Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Take a subterranean journey at Laurel Caverns.




photos by chuck beard

 

Two tiny members of the Eptesicus fuscus tribe sleep soundly above our heads, oblivious to voices and the sweep of flashlights. In the recent past, thousands of brown bats had used this subterranean chamber as a hibernaculum throughout the winter, but the fungal disease white nose syndrome has decimated their numbers in recent years. These two survivors cling to the rock face and wait for warmer nights.

We descend into the three-mile underground labyrinth of Laurel Caverns wearing old clothes, treaded hiking boots, and hardhats with headlamps. Our guide is David Cale, who owns the 435-acre geological preserve and teaches at West Virginia University. He has worked at mapping, clearing and extending the cavern’s natural passages since his teen years. Now 71, he leads us through the more accessible chambers of the caverns (Vallanoren, The Grand Canyon, Hall of the Mountain King) that are seen on the standard tour, lit with colored bulbs and often rising to heights of 50 feet.

Past this point, the going gets tougher. Two caving trips (upper and lower) are offered for the more adventurous; these expeditions are more strenuous and involve lots of climbing, crouching and creek straddling.
 


David Cale leads a tour through the depths of Laurel Caverns.
 

Laurel Caverns is the largest natural cave in Pennsylvania, hidden beneath a privately owned geological preserve surrounded by Forbes State Forest. Inside the caverns, most chambers near the entrance are quite large; the Cale’s Canyon Passage is the length of a football field.

Cale leads us down into the lower chambers, through the Flue, the Ball Room and Bat Room. We’re now about 200 feet beneath the forest above, and we see only by flashlight and headlamp. The Flue is narrow and claustrophobic, and often low overhead. My hardhat saves me from a dozen concussions. Once we enter the Ballroom, the rooms and passages open up to an average of 40 feet wide and 40 feet high.
 


 

In the Bat Room, we cross a trickling creek and Cale offers to show us something special. Two Laurel Caverns guides have been making excavations throughout the winter and are close to bridging the gap between the lower and upper caves. Once accomplished, this will connect the two passages and allow cavers to make round trips instead of retracing steps to their point of origin. We are far into the caverns now, and I realize that only a handful of people have ever stepped into this deep part of the earth. The passage is wet and dark and full of the sharp smell of loam, a fit place for the meeting of Eptesicus fuscus and Homo sapiens.
 
Laurel Caverns is closed during the primary months of the bat-hibernation season. The caverns open for visitors on April 28, 2018.
 


 

Cave Experience
For an adrenaline jolt, Laurel Caverns offers rappelling on Saturdays and Sundays. For a more relaxing experience, take a swing at Kavernputt, a miniature-golf course set in a 10,000-square-foot simulated cave experience.

Find it:
On the Web: laurelcaverns.com
Drive Time: 1 hour, 45 mins​
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Our 50 Years: Why I Hate Nostalgia

Enjoying memories is fun – but a far cry from pining for the past.

Perspectives: Finding Grace in #MomLife

A Pittsburgh television reporter learns to embrace the imperfection that comes with being a working mom.

The 400-Word Review: Pledge

IFC Midnight's collegiate terror tale is mostly for genre fans, but it lands a few decent punches.

Capel’s Basketball Resurrection Has the Zoo Rocking Again

Head coach Jeff Capel is restoring respectability and re-establishing the relationship between Pitt’s students and Pitt’s student athletes.

Why Did No One Tell Me Cirque du Soleil is Awesome

A skeptical novice takes in the troupe's "Corteo" production and is stunned at his own delight.

Three Rivers Champion: Julius Boatwright

Boatwright works to connect everyone who needs it with mental health support.

Turkey Devonshire: Reviving a Classic Pittsburgh Sandwich

The once-famous sandwich originated here but now is largely forgotten. We dive into its history and argue that it's time for a revival.

Navigating the Future of Public Transit in Pittsburgh

Six Pittsburghers share their struggles and hopes for the region’s public transit system.

Why Jamison Farm Is a “A Napa Valley for Sheep”

How a former coal miner and his wife use the resources atop rolling Westmoreland County hills to produce the best lamb in the United States.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Review: Fish nor Fowl

The sixth standalone concept from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group, is DeShantz’s most exciting restaurant yet.

Our 50 Years: When We Tried to Predict the Future

25 years ago, we predicted what the Pittsburgh of 2019 would look like. We were ... close?

Help Pay Tribute to a Pittsburgh Jazz Legend

Mary Lou Williams began as a teenage piano prodigy in the Hill District and made it to Carnegie Hall and beyond. This month, you can discover her musical legacy.

Their's was a Starry-Eyed Pittsburgh Romance

John Brashear dedicated his life to science — and his wife, Phoebe.

She Became Pittsburgh Radio Royalty by Making Music Matter

Rosemary Welsch, longtime DJ and senior producer at WQEP-FM, has shepherded the station from startup to institution.

He Tries to be a Blessing to Someone Every Day

Doug Williams helps men facing homelessness with hard work — and example.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Our 50 Years: Why I Hate Nostalgia

Our 50 Years: Why I Hate Nostalgia

Enjoying memories is fun – but a far cry from pining for the past.

Comments

New Doc Unearths the Secrets of Moundsville

New Doc Unearths the Secrets of Moundsville

The West Virginia town's varied history and uncertain future are the subject of "Moundsville," which will be screened this week at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Fresh Fest Beerfest Is Set to Return to Pittsburgh

Fresh Fest Beerfest Is Set to Return to Pittsburgh

The country's first black brewfest looks to double in size this year.

Comments

Pittsburgh Chef Moves: Csilla Thackray Headed to Legume Bistro

Pittsburgh Chef Moves: Csilla Thackray Headed to Legume Bistro

Thackray's departure from The Vandal will result in a new menu at that Lawrenceville restaurant.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Don’t resign yourself to the gym treadmills just yet – fall is one of the best times of the year to get outside and pound the pavement, surrounded by falling leaves and the possibility of grabbing a hot latte on the way home.

Comments

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

We dove into the local artisan bread scene to find the best places that bake naturally leavened bread in Pittsburgh.

Comments


Why Did No One Tell Me Cirque du Soleil is Awesome

Why Did No One Tell Me Cirque du Soleil is Awesome

A skeptical novice takes in the troupe's "Corteo" production and is stunned at his own delight.

Comments

My New Neighborhood Bar is The Birmingham Bridge Tavern

My New Neighborhood Bar is The Birmingham Bridge Tavern

After settling into a new neighborhood, PM nightlife editor Sean Collier sings the praises of his go-to corner bar.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Capel’s Basketball Resurrection Has the Zoo Rocking Again

Capel’s Basketball Resurrection Has the Zoo Rocking Again

Head coach Jeff Capel is restoring respectability and re-establishing the relationship between Pitt’s students and Pitt’s student athletes.

Comments

Steelers' Organization Shares Blame for Brown Debacle

Steelers' Organization Shares Blame for Brown Debacle

For years now, the Steelers have been working around Brown’s maladaptive tendencies from Monday through Saturday and throwing him the ball on Sunday and hoping for the best.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Pledge

The 400-Word Review: Pledge

IFC Midnight's collegiate terror tale is mostly for genre fans, but it lands a few decent punches.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Glass

The 400-Word Review: Glass

M. Night Shyamalan's crossover film lands with a splat, as the filmmaker once again can't resist his worst impulses.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Pop Culture Touches Made These Weddings Extra Special

Pop Culture Touches Made These Weddings Extra Special

Whether you love all things Disney, “Game of Thrones” or “Star Wars,” there are lots of ways to add some personal — and fun — details into your wedding day.

Comments

It’s a Hockey Wedding in Pittsburgh

It’s a Hockey Wedding in Pittsburgh

This Pittsburgh couple was brought together by their love of hockey — and what better way to celebrate their New Year’s Eve wedding than with an outdoor game?

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Up for Auction: Luxury 200-Acre Ligonier Estate Owned by Former EDMC Exec

Up for Auction: Luxury 200-Acre Ligonier Estate Owned by Former EDMC Exec

Woodmere is one of four high-end properties owned by Robert Knutson scheduled to hit the auction block this week.

Comments

The Top Five HOME Stories of 2018

The Top Five HOME Stories of 2018

Take a look back at the biggest stories to come out of Pittsburgh’s home and design industry.

Comments