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Visiting the Abandoned Turn Hole Tunnel in Jim Thorpe, PA

I love exploring abandoned places in PA, and one of my favorites to check out is Turn Hole Tunnel in Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Turn Hole Tunnel is an abandoned railroad tunnel that sits just outside of the quaint downtown of Jim Thorpe, PA, and within the aforementioned state park. It is hidden from view and doesn’t appear on the park map, but since it’s only steps from a parking area, it’s easy to find if you know where to look.

It should be noted up front that I am unsure of the stability of the tunnel’s walls and ceiling. Large rocks in the middle of the tunnel indicate that there have been rockfalls here in the past. While you can see both ends of the tunnel from the outside safely, access is no longer allowed inside the tunnel. (Confirmed with the park in July 2023)

History of the Turn Hole Tunnel

Historic postcard of Turn Hole Tunnel in Jim Thorpe PA
A historic postcard of the Turn Hole Tunnel with the track coming out of the mountain covered by a covered bridge. (Public Domain)

The Turn Hole Tunnel was completed in 1866 by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company for its railroad line, the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad. The tunnel was constructed as part of the line’s extension from White Haven to what was then known as Mauch Chunk. The tunnel got its name because it crossed the Lehigh River at a turn in the waterway.

This 496-foot-long tunnel was built with two tracks so that trains could pass each other while traveling through the gorge. What has always interested me, however, is why they chose to bore through the mountain when they could have easily gone around it just a few yards downstream as the still-existing tracks do.

Fallen rocks inside the Turn Hole Tunnel in Lehigh Gorge State Park in Jim Thorpe PA
After being abandoned for many decades, there are a lot of fallen rocks inside the tunnel.

Regardless, in 1910, the Turn Hole Tunnel was condemned, but it remained in use, primarily for passing trains, until it was finally closed in 1956 by the Central Railroad of New Jersey, who had bought this portion of track in 1871.

In 1965, the Central Railroad’s track through the Lehigh Gorge was closed, and, for the next 15 years, this area sat totally abandoned and unused. However, with the creation of Lehigh Gorge State Park and the D&L Rail Trail that runs along the river banks, this area became a magnet for tourism.

And, while the rail trail, Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, and, before it was closed, the hike to Glen Onoko Falls, were always the most popular uses for the park, Turn Hole Tunnel is also a neat spot to check out.

How to Get to Turn Hole Tunnel in Lehigh Gorge State Park

Inside the Turn Hole Tunnel in Lehigh Gorge State Park
The Turn Hole Tunnel is a fascinating remnant of the area’s railroading past.

While the Turn Hole Tunnel is a popular spot to check out, it’s a bit off the radar as well since there are no signs pointing to it and it’s not on the park’s map. However, it’s also very easy to get to if you know how to find it.

The entrance to the Turn Hole Tunnel can be found in the woods just past the end of the last large parking area before the bridge over the Lehigh River in Lehigh Gorge State Park. You’ll want to enter the woods at the following coordinates, so park as close to here as possible: 40.882133, -75.762578.

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

People biking on the D&L Trail next to the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
The Turn Hole Tunnel is easily accessible from the D&L Rail Trail.

For those biking or walking on the rail trail, this spot is also easily accessible from the D&L Trail about 2.25 miles north of the train station in Jim Thorpe.

The tunnel is only about 100 feet into the woods, making it quite easy to reach. There is a very small hill going up to the entrance of the tunnel which serves to help block the entrance to the tunnel.

Note that entering the tunnel is not allowed as the roof is unstable, making it very unsafe.

The entrance to the Turn Hole Tunnel in Lehigh Gorge State Park in Carbon County PA
The entrance to the Turn Hole Tunnel.

This dirt mound was likely built to keep vehicles out of the tunnel when it was closed to train travel. It has the effect, however, of making the entrance to the tunnel look more like a cave than anything else since the entrance is carved directly into solid rock.

It should be said again here that entering is not allowed. Even from the entrance, you can see large pieces of rock that have fallen from the ceiling over the decades that the tunnel has been abandoned, which makes it clear that it is not safe to enter.

Please only view the tunnel from the outside.

Old Railroad Tracks in the Turn Hole Tunnel near Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania
Old railroad tracks still run in the tunnel.

That being said, before the interior was closed and there was no signage, I was able to go inside Turn Hole Tunnel on two occasions.

When I went into the tunnel, I was shocked that no powered machines were used in the construction of this tunnel. The rock walls were incredible to look at, and you can see some of this from the exterior of the tunnel. You can also see some of the old railroad ties still laying on the ground.

People inside of Turn Hole Tunnel in Jim Thorpe PA
There is a nice overlook of the river at the end of the tunnel which you, sadly, can no longer reach.

Once you are done checking out the tunnel from the entrance near the parking lot, take some time to walk the short distance down the road to view it from the other end. This spot can be found about halfway along the bridge over the Lehigh River that’s just down the road from where you parked.

If you cross about halfway over the bridge and then look back, you’ll see the impressive opening for the Turn Hole Tunnel along the sheer rock face of the mountainside. In my opinion, it’s truly impressive to see this spot as it lets you fully appreciate the work that went into building this tunnel.

End of the Turn Hole Tunnel as seen from the bridge over the Lehigh River in Lehigh Gorge State Park
The end of the tunnel as seen from the bridge over the Lehigh River.

At one point in time, there was a bridge here over the Lehigh River, but that has since been torn down. Instead, there is a large opening in the rock with a bit of fencing that once kept people from falling off the ledge when visitors were allowed inside the Turn Hole Tunnel.

While here, make sure to look down at the river below. If you’re lucky, you might see whitewater rafters ending their trip on the Lehigh River.

Whitewater rafters in the Lehigh River seen from the end of the Turn Hole Tunnel in Jim Thorpe PA
Whitewater rafters in the Lehigh River as seen from the end of the Turn Hole Tunnel.

Overall, the Turn Hole Tunnel in Jim Thorpe is a fantastic spot to check out. While it’s a shame that you can no longer walk through it, it’s still interesting to see from the outside when exploring the area. This is definitely an engineering marvel and a very fun piece of history to see when exploring Carbon County, PA.

Again, the interior of the Turn Hole Tunnel is closed for safety reasons. Please do not enter it.

Looking for more things to do in the Poconos? Check out the waterfalls of Lehigh Gorge State Park, Hickory Run State Park, the Old Jail Museum, and the nearby Jim Thorpe Memorial.

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2 thoughts on “Visiting the Abandoned Turn Hole Tunnel in Jim Thorpe, PA”

  1. Went here last Saturday. Could not find any opening into the woods to access the front/start of the tunnel. Asked a lot of people, nobody knew anything about the opening/front of the tunnel. We eventually hiked up about 2 miles to the backside of the tunnel. Could not really access the tunnel from there as it is a extreme vertical climb up the mountain to the entrance. It turned out to be a hike from Hell.. Extremely hot, we had no water (did not think we needed any as these instructions said the entrance was just beyond the last City parking lot). About 2.2 miles there, and 2.2 miles back. Another thing, the grubby people from the City have installed kiosk parking, it will cost you $12 to park. Too bad, Jim Thorpe is becoming an unwelcome place with all of the crowds, parking fees, and restrictions, etc. etc.

    • If you use the coordinates in the article, it will take you right to the entrance. The city parking lot is not the same as the state park parking lot, which is where I say to park in this article.

      Also, parking in the state park is free, though there is a charge to park downtown, which is common in communities big and small.


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