If you live in the Keystone State, you won’t have to travel far to find the best abandoned places in Pennsylvania. And if you are from out of town it’s certainly worth the drive to explore these off the beaten path industrial ruins for yourself.
Pennsylvania’s vibrant past and advancements have led to many places – cemeteries, a penitentiary, parks, and even an entire coal mining town – being abandoned. Many of these spots are fascinating visits for your next urbex road trip that share information about Pennsylvania’s past.
The once booming steel economy of the state has left behind many ruins. Not all of these places are open to the public, so it is a good idea to check before you plan to visit. We’ve put this list together of our choices for the 10 best abandoned places in Pennsylvania to highlight some of the places across the state that have been abandoned by society and reclaimed by nature. Keep reading to see if your favorite abandoned place in Pennsylvania made our list.
Need a strong camera to photograph abandoned places in Pennsylvania? Look no further than our two top recommendations, the Canon EOS 90D and the Nikon D7500. Find more DSLR options in our comprehensive guide.
Interested in venturing outside Pennsylvania? Here are a few guides to surrounding states that will be helpful in your explorations outside of the wonderful abandoned places in Pennsylvania:
- The 10 Best Abandoned Places In Ohio For 2021 And Beyond
- Finding the 10 Best Abandoned Places in New York In 2021
- Finding the 10 Best Abandoned Places in Virginia In 2021
- The 10 Best Abandoned Places In Maryland For 2021 And Beyond
The Best Abandoned Places in Pennsylvania
Eastern State Penitentiary
In the urban city center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania lies a stone castle complete with turrets and all. However, this castle wasn’t built for a king. Instead, it was built in 1829 to house prisoners.
Before the Eastern State Penitentiary was constructed prisoners went sent to prisons that housed the inmates but without much order. Disease, starvation, and violence were common and many died before they even had a chance to be sentenced. The Eastern State Penitentiary was the beginning of a new era of how we housed inmates. Designed by the “Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons” as a place where the guilty would be able to serve their time for their crimes in a more orderly fashion. Eastern State was the world’s first “penitentiary”.
In its day the new facility was a technological marvel and cost $800,000 to build making it one of the most expensive projects of its time. Inmates at Eastern State had their own private toilet, were served three meals a day, and had an exercise area. Each cell had a skylight and at the time Eastern State was considered to be the “paradise” of prisons.
The only problem was this castle-like paradise drove its prisoners mad. The Eastern State Penitentiary operated on what was called a “separate system”. Each prisoner was on their own and not allowed to interact with other prisoners in any way. They ate alone. They exercised alone. They read the bible alone. When they were taken out of their cells a hood was placed over their head. The prison guards went so far as to wear shoe guards to keep the prison as silent as possible. This silence was supposed to give the prisoners plenty of quiet reflection time and a place to repent for their sins but instead of a pittance, it inspires insanity.
Eventually due to overcrowding and the disapproval of the public of the “separate system”, Eastern State changed into a standard prison where inmates shared cells and were allowed to talk to one another. Eastern State remained in use until 1971 and housed famous criminals likeWillie Sutton and Al Capone.
It was saved from destruction and in 1994 it opened its doors to the public. This prison is left in a magnificent state of decay. If you’re ever in Pennsylvania be sure to pay it a visit. The site now features a self-guided audio tour and a number of special tours including a Bastille Day celebration and a Haunted Halloween tour.
Abandoned Knox Coal Distribution Center
Encompassed by nature and hidden away in Pittston is another abandoned place in Pennsylvania. The Knox Coal Distribution Center has endured multiple fires and years of harsh temperatures but it still stands today holding the secrets of our past.
This site was used to store and transfer coal. It was built by the Knox Coal Mine company to be used as a hub for the transportation of coal by road, railroad, and boat. Pittston used to be an essential and booming town that took part in the process of transporting coal. However, an accident in the Knox coal mine soon put an end to outs operation. The Knox coal mine disaster brought on new safety laws and the town was unable to keep up with the changes.
Today the building still stands abandoned and encircled by the forest. When coming up on the site from the road the first structure you will see is a huge iron frame roof that collapsed some time ago. The business logo can still be seen on an iron beam in this main building. The main building is connected to three other buildings and two small storage structures although you might have to look carefully to find them from afar. Just in front of these buildings is a loading dock that is now covered in graffiti. There are also a few coal car tracks that were used to slide coal cars for loading onto large trucks.
Beware there is a private property sign at the front of the entrance hidden by the brush. You can ask the municipality for permission to enter the site. If you are careful and do not further destroy the site they are more than happy to have you visit. The building doesn’t have a street address but it is just to the left of 100 Thompson Street. Walk up the road until you see a small stone wall. Be sure to bring someone with you, bug spray, tick repellent, and your camera.
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Next on our list of the 10 best abandoned places in Pennsylvania is Cascade Park. At the turn of the century, Cascade Park was a booming amusement park that attracted guests from all over Pennsylvania and Ohio. Opened On May 29, 1897, in Newcastle Pennsylvania, Cascade Park had a rollerskating rink, dancing pavilion, rides, and outdoor tether, and an indoor roller coaster called The Figure Eight. The park had ice skating in the winter and swimming in the summer months.
In 1927 a tragic accident happened that would put an end to the park for good. Two guests died while riding in the first car of the rollercoaster which dipped through a gorge. Witnesses said they saw the victims thrown from the car. After the deaths park put seatbelts in the coaster but it was eventually demolished due to a termite infestation.
A new roller coaster was built in 1954 that was an updated version of the previous wooden coaster but in the decades that followed the park experienced poor maintenance resulting in many rides having to be closed for safety issues or a lack of insurance.
During the 1980s vandalism was rampant at the park. Someone even stole 15 carousel horses from the merry-go-round. The second rollercoaster was damaged by a falling tree and was deemed too expensive to repair in 1982. In the 1990s the park became more nature-focused with picnic areas and a fitness trail. While there have been efforts to restore the swimming pool it is still in a state of disrepair and remains closed.
Today, you can walk around Cascade park and find many different relics from the past including supports for the old roller coasters, several buildings, and seemingly random concrete slabs. This park is still in use to this day for concerts and events. Many people even choose to have their wedding ceremony here. If you visit Cascade Park be aware that the gorge has some large rocks that can be difficult to navigate.
Windber Trolley Graveyard
The Windber Trolley Graveyard is a priceless treasure among the urbex community. This famous site has been explored and photographed by many and is still available for all to see. The trolleys sit on vacant tracks in rural western Pennsylvania. It is easy to see these ruins as part of a horror film or the remains of a disaster, but the real story is much lighter.
Ed Metka made a career as a civil engineer in the Army Corps of Engineers. He grew up in Chicago in the 1940s during the peak of trolley transportation. After he retired he worried that many of the trolley models he loved were being sold for scrap metal or destroyed. So he bought 14 trolley cars from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and restored each truck back to its former glory. He even purchased a bit of land in Windber, Pennsylvania to house his beloved collection of trolleys.
Deep in the woods lies his collection of trolleys. Tree branches and brush have pushed through shattered windows and have filled the interiors with leaves and dirt. But these trolley cars are not abandoned. The land they sit on is an active scrapyard and there is a security guard that makes sure the cars are not vandalized. The cars still belong to Mr. Metka and he hopes to one day see each car reach its former glory.
The collector has yet to find a buyer for the vintage cars although he is in talks with many East Coast cities that would like to revisit the idea of trolley car transportation. These cars may look a little worse for wear but they are in no way abandoned. Ed Metka himself sometimes occasionally gives tours. If you’d like to visit the cars be sure to ask Ed before you visit the property.
The Carrie Furnaces
The Carrie Furnaces were an important piece of infrastructure during the heyday of Pittsburgh’s steel-making golden years. These furnaces smelted over 1,000 tons of iron per day to be sent to local mills in the area. The Carrie Furnaces discontinued operations in 1982 and the furnaces still remain.
The Carrie furnaces were part of the Homestead Steel Works and were built in 1886. They were just one piece of the larger industrial areas that stretched from Pittsburgh’s downtown to a few miles up the Monongahela River. Over 15,000 people staffed the Homestead Steel Works during the Second World War and steel became the ethos of Pittsburgh and the surrounding small towns in the area.
During the 1980salmost all of the small-town mills closed. There are a few traces of the former Homestead Steel Works still in the area. However, the Carrie Furnaces are one of the ones in the best condition. These furnaces, numbers 6 and 7, still stand near Braddock and Rankin.
Surrounded by railroads the furnaces are closed to the public but the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation does offer tours of the furnaces from May to October. The tours focus on notable graffiti, photography, and stories from the retired steelworkers. There is a group pushing to make the furnaces a national park that showcases the history of Pittsburgh’s steel production, but so far no plans have been finalized.
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Delaware River Viaduct
The small town of Slateford Pennsylvania is the type of palace one might pass through on the way to somewhere else, but then you would miss the Delaware River Viaduct. Nicknamed “Alice” or “Wonderland” lovingly by the locals who trespass to visit the viaduct it’s hard to ignore the concrete relic. It stands with concrete legs in the Delaware River measuring 65 feet tall. Welcome to Alice is spray-painted on the base of one of its legs.
The viaduct was originally used to connect the Lackawanna Cutoff line from New Jersey, over the Delaware River, and up into Scranton Pennsylvania. The rails were finally removed in the late 1980s and the bridge serves as a local interest point for savvy locals who know which rocks to climb and which hollow pillars are safe enough to venture onto.
At the top of the bridge, you’ll find where the railroad gravel is set up. Just up ahead and over each pillar are open manholes. Some of the manholes have ladders and some are just a straight drop into the darkness below begging visitors to come inside. The interior of one of the more popular concrete pillars has been charmingly dubbed Hitler’s closet. It diverges into two paths with a window ledge leaning to an outside arch, some 40 feet up, and an old wooden door leading to an even higher viaduct that overlooks the river.
Over the years graffiti has taken over much of the space on the walls leaving little room for any new artwork. Lines from the Jabberwock and Dante’s Inferno are scribbled on the walls along with “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” There is an illustration of a Cheshire cat along with other fantasy creatures. This relic is not only interesting for its historical significance but what it has become in contemporary times.
Mount Moriah Cemetery
In Southwest Philadelphia lies the abandoned Mount Moriah Cemetery. The cemetery is slowly being reclaimed by the surrounding forest and makes for an unusual sight. Opened in1855, Mount Moriah Cemetery used to have an ornate Romanesque grand entrance and gothic mausoleums that would have rivaled the great cemeteries of Greenwood in Brooklyn or the famous Pere LaChaise in Paris.
The cemetery expanded to include 400 acres of land and it was the largest burial site in Pennsylvania. One unusual fact about the cemetery is that no one owns it. The last governing member of Mount Moriah passed away and at that time the cemetery was already in a state of abandonment and neglect. Today the cemetery sits largely forgotten to the outside world. The grand entrance lies in ruins and monuments and headstones have fallen over. The Mausoleums that hold some of the Victorian era’s wealthiest members of society now resemble a gothic fairy tale.
A local non-profit, Friends of Mount Moriah, has devoted their time to clearing out weeds and creating pathways through the overgrown cemetery but with so much land needing to be tended to and without funding the task they are up against is much like Sisyphus’s punishment.
Kinzua Bridge State Park
The Kinzua Bridge State Park is home to the Kinzua Viaduct and located in McKean County, Pennsylvania. This viaduct was once the longest and the tallest railroad structure coming in at 2,053 feet long and 301 feet high. It was partially destroyed by a tornado in 2003.
Since that time the structure has been reinvented as a pedestrian walkway and visitors can now stroll 600 feet on the remaining support towers and peer out onto the Kinzua Gorge. There is even a partial glass platform at the end of the walkway for the more adventurous.
The Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitor Center offers self-guided exhibits and information about the surrounding area. There are many areas available for picnicking and additional hiking trails to explore. You could even go fishing for trout in the Kinzua Creek.
The park is open every day from sunrise to sunset and while it may be a little tame compared to most urbex sites it is still a great site to see if you happen to be passing through. It’s also a great place to view fall foliage, which peaks during the first two weeks in October. While this isn’t a typical “bando” in terms of abandoned places in Pennsylvania, it still remains a super interesting abandoned location well worth a visit.
Cameras, headlamps, respirators and more. Urban exploration can be very gear-heavy, especially when exploring abandoned places in Pennsylvania. When this is the case, it’s important to have a good-quality backpack.
We recommend both the Osprey Packs Daylite for sling backpacks when exploring abandoned places in Pennsylvania, or the Mardingtop Tactical Backpack for a standard two-strap backpack. Alternatively, check out our comprehensive guide for far more options, tips, and tricks.
The Bunkers of Alvira
In 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, America began ramping up production of war materials, at all costs. In 1942 the federal government seized the small village of Alvira, Pennsylvania, and kicked out the population. They razed almost every building to the ground and built the Susquehanna Ordnance Depot.
One of the most interesting features of the depot was the 149 concrete “igloo-style” bunkers that were used to store explosives. Soon afterward the government realized that the need for explosives had been overestimated and the depots sat idle through the last years of WWII.
The ownership of the land has broken up over the years and eventually, the bunkers were returned to the State of Pennsylvania and designated as gameland. You can drive into the game land and see the concrete bunkers today. Many of the bunkers are hidden by overgrown brush and are almost completely covered during the winter months. The majority of the bunkers have been welded shut and a handful of them have been vandalized.
If you are interested there are also a few remnants of the town of Alvira on the property but these take a bit more patience to find. With a bit of exploring you can find the stone foundations of some of the larger buildings that were torn down. Be careful when you visit the property because the game lands are used for hunting. Rangers patrol the grounds and anyone caught breaking into the bunkers will be cited.
Wehrum Coal Mining Ghost Town
Last on our list of must-see abandoned places in Pennsylvania is the Ghost town trail. Walk in the woods and you’ll find old streets and fragments of buildings buried and hidden among the trees. These ruins are all that remains of the city of Wehrum.
Founded in 1901 Wehrum was a coal mining company town. This bustling little hub had 250 houses, a hotel, bank, jail, post office, and several churches in its prime. The men who lived in this town worked in the coal mines scrapping out coal to be shipped to New York and throughout Pennsylvania. Coal mining was dangerous work and multiple tragedies happened in this little town.
After a number of incidents involving deadly explosions, the mines were sold to the Bethlehem Mines Corporation in 1922 and seven years later production was halted. The houses were vacated and eventually stripped for raw materials while other buildings were torn down completely and sold off for scrap. Only a few ruins remain scattered along the forest.
If you take a walk through the woods you’ll come across the cemetery of the Orthodox Church. The graves have been trampled and are covered in brush but you can still see the names of those who once lived in the town. If you walk even deeper into the woods you will find surviving bits of the Wehrum Dam.
Keep in mind these ruins can be difficult to spot and are spread out over a vast area of land. Be prepared for a hike and bring bug and tick repellent to visit this must-see option on our list of abandoned places in Pennsylvania.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Pennsylvania
Those who are into urban exploration in the Pennsylvania state area, and wanting to explore abandoned places in Pennsylvania, should get comfortable with Pennsylvania trespassing laws. Luckily, in the state of Pennsylvania, the laws are easy to understand and are pretty cut and dry.
For these cases, you should familiarize yourself with x. For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places in Pennsylvania, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.
That wraps up our list of the 10 best abandoned places in Pennsylvania. There are so many great sites left to see in the Keystone State that tell us much about its past and the role it played in the coal and steel industries. Remember to use caution and ask permission before going onto private property. Always bring a friend along and don’t vandalize the site so other people can enjoy it too.
Do you have a favorite abandoned palace in Pennsylvania that didn’t make our list? Leave us a comment below and tell us about your favorite abandoned places in Pennsylvania. We’re always looking for new places to explore. Happy exploring!