The background you see on
this page is exactly what people on the Internet have seen inside the Laurel
Hill Tunnel since is was closed to traffic in 1964. Trespassing on the
property of Laurel Hill, inside the tunnel, or on the P.T.C.'s old right-of-way
is illegal. Enough people have set foot on the old right-of-way and hiked
to the eastern tunnel portal though.
Many have posted their stories and pictures on the Internet. I am hoping to get some of these people to share their stories and pictures with this website. None of the people whose sites I have visited have been able to enter the actual tunnel and explore very far.
No one makes a claim to have hiked the entire way through the tunnel. Some folks have claimed to have ridden ATV's through the tunnel. One site has a person claiming to have walked several hundred feet into the tunnel in the dark. I have even read that the center of Laurel Hill Tunnel was blocked off because of the ATV usage. Unfortunately, none of these stories have photographs to back them up.
Recently, I found a website whose author says he encountered a semi-crazy "mountain man" at Laurel Hill who claimed that he now "owned the tunnel" and that the visitor was trespassing on his land.
NEW LINK: visit Joe W.'s website -- Explore the Past. His site has some rare and very interesting up-close pictures of the Laurel Hill western portal.
ALL THAT WE KNOW FOR SURE ABOUT LAUREL HILL TUNNEL IS ...
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission still owns the entire tunnel, along with the eastern and western sections of the right-of-way and old roadway.
No one (so far) can verify the quality of the roadway inside the tunnel.
No one (so far) can
verify if you seen any kind of "light" at the center of Laurel
Hill or not. In the case of Ray's Hill, you can see light (though
faint) the entire way from one portal to the opposite portal. Inside
the center of Sideling Hill, you cannot see daylight from either portal.
To reach the eastern
portal, you have about a mile to travel from the current turnpike.
Leaving your car on this "turn" in the road will make it most
visible to the highway patrol. The old roadway is regularly visited by
P.T.C. staff and PennDot workers. You can be fined and charged with
trespassing for being there.
have chased off at least one visitor to the eastern portal in recent
years. This visitor shared his story on a website posting.
The P.T.C./PennDot workers have no jurisdiction over the old roadway
and tunnel, nor do they have the right to detain you -- but what do you
think the state highway patrol will have to say if they catch you there?
The tunnel has never
been open to legal visitation.
The P.T.C. no longer is
issuing visitation "permits" to anyone. See my Laurel Hill
Exploration page for a copy of an email that confirms this. I got the
idea to ask about a permit after reading of someone getting permission to
visit Laurel Hill because of doing a project on the old South Penn Railroad.
There are "back
roads" that lead to the Laurel Hill Tunnel's eastern portal. One
road is called Tunnel Hill Road. Another road probably leads right to the portal and/or
the P.T.C.'s storage areas. No one on the Internet has documented
actually taking that road because of the stern warning on a P.T.C.
"no trespassing" sign. Even the closest public back road to
the eastern portal area requires you to cross over private property at the
end. Someone posted a story about meeting a nice gentle elderly man
who said "ok" to them crossing his property and in fact, gave them
directions. Easy enough, except that visitors to this area have noted
a rather rough hike, steep grades, muddy and soft ground and of course, a
field of wild ferns (rattlesnakes like ferns). You decide if you would
like to take this route.
The eastern portal of
Laurel Hill Tunnel shows MUCH LESS vandalism and graffiti ("Say
it with Krylon!") abuse
than the Ray's Hill or Sideling Hill tunnels. In the rare photograph
below, it appears the windows on the upper level may still there or has been
removed by the P.T.C., rather than broken by vandals.
No one has to worry about hiking to the western portal of the Laurel Hill Tunnel. The current turnpike alignment goes right past it. I would estimate the western portal to be no further than a quarter-mile from the current turnpike. The P.T.C. uses the old roadway to store road salt and asphalt. I have seen the western portal from a chartered bus, not having a clue what it was at the time. We took a group of high school students from my church on a trip to Ocean City, MD. We passed this tunnel portal. It's nothing much to look at, as the name plate/letters have all fallen off.
To view the western portal, slow down and safely pull off the current alignment about mile marker 99.0 EB. The bypass begins around mile marker 99.2 EB.
The western portal of the Laurel Hill Tunnel, taken sometime after June 2003 because the metal locking door was not installed then when I saw it.
Rumor has it that the Laurel Hill Tunnel is currently being used to store core samples from the Mon-Fayette Freeway. Another rumor is that a professional racecar/NASCAR driver is renting the tunnel for time tests or using it as a wind tunnel.
Taken sometime in the 1950's -- this appears to be a postcard, according to a recent source I have uncovered. It is not clear which of the portals this photograph shows.
The three pictures above are courtesy of the Library of Congress.
This is the Laurel Hill tunnel in the 1940s, not long after the opening of the turnpike.
Source unknown. Laurel Hill eastern portal. If you own this photograph, please email the webmaster at this site. I would like your permission to continue to post this picture. I would also like to make it a hyperlink to your website.
Not many people have visited the eastern portal and took photographs of it.
That makes this type of photograph rare.
I have found but cannot get permission to post any photographs of Laurel Hill from the days when the lettering still appeared above the tunnel portals and before vandals visited at all. The portal's remote location seems to have kept more vandals at bay than Ray's Hill and Sideling Hill have. If you have photographs of Laurel Hill, either portal, with the original lettering still intact, I would most certainly appreciate you emailing them to me and/or giving me permission to link to or post them on this site.
Tunnel's eastern portal, taken sometime prior to 1964.
I am researching to find the name of the trail that goes over Laurel Hill.
Another version of an aerial photograph of the Laurel Hill Tunnel area.