Penn’s Cave Tours Review: What To Know Before You Go

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Nestled in the scenic heart of Central Pennsylvania in Centre Hall, Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park is a hidden natural wonder that offers different experiences for both nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers young and old. Taking one of Penn’s Cave tours is a must if you’re visiting near State College or other parts of central PA.

We’ve been able to tour Penn’s Cave on our many visits to State College. We always try to visit somewhere new or do something different on our weekends in central PA.

Penn’s Cave was the perfect place to explore on a dreary, rainy, chilly fall day. Climbing up Mount Nittany, exploring Black Moshannon State Park, and hiking Bald Eagle State Park weren’t the best options in wet weather.

This hidden gem is home to a remarkable limestone cave system, explored on boat tours, that make it an excellent year-round destination. It’s America’s only all-water cavern, where a boat tour is the only way through.

Let’s dive into the options available for touring this fascinating Centre County attraction.

Penn’s Cave Tours: What Are Your Options?

One of the standout features of Penn’s Cave is the opportunity to explore the caverns by boat. Yes, you read that right!

A boat tour will take you through the intricate passageways and chambers of the cave, showcasing the play of light and shadow on the rock formations. While the cave itself is naturally beautiful, some artificial additions have been made to enhance the experience and provide a touch of wonder.

The only way to get to explore Penn’s Cave is on one of their boat tours. This is much different than other caves in Pennsylvania and across the country, like Mammoth Caves or Carlsbad.

In addition to the Penn’s Cave boat tours, there is also a wildlife park above ground, where you can observe the animals while riding in a safari-type bus. 

Both of these experiences at Penn’s Cave must be done on a tour.

Begin at the Visitor Center

Your Penn’s Cave journey starts at the visitor center, where you’ll find all the information you’ll need throughout your visit.

Here, you can purchase tickets for both the cave boat tours and the wildlife tours, if you didn’t secure them online ahead of time.

Benches sit on the right of a paved pathway. White fence lines the path on the left. The path leads to the Penns Cave Visitors Center, where Penn's Cave Tours begin.
The visitors center is where you’ll begin your tour. A rainy fall day was perfect for our visit.

Even if you purchased your tour tickets online ahead of time, you’ll want to stop and check in at the visitor center.

There is also a fairly large gift shop, a maze, and a gemstone mining experience available to purchase as an add-on if you need to fill some time before or in between tours.

Penn’s Cave Tours by Boat: What to Expect

After securing your tickets at the visitor center, and as your tour time approaches, you’ll head down a paved path toward the cave entrance. Fair warning, the path is a little steep in spots.

A paved path leads through a green forested area towards a rocky cave opening.
A walk down this paved path leads to the cave entrance.

Once you reach the cave entrance, you will have to descend a set of steep concrete steps to board the boats. There is a railing, but the steps are the only way down. You won’t find an elevator here.

Concrete stairs with a metal railing lead to the boarding area for Penn's Cave tours.

On the boat, you’ll find wooden bench-style seating. There aren’t any reserved seats, and there isn’t a bad view. Take a seat and enjoy the ride.

Red wooden boats take you on a tour through Penn's Cave.
3 boats are ready to take you on a tour of Penn’s Cave.

Penn’s Cave tours on the boats typically take about 45-50 minutes. As you float through the underground cave, your tour guide will point out interesting spots and tell stories along the way. 

Don’t worry! There are plenty of surprises that we won’t reveal. You’ll just have to take the tour for yourself.

You will, however, travel the entire length of the cave. This isn’t a tour where you’ll just get a glimpse into the opening

No matter what the temperature is outside, you’ll want to make sure that you have a jacket or a sweatshirt with you. The temperatures in the cave stay around the low 50s year-round.

You'll take a break from the cave to float on the waterway on the other side.
You’ll take a break from the cave exploration to float on the water outside the other cave entrance.

Penn’s Cave Wildlife Park Tours

For those interested in terrestrial wonders, the wildlife park tour is an excellent complement to your cave adventure.

Here, you’ll find a diverse collection of North American animals in a natural habitat.

The tour allows you to observe bison, elk, deer, wolves, bobcats, and more in a setting that feels like a slice of the wild, right in Central Pennsylvania.

This tour is perfect for those who want to enjoy a relaxing safari-style bus ride to see the wildlife.

Rock formations inside Penn’s Cave

Tips for Visiting Penn’s Cave & Wildlife Park

To make the most of your visit to Penn’s Cave, consider these tips:

  1. Reserve Tickets in Advance: Given the popularity of Penn’s Cave, it’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance, especially during peak seasons.
  2. Wear Comfortable Clothing: Dress in layers, as the cave temperature remains cool throughout the year.
  3. Arrive Early: Plan to arrive early to beat the crowds and have plenty of time to explore both the cave and the wildlife park. For an even better experience, book your tours ahead of time.
  4. Have your Camera Ready: Don’t forget your camera! The beauty you’ll get to see in the cave and the wildlife park is a photographer’s dream. There are light features throughout the cave, but still be prepared to shoot in low-light conditions.
A woman holds her smartphone camera ready as she approaches the entrance to Penn's Cave

How Big is Penn’s Cave?

The tour through Penn’s Cave is a whopping 1,300 feet long!

Its vast chambers and intricate passageways are sure to leave you in awe as you explore this remarkable natural wonder.

Be sure to take note whenever your tour guide points out interesting formations in the rocks. Much like looking for shapes in the clouds, you never know what kinds of shapes you’ll see!

Is Penn’s Cave Cold?

Yes, relatively speaking.

Penn’s Cave maintains a constant temperature of around 52°F (11°C) throughout the year, making it a comfortable experience, no matter the weather outside.

While you’ll want to bring a jacket with you even in the heat of summer, it’s a great way to get out of the house even in the rain or snow.

When is the Best Time to Visit Penn’s Cave?

Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park are open year-round, which means there’s no bad time to visit. Whether you prefer the lush greenery of spring, the vibrant colors of fall, or even a winter wonderland, Penn’s Cave is ready to enchant you in any season.

Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park is a fun destination in Centre Hall to get out and explore underground in a water-filled cavern. Most cave tours that we’ve done have all been walking tours, so floating through in a boat was quite unique.

If you’re on a visit to State College, this is a must-visit hidden gem nearby.

The boat tour through the limestone caverns, the wildlife park featuring several North American animals, and the constant cave temperature create a pleasant experience that’s perfect any time of the year.