both tunnels? The way it read in one paragraph it sounded like the Rays Hill tunnel is now impassable due to large steel doors but then the author continued with his account of passing through that tunnel. Could someone please clarify? I would love to make the trek out there but would like to know what to expect. Thanks!

      • Jim Cheney

        It is possible to go through both tunnels and walk or ride a bike from one end of the Abandoned PA Turnpike to the other. The part that is closed off is the control rooms and other interior rooms of the tunnels. The actual passages are passable, but bring a very strong light if you intend to go through them.

        • Aaron Ciotti

          Thank you! The bike is loaded up and I’m heading out soon!

    • Mike

      I’ve hiked the entire trail on foot in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

      A long hike which will give you feet a workout.

    • Michael Brna

      Looking forward to learning more about travel in PA.

    • David Schuessler

      Interesting story about the PA Pike! Never knew that before.

    • Gary

      Jim – Was up there a couple of weeks ago and the place is quite interesting. You should mention that you can access the turnpike in the middle by turning left out of Breezwood on Hwy 915, going under the actual Turnpike and then turn right on Oregon Road. Don’t remember how far down it was on the dirt road but there is a parking area on Oregon Road that is right next to the abandoned turnpike where you can come out on a very long section of 4 lane.

      Overall awesome excursion and glad I made the trek – probably walked more than 7 miles that day.

      • Jim Cheney

        Glad you enjoyed your trip, Gary, and thanks for including the information about the middle parking area. I was aware of it, but since I didn’t check it out, I simply didn’t know directions or coordinates. Because of that, and the easy access from either end of the roadway, I didn’t include that area. Hopefully, I can park there the next time I’m in the area.

    • Randy Shank

      Love this kinda stuff thanks man! So very awdome! Did u use a halicoptor? And so crazy these “taggers” tag/graffiti places others have not a clue about!?

      • Jim Cheney

        The video isn’t mine, but one I found on Youtube and thought was worth sharing. However, the video was shot with a drone. I’d love to get one of my own some day!

    • Terrence Roberts

      Is the trail safe to ride a bicycle by yourself? I really want to ride this but not sure I can convince anyone to make the few hour drive with me.

      Cheers!

      • Jim Cheney

        I would say that it’s as safe as any trail. Use normal precautions, and you should be fine, Terrence. I’d be creeped out to go in the tunnels on my own, but that’s just because I’ve seen too many horror movies 🙂

        • Terrence Roberts

          Thanks, Jim.

          Went up on Sunday and, like you said, too many horror movies makes the tunnels pretty creeptastic when you’re alone, albeit, it was so dang hot outside the tunnels were quite refreshing.

          I’ll take the willies over the heat and humidity any day!

        • Jim Cheney

          Can’t argue with you on that, Terrence! Glad you enjoyed your visit.

    • Tim Bull

      Hello,

      I am looking to do this as a day hike straight through and have found many different accounts on how far the distance is. I’ve seen from 7.5 all the way to 13 miles from one end to the other. My plan is to part a car at the entrance of one tunnel and another at the other end. Is this a good day hike or is it too long.

      Thanks,

      Tim

      • Kyle

        It’s closer to being 7.5-8 miles from one end to the other. You cannot get a motorized vehicle by the tunnels, you have to park in the designated areas and walk to the tunnels. Approaching from the west (Breezewood) it’s about a mile to the first tunnel. Approaching from the east (Sideling side) it’s maybe a half mile to the first tunnel, just past the old service center area (Cove Valley)

      • Jim Cheney

        Kyle is correct. It’s around 7.5-8 miles from one end to the other (Though it’s closer to a mile to Sideling Hill. I measured it). The 13 mile listing probably includes some of the closed off parts of the Turnpike. If you plan to walk all the way through the tunnels, make sure to take a couple of very good light sources as it’s pitch black in the middle.

    • Chris

      I can’t wait to check this out – your artice and info are easy understand and not its on my to do list….Just did Wills Mountain – the whole thing and boy was that a mess – also, does anyone do a tour of old breezewod motel ? I love old singang – too= maybe make this strech a rebulit slicce of americana

    • Stephen Savoia

      Why were these sections of the PA Turnpike abandoned and rerouted?

      • Jim Cheney

        When it first opened all of the turnpike tunnels were one way. Meaning, they had to stop traffic to let one direction through, and then switch. This created a ton of backups. That’s why there are two tunnels instead of one big one at most of the PA Turnpike’s tunnels. At this section, it was deemed easier to reroute the Pennsylvania Turnpike along the mountainside, and they’ve been abandoned ever since.

    • A Turek

      Tunnels were not one way. Were ONE LANE EACH WAY. Did cause backups as traffic was reduced from 2 lanes each way to one lane each way inside tunnels. I remember riding thru these tunnels as a kid in my parents car

    • frank

      This should be made into a haunted attraction during Halloween

    • Jeff Hollis

      I have quite a few photos taken when a friend and I biked the full run of this a few years ago. I’d be glad to post them if someon wants to tell me how.

      • Jeff Hollis

        (follow up as I forgot to click the sign up and notify me blocks at the end)

    • Jack

      What is the music called?

      • Jim Cheney

        Are you referring to the music in the video? If so, I didn’t make the video. It was just one I found on YouTube and thought was good. You might want to comment on the video there to find out.

    • Derrick

      The graffiti didn’t take anything away. In fact, it added to it. It adds to the history. Who wrote it? When did they do it? What caused them to want to do it? It’s one of the reason I love graffiti. Sure, some of it is bad. Nothing and no one is perfect. But a lot of it is beautiful in its own right.

    • Julie chappell

      Can a motorized scooter get thru the entrance !

      • Jim Cheney

        There are gates set up to make sure that nothing bigger than a bicycle gets through. It’s also worth noting that motorized vehicles aren’t allowed on the road, even if you can get it through.

    • Shannon Stelle

      My boyfriend and I are thinking of doing this hike next weekend. Does anyone know if there is a water source anywhere? Also we may end up camping out? I’m assuming we won’t have trouble finding a flat spot?? Any insight would be much appreciated.

      Thanks so much

      • Kyle

        Water sources? No, bring water unless you don’t mind refilling bottles from the mountain water.

        Camping, no problem, LOTS of good camping spots, try above one of the tunnels like over the eastern portal of Rays or eastern portal of Sideling

        • Jim Cheney

          Yes, no water sources along the trail. It’s worth noting that while you won’t have a problem finding somewhere to camp, it is technically against the rules as far as I know.

        • Shannon Stelle

          Thanks guys. Does anyone have any good recommendations for about a 16 mile hike in Pa where we can camp and has a water source (even a stream we have water purifiers)? I live in the Allentown pa area which is about an hr north of philly. Thanks for all of your help in advance. We’ve done quite a few spots in the Appalachian and we were trying to something a little less rocky 🙂

        • Jim Cheney

          Shannon, I’m probably not much help here as I only do day hiking. Hopefully someone else can provide some good information.

    • Matthew Nichols

      GREAT SITE !

    • Jessica

      Made it to the Tunnels and Centralia for girls weekend this past weekend – with your guidance! Thank you for this site – it was incredibly helpful! We had a blast!

      • Jim Cheney

        That’s great to hear, Jessica! I’m so glad you had a good time.

    • Leda Page

      beginning in 1960 for several years we traveled the turnpike from the exit that take one up to Johnstown east to NY and went thru these tunnels many times. Thanks for the article, I found it to be very interesting.

    • Tice

      I wish they would turn it into an atv trail…. there are several organizations such as ssrt snow shoe rails to trails and others that would be more than happy to restore it, clean it, and keep it up….. that would make an awesome ride…. be free to walk or bike but membership or one day ride fee would help cover the costs and special events and tours for fund raising

      • Jim Cheney

        Would it be the much fun to ride? Seem to me that the flatness of it would make it a bit boring. To be honest, though, I think it’s better with just pedestrians and bikes. Might be a little loud in the tunnels with motorized vehicles.

        • Lorax

          Motorized vehicles are *prohibited*. So whether they are loud or not is irrelevant.

        • travelsonic

          @lorax *sighs*

          That it is prohibited now is irrelevant when talking about ideas for the *future* IMO of course.

        • Murray Schrotenboer

          Other than vehicles to maintain the trail, or sanctioned vehicles for car tours , such as when we brought the COO of the Turnpike Commission to see the trial, motorized vehicles are prohibited. That is not just our rule, it is written into the original contract with the PA Turnpike Commission. I have the combination to our gates, the PA State Forrest has keys to their gates. They patrol and I maintain, other than that any other vehicle (ATV can get in but cars are almost impossible) is breaking the law.
          Is a trail that takes you to a time and place that have never existed boring? You tell me. Post Apocalyptic America, where for the entire ride there is no sign of modern life, and two tunnels, dark for 48 years, not exciting?
          The Sidling Hill Tunnel is 1 1/3 miles long and it rises 30′ in the middle for drainage so you can’t see from one end to the other. Do you want to go through? You don’t know what is in there.
          Sound boring?
          We give tours and show the places locked off from the public, and the hidden gems. If this isn’t the most fascinating and exciting ride you have ever done, you can have your money back.
          Of course you can do it on your own and it will be wonderful but you won’t know how or why.

          Murray Schrotenboer Chairman of the Pike2Bike.

      • Dave Gribble

        Great Idea

    • Jeffrey Miller

      Is it safe going through the tunnels?

      • Jim Cheney

        I would say yes, but that’s up to your comfort level. I definitely wouldn’t go through without a flashlight or two, and I personally wouldn’t go through by myself. Never heard of any issues there.

    • Jorge Melendez

      Can you ride your horse along that trail?

      • Jim Cheney

        It only says that motorized vehicles aren’t permitted, so I would assume it’s okay, but I honestly don’t know for sure. Keep in mind that the entire route is along an abandoned roadway. There aren’t any dirt trails.

        • Lorax

          Motorized vehicles are *not* permitted. They are *prohibited*.

          Horses are ok.

    • Michael G.Zabrucky

      I have traveled through that tunnel before they closed it and built the new Tunnel.

    • Murray Schrotenboer

      Hi,
      I am the Chairman and Manager of the Pike 2 Bike trail. The signs and welding would be my work. It is great to see the interest in the trail and much is happening at this point to move the trail forward. With luck by fall it will have been transferred to a Recreational Authority so that we can obtain the grants needed to make the trail into attraction it should be.
      People can learn about our trail at pike2bike.com and if they want to learn EVERYTHING about the trail they can take a guided tour which takes people into the locked off portions of the tunnels and shows the remains of the original South Penn Roailroad which started the whole thing. They can make a reservation for a tour at grouseland.com
      Thank you for your interest in our trail
      Murray Schrotenboer, Chairman of the Pike 2 Bike

    • Briant Laslo

      is there any way at all to get more information about the entrance? I’m in a powered wheelchair and would love to travel this with a few of my friends. How steep is the hill? Are there any measurements on how much room there is between the concrete barriers?

      • Jim Cheney

        The hills are not very steep, especially going to Ray’s Hill Tunnel. However, the concrete barriers were barely wide enough for me to push a baby stroller through. My guess is that a wheelchair would not fit, but I don’t have specific measurements, just my best guess.

        • Murray Schrotenboer

          The Jersey barriers were set so that you can ride a bike through but too close for an ATV. The barriers are about 200 yards from the very start of the trail just off Rt. 30 at Tannary Rd. Getting up to the top of the hill would be a much bigger problem. Until we can put in an access road and use the 1st 200 yards as a parking lot as it was intended, it will be difficult to get your wheel chair up the 30 %+ hill.
          We would recommend that you go to the Fulton Trail head on Pump station Rd. and park on the end of the trial there. Getting through the barriers is no problem and it is essentially flat to the Sidling Hill Tunnel, the distance would be about the same at close to a mile.
          Murray Schrotenboer Chairman of the Pike2Bike.

        • Jim Cheney

          Thanks for the extra information, Murray. I completely forgot about that initial hill when I replied.

      • Murray Schrotenboer

        You would be hard pressed to get a wheel chair up the entrance at Breezewood and it is another mile on broken pavement to the 1st tunnel. A better option would be to go to the far entrance off Pump Station Rd. You can see it on our maps. Here you can wheel for about 3/4 mile to the Sidling Hill Tunnel. You don’t have any grade and the barriers are plenty far apart for your chair.
        http://www.pike2bike.com

    • Shaida Martz

      I grew up in Fulton County PA and my bus Went past the one entrance of the tunnel every day so growing up i didn’t think much of them. I went there a few times as a teen we could just bike there from our farm and we knew the people that owned the land leading down to the one entrance (which from what i read is the back entrance because it was the farthest away from Breezwood) I myself have never been through the tunnels they were just too dark for me and i have not been back since 2000 when i was 16.

    • Christopher Wolfe

      Are you able to use an ATV to the tunnels?

      • Jim Cheney

        No. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the abandoned turnpike. There are barriers to keep them out at either end.

        • Murray Schrotenboer

          Our original contract with the Turnpike Commission prohibits motorized vehicles. It is one of our biggest problems.

    • Brandie Shutts

      Hey Jim!!

      I would be interested in any other abandoned roads or sites you know about in the PA, WV, MD and VA radius. I am a photographer and I am doing a series on abandoned areas in my area.

    • cameron carey

      After reading a couple other articles about the tunnels, theres one thing I haven’t been able to find an answer to. Is camping prohibited?

      • Jim Cheney

        No, camping is not permitted there.

      • Murray Schrotenboer

        Camping is prohibited. The trail’s contract from the Turnpike Commission is for bike travel and not for camping. There are also liability issues.
        There are a number of camp sites in Bedford County.

    • Erik Ek

      For someone who spent a lot of time as a child, in the back of my parent’s station wagon, traveling the turnpike, this is very interesting, bringing back lots of memories of “turnpike stories”. Like the time my Mom was pulled over by a state cop who thought she was drunk, or falling asleep at the wheel, because she was trying to drive and twist around to smack some unruly kids at the same time. Or the time a young fellow waved me down to the shoulder in a real panic because he thought his friend had fallen off the back of his motorcycle. Before the days of cell phones, he followed me to the next plaza where I called the PSP for him. Turned out he had pulled out of the last plaza before his friend could mount the bike, leaving him standing there.
      I had never heard of this trail until, ironically, just last night, my wife told me a friend at work had visited. So in fact, the real reason for this lengthy post, is to pass on, in third hand, that some sections of the trail are littered with sharp trash that can puncture bicycle tires. Out of this friend’s group of seven, two had punctured tires. Highly advisable to come prepared for repairs.

      • Jim Cheney

        That’s good to know about trash. I haven’t ridden a bike there, but it’s a shame that people litter and make it more dangerous and less enjoyable for the rest.

        • Murray Schrotenboer

          I cleaned the tunnels only 2 weeks ago, brooming out the entrances. The signs we post say that bottles are prohibited, but the people who break bottles don’t care what we want. I will be going to the trail on Monday, Channel 11 out of Pittsburgh is doing some filming there and I need to do some welding on the Rays Hill door. I’ll do what I can to clean then.

        • Jim Cheney

          Thanks for all your work, Murray. It’s a shame that people can be respectful and enjoy their time when visiting the abandoned PA Turnpike.

    • Mitchell Dakelman

      As a true fan of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I discovered the abandoned section in 1973 while I was still in college. Over the years I have visited the site, and it, as well as the entire turnpike, and is documented in Images of America: The Pennsylvania Turnpike, written by Mitchell Dakelman and Neal Schorr. Published in 2004 by Arcadia, the book was so popular, that Arcadia convinced us to write a second book, which will be called The Glory Years of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and should be available later in 2016. Yes, Sideling and Rays will be in the book, plus many newly discovered and unpublished pictures.

    • Murray Schrotenboer

      Mitchell, we hope that your book contains up to date information on the Trail. Many people stumble on it and don’t know that it is a maintained trail and in the process of becoming a true and open trail. The book Weird PA has a lot of misinformation.
      Our trail was featured in the State Museum of PA’s display for the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Turnpike. We supplied missing pieces for their toll booth and they created a display about us.
      You can see up to date information at our Facebook page Pike 2 Bike.
      As the Chairman and manager of the trail I can give you further information if you wish.
      Murray Schrotenboer

    • Bob Rohr

      Thats way koool. Loved it and brought back memories. Use to travel every weekend in the winters to go ski at Blue Knob. Also watched as the they built the by pass. It was a scary venture thru those tunnels, lighting was very poor. Thanks for a great revisit
      Bob Rohr

    • Roger

      I have tried to find more detailed information Was there a WW 2 POW camp by Sideling Hill Tunnel?

      • Murray Schrotenboer

        That would be the CCC camp on Oregon Rd. You can access it from the trail either by getting off the trail at the Oregon bridge on the North side and taking the road 1/4 mile north, or 1/4 mile west of the west end of the Sidling hill tunnel is a service road to the north, 1/4 mile down this road is the Director’s cabin, now leased to a group of hunters. The CCC camp and later POW camp would be on the west side of Oregon Rd, and is no longer there.

      • Mitchell Dakelman

        Roger, I have no knowledge of a POW camp near Sideling Hill Tunnel, but just east of the tunnel and along Oregon Road which passes under the closed Turnpike in Buchanan Forest, was the site of an old camp site. Regarding Murray\’s question if we have information about the road/bike/trail in the book that Neal and I are publishing through Arcadia Press, I don\’t recall if we had anything on it, but we do indeed have pictures of the Sideling Hill Tunnel sparkling and brand new in 1940.

    • J.B. Bulharowski

      Jim:

      I live in AZ, but am originally from eastern PA. I made many road-trips from the Harrisburg toll entry booth to the exit which enabled us to find our way to Exit 41, Belle/Vernon/ to Monessen, my mom’s hometown. As recently as 2010 my DH and I traveled the “present” turnpike on a drive from AZ to PA, and I missed seeing the Sideling and Ray’s Hill tunnels. I thought I had lost it! Indeed, I was thinking in terms of a 50+ years trip taken about 1957. My 2010 trip was “strange,” since I navigated by landmarks and those tunnels were indeed that. Bottom line, I never even knew of the abandonment of that section of the turnpike because I wasn’t in PA for too many years. I found your informational site on Pinterest and say thanks for allowing me to realize what I had missed and that it wasn’t a part of my mind. Wish I could visit those tunnels, but not now; not now! In September 2016 we will be repeating our 2010 trip from AZ to PA, and then back to AZ. An adventure for one septuagenarian and one octogenarian. Wish us luck!

      JBB

      • Mitchell Dakelman

        JB,
        I never had the chance to drive any of the mainline 2 lanes on the Turnpike since most of our vacations took our family to New England. I discovered the Rays and Sideling Tunnels in 1973 and would go out there annually. It was a lonely forgotten place until the internet came about. That old highway and tunnels have so many recreational opportunities such as the hypothetical “Pennsylvania Turnpike Tunnel Road Race.” I do have many pictures of tunnels how they appeared from South Penn structures to today, and some will be published in a book coming out Dec 5.

        • Murray Schrotenboer

          Mitchell, you may want to contact us about the book. We can provide you with the latest information, and photos regarding the Pike 2 Bike.
          I assume you are aware of the work Russell Love has done on the SPRR and his two DVDs.

        • Mitch Dakelman

          Hi Murray, Yes I know Russ well, saw him in December. Quite an eccentric guy. Mitch
          Plan to come to Sideling Hill Tunnel at the end of July.

    • Liane Laskoske

      I recall riding through Sideling Hill Tunnel on our trips to Pittsburgh from Allentown as a kid. Years later, I kept looking to remember all the tunnel names and couldn’t figure out which was missing from the trip. I didn’t realize Sideling had been abandoned. I do remember the traffic back ups going to one lane to go through the tunnel and how scary it was with the cars coming towards us so close. It was before they build the 2nd tunnel at Blue Mountain, so all of them were one lane each way, and there were only little yellowish lights at intervals on the dark concrete walls. It’s very different with 2 lanes, tiled walls and lighting.

    • Carla

      Is it possible to ride a street bike on this trail or is it better for a mountain bike?

      • Kyle

        Definitely a mountain bike

      • Jim Cheney

        The entire path is paved, but it can be rough in places. A street bike might be okay, but you’d have to be a bit careful.

    • Trisha McKee

      This is my happy place. I love love love walking and taking pictures there. Definitely worth seeing. Trees growing up and around guardrails, weeds peeking up though the cracked roads… nature is an awesome thing! I am usually there every other weekend for a morning walk in the summer.

    • Michael Miller

      I ran the whole thing and it was a blast. I am training for a marathon in October . Part of the marathon is on the abandon
      turnpike.

    • Linda Sonon

      I did the bike tour a few years ago with friends. The guys who do the PIKE TO BIKE tour do an amazing job, you get a history lesson and see parts of the tunnels you had no idea were there. There were 6 of us, 2 had our own bikes, but the guys who do the tour have rental bikes also, and they provide everyone with lanterns. It’s a great ride.

      • Murray Schrotenboer

        Linda, we enjoyed having you and your group for a tour. We agree, it is the best way to see and understand everything.

      • Mitch Dakelman

        Linda, The old Turnpike is a fascinating facility which I discovered in 1973, only 5 years after the new bypass closed. Over the years I have collected many pictures of that section of the Turnpike when it was still in service and can be seen in two Turnpike books I coauthored with Neal Schorr, the recent is The Glory Years of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

    • Gloria J Dixon

      Wow..I am really behind the times. I didn’t even know the tunnels were abandoned. As a child (many moons ago) we would travel to and from York County and always went through the tunnels. It is kind of sad, but I am happy that they are being used for recreational purposes.

      • Mitch Dakelman

        The Turnpike was built with initially with 7, sone bore, two lane tunnels. There were always the plan to double tunnel them but economics and expansion of the Turnpike prevented all of this. By 1951 traffic backups were common at the Laurel Hill Tunnel, on the west end of the original turnpike. Studies were made and finally the plan was to build 4 new tunnels at 4 sites, and replace Laurel Hill with a bypass in 1964, and the rays/sideling, which were 3.8 miles apart, in 1968. The Lehigh Tunnel, on the Northeast Extension was double tunneled circa 1990. For many years the abandoned turnpike between Breezewood and Fulton County was stull the property of the PTC and was considered trespassing if you went on it. There were time I understand that state troopers would patrol it and issue trespassing tickets to explorers. But at the same time the tunnels were also vandalized.

        • Murray Schrotenboer

          This is from the Pike 2 Bike web site, and explains how the trail came to be in the late 90s.
          While scouting the nearby BicyclePA Route-S, Joe Stafford was hoping to avoid the traditional challenges of Sidling Hill on Rt. 30, but was unable to find a reasonable alternative on existing roads.

          Announcing this to the BicyclePA chairman, John Schubert in a meeting of volunteers, John joked that “What Joe needs is a couple of holes in the mountains.”

          Western Pennsylvania trail guru Bill Metzger who was also at that meeting and who is a railroad history buff responded, “They are already there.” Noting that the abandoned Turnpike bypassed this mountain pass with a flat easy road section, a task force including PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission explored this new opportunity for re-use.

          The Turnpike Commission was looking to dispose of the liability and it was eventually agreed that The Southern Alleghenies Conservancy (SAC) would purchase the land with intentions to have another entity manage the trail.

          On November 2001 with TV cameras and dignitaries watching, the Turnpike Commission handed over the trail for $1.

    • Mitch Dakelman

      Murray, how is funding coming along? I spoke with Carl Defebo some time ago and that was the issue. It would be nice to repair the joints, every 77 feet, and then repave one side of the Turnpike. The tunnels were never repaved. I still have that lengthy report that the late John Bibber furnished me. Also, repair spalling concrete at the tunnels and put back the steel letters that spell out the names, and do some detreeing at the tunnel sites.

      • Murray Schrotenboer

        Last year the Bedford Co. commissioners put together a steering committee to look into an update on the 2005 Gannett Flemming study that said fixing the tunnels, paving (or just grinding down to the original 10″ of concrete), putting in trail heads, lighting the tunnels etc. would run about $4 million. The committee looked at all of the issues and last month chose Navarro & Wright to produce a new study. The estimate would be about 5 million. The $80,000 to pay for the study comes from a fracking tax that goes to each county and can only be used for recreational purposes.
        The county is now looking to assemble an authority comprised with people from both Bedford and Fulton Co. to buy the trail from SAC.
        The $5 million will come from state or federal grants for recreational trails. DCNR has been excited by this trail since 2000 when I took the head of the agency for a bike tour. Last fall Cindy Dunn the current DCNR Secretary along with Leslie Richards Transportation Secretary went for a bike tour and I took them up into the upper portions of the tunnels. There is a great deal of excitement to move the trail forward.
        SAC is out of money and needs to take the liability of the trail off its books. The counties are reluctant to take on the liability, despite the tremendous business opportunities that developing the trail will open.

        • Mitch Dakelman

          If I can be of any help, please let me know. I have many color and black and white photos of this section of highway which would be great for a brochure or promotions, or kiasks with interpretive message boards. Also, the famous shot with Carnegie at Rays Hill during 1885 SP construction.

        • Murray Schrotenboer

          I see that you have numerous photos in the “Memories of the Turnpike” book that I picked up at the State Museum of PA’s Grand Opening of the 75th anniversary display.
          The Museum was missing a few pieces of their toll booth and during a tour with the Turnpike officers I mentioned that I was in possession of several toll booths worth of parts. The museum curator came to our place, looked over the parts and pulled out 4 or 5. In exchange I was invited to the Gala, and they put up a display regarding the P2B including a photo of which I was credited.

      • Murray Schrotenboer

        I’ve met with Carl several time, the latest, this time last year when a Pittsburgh TV station did an article about the Turnpike and the abandoned section. Carl stood in front of the Sideling Hill tunnel to talk about it.
        I pointed out that our contract with the Turnpike Commission gave us all of the land above the tunnel and did not exempt the live Turnpike that crosses over it. I suggested we put in a toll booth to fund the project. Carl said, “No, don’t bother, just put in a pinger to pull money from the EZ pass, people won’t even notice”. It sounded like a good idea to me.

        • Mitch Dakelman

          Murray, I live in NJ so now to access the beginning of the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the eastern end, they added a $5 toll at the Delaware River Bridge, to make sure people pay for the small part of the Turnpike if they exit at the new I95 interchange under construction. They take in a lot of money at that bridge + the high tolls now charged to use the Penn Turnpike, far above any long distance toll road facility!~

    • Robert Ritenour

      So does bedford county own part of the tunnels now?

      • Mitch Dakelman

        Murray would know that. The entire Sideling Hill Tunnel is located in Fulton County. The Bedford and Fulton county line is in the halfway point of Rays Hill Tunnel.

    • Peggy Williams

      Could you please tell me what musical group played along with the video? Thanks

      • Jim Cheney

        The video isn’t mine. The best thing to do is to click on it so that it’ll send you to the video on YouTube, and then ask in the comments section there.

    • Dave Gribble

      Sure is a shame they don’t want to have an ATV club for those trails. We ATV riders pay a registration fee and carry insurance. ATV riders share our trails with hikers, bikers, and horses all the time with no problems. Seems like such a waste as the ATV clubs do so much for trail maintenance and clean up of trails. SSRT and Central mountain ATV club sure do a lot of good. Pa should take a lesson from Hatfield and McCoy and bring some revenue to the state. Many of us Americans are older now and our ATV and SXS allow us to enjoy and explore the great outdoors. Seems a bit selfish to me, when this could be connected with an existing state ATV trail.

      • Jim Cheney

        Honestly, I’m glad ATVs aren’t allowed on the trail. I’m sure that many riders are responsible, and it’s the responsible ones (not the irresponsible ones) that these rules keep away. However, I can’t imagine how noisy it would be in those tunnels if ATVs could go through them. Plus, allowing motorized vehicles on there would make it less safe for the bikers and walkers that use the trails regularly. I honestly can’t think of any trails that has frequent ATVs that hikers can feel comfortable walking on.

    • Phil Joiner

      Hi Jim,
      Back in the early 70’s, I was an automotive test driver. I don’t know if it was on the up and up, but we met someone that gave us the keys to get in at the Breezewood entrance. I forget which stretch was the longest, but I do remember going through at least one of the tunnels to get to the stretch we were going to test on. We manufactured brake lining for Ford. We were running system system failures..fronts only, then rears, etc. at up to 80 MPH. Running a rears only at 80, we had a lockup and the car came around and took out two guardrails. We didn’t get hurt, but all I could think of was if we had been hurt, how long would it take for someone to find the bodies ! I wish I had brought a camera with me, as there is such a difference between what it looked like then and the great pictures you have posted. Great article !

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    • Lois W. Rosenberger

      This looks fascinating. My birthday is coming up and that is what I am choosing to do with my husband.

      • Mitch Dakelman

        The fall season is good since its not hot or cold and one can walk easily. Pick up one Turnpike book’s I wrote with Neal Schorr from Amazon and you can see what it looked like during the operation of the highway. Mitch

    • Vinnie Maggio

      Visited this place and Gravity Hill because of this blog. Thanks for sharing the great information!

    • Deb Goodwin

      Glad I stumbled across your blog on a PennLive ad – we just moved to H’burg from Maine and are looking forward to exploring. Your blog is chock full of great ideas – I just can’t decide which to do first! Come-on weekend, I’ve got places to go now!

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