Pennsylvania is more well-known for housing Hershey Park, the Liberty Bell, Dutch Wonderland and shoofly pie, but this state is also home to some unusual, yet phenomenal locations. Following are five mysterious, lesser-known locations to go in Pennsylvania to avoid following the tourist norm.
1. Centralia’s Graffiti Highway
Located in Pennsylvania, Centralia was home to over 2,700 residents as of 1890. The town had been a prime location for mining since the 1850s, but in 1962, Centralia’s coal mines were set aflame by an untraceable source. Some trace the fire back to the same year the city burned the local garbage dump, which was located in an abandoned mining pit, to attempt to clean up their landfill.
The fire continues to burn, making it the United States’ worst and most destructive coal seam fire. All of Centralia’s buildings have since been condemned due to a rise in health and safety issues, but it remains a landmark notorious for drawing in crowds of artists and amateur spray painters.
The eerie town is all but deserted apart from seven brave locals and many tourists wanting to leave their mark on the graffiti highway. The hidden stretch of highway has been transformed into a lively, yet creepy, hotspot for art, vandalism and dirt bike and four-wheeler racing. The cracked, worn pavement is littered with graffiti that leaks onto the surrounding trees, rocks and storm drains. Locals disclose that smoke still rises from the cracks in the highway when it’s cold.
An Extra Fact: Photos from Centralia, Pennsylvania might appear familiar if you’ve ever seen the 2016 horror film “Silent Hill.” Centralia was used as inspiration for the movie’s setting and design.
2. The Emerald Path
The Paved Path, called the “Emerald Path” by locals, is a magical-looking, mossy trail (if you go at the right time) located in Cook Forest State Park in Cooksburg, Pennsylvania. The mystical quarter-mile trail appears after heavy rainfall, highlighting the trail in bright, earthy green against the forest’s browner hues. During heavy rainfall, moss grows to cover the flat, paved path, which gives the trail an otherworldly feel as if it were pulled straight from a fantasy novel.
Jim Cheney, Pennsylvania travel blogger, said in his blog, Uncovering PA, “This [moss] gives the trail a mystical feel that’s hard to completely describe but is amazing to see in person.” The looping trail is surrounded by larger, old trees that are spotted with fungi and moss. Along the trail are worn wooden benches that add to the fairytale feel. Though the trail was paved in the 1970s, the trail and benches look as if they’ve been reclaimed by nature’s elements.
An Extra Fact: The Emerald Path, unlike some trails, is completely handicap-accessible with a completely flat, even surface. Anyone can enter the mossy trail, and it forms a loop for easy in-and-out access.
3. Ringing Rocks Park
In 2016, Spartan Records released a YouTube video of a Philadelphia-based instrumental rock band, Square Peg Round Hole, striking boulders with hammers at Ringing Rocks Park. The percussionist band, consisting of Evan Chapman, Sean M. Gill and Carlos Pacheco-Perez, upon hitting the boulders with hammers, were able to create a reverberant sound, almost as if hitting a metal pipe. This ringing bell sound is what gave this park its name and notoriety.
Located in Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania, Ringing Rocks Park is a seven-acre, 10-foot-deep boulder field filled with metallic sounding rocks that ring when struck. In 1965, a group of scientists began splitting and breaking rocks open, but they were unable to detect the exact way in which the rocks were able to ring. When rocks are taken from the field, they are said to lose their sound.
Though only about one-third of the rocks ring, Ringing Rocks Park has become a go-to destination for families searching for a fun location for their kids, bands looking for new, distinct sonorous sounds and others simply seeking out these musical boulders.
An Extra Fact: J.J. Ott gave a concert for the Buckwampum Historical Society using the boulders in 1890. This event is referred to by many as the first “rock” concert (but it’s just a pun).
4. Devil’s Den
Devil’s Den played a major role in the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The second day of the three-day battle — just by itself — goes down as the “10th bloodiest battle of the Civil War,” while the geological advantage provided by Devil’s Den’s rocks and boulders gave troops safe cover from gun fire.
Devil’s Den, a formation of boulders, was formed around 180 million years ago by the intrusion of subvolcanic rock into the Gettysburg Plain during the Triassic Period. The name itself dates back to the mid-19th century after reports emerged of a snake of up to 15 feet seen within the boulders’ crevices. The snake was named “The Devil,” thus its habitat was named “Devil’s Den.”
These rocks are now climbing and paranormal touring attractions for visitors scoping out the Gettysburg battlefield. Over time, the diabase boulders have worn and weathered due to thousands of people making the trek to jump rocks and peer over the ledges of this once grim location.
An Extra Fact: Rumors say many people have had paranormal experiences around this area of the Gettysburg battlefield. Individuals have identified the smell of cherry pipe tobacco, a type of tobacco smoked by Civil War soldiers, around Devil’s Den.
5. The Seven Gates of Hell
According to legends, The Seven Gates of Hell, which are deemed portals to the underworld, are located in York County, Pennsylvania. There are two popular versions of this myth; the first involves a burned down mental asylum and the other an “eccentric” local doctor.
The first story says that the gates were intended to prevent mental asylum patients and dangerous inmates from leaving the area after a massive fire gave them an opportunity to escape. But, there was no asylum located in this area. The second story says a local doctor put up a large gate at the entrance of his property to keep out trespassers, which led many to believe there was a series of seven gates.
According to folklore, the first gate can be seen by daylight, but the other six can only be seen at night. Legend also says if someone passes through all seven gates in the right order, they will go straight to hell. Many trespassers have been prosecuted, but that doesn’t stop a few hardcore thrill seekers.
An Extra Fact: Rumors say those who passed the fifth gate either never returned or made it past the gate itself.
6. Kinzua Sky Walk
The Kinzua Bridge, or Kinzua Viaduct, was built out of half a million pounds of wrought iron in 1882, but while the bridge was being restored in 2003, a tornado caused a majority of the bridge to collapse. During its first construction, the Kinzua Viaduct stood as the highest and longest viaduct in the world. The bridge was reinvented as a pedestrian walkway in 2011, allowing people to stroll 600 feet out on what remains of the bridge.
Now known as the “Kinzua Sky Walk,” the bridge features a partial glass-bottomed observation area at the end of the walk for viewers to peer down and admire the original viaduct structure. Visitors can now “walk the tracks across the sky” on a pier-like structure that overlooks the Kinzua Gorge.
An Extra Fact: The Kinzua Bridge was once billed as the eighth wonder of the world and was built by the man who would also help the Wright Brothers fly, Octave Chanute.