Exploring an Abandoned POW Camp in Cumberland County

Ruins of the secret German POW camp in Cumberland County Pennsylvania.

Did you know that during World War Two, German and Japanese prisoners of war were housed and interrogated at a secret POW camp in what is now the Michaux State Forest in Cumberland County?!

Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp historical marker in Cumberland County.
Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp historical marker in Cumberland County.

The Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp, as it was known at the time, was classified as “secret” and no civilians worked there or were allowed to have knowledge of the camp.

A painting of the Camp Michaux POW interrogation camp created by one of the German prisoners.
A painting of the Pine Grove Furnace POW interrogation camp created by one of the German prisoners housed there.

The purpose of the Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp was to interrogate German prisoners (and later Japanese prisoners as well) to glean strategic intelligence to further the American war effort in Europe and the Pacific.

History of the activities at what is now known as Camp Michaux in Cumberland County.
History of the activities at what is now known as Camp Michaux in Cumberland County.

Before the war, the area was used for farming and then a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp.

History of the Bunker Hill Farm near what would become the secret POW interrogation camp in Cumberland County during World War Two.
History of the Bunker Hill Farm near what would become the secret POW interrogation camp in Cumberland County during World War Two.

After the war, the area was used as a church camp (Camp Michaux), until 1972.

A history of Camp Michaux from the late 1700s to the present time.
A history of Camp Michaux from the late 1700s to the present time.

Today, it is a jumble of abandoned ruins from all of these different time periods, just waiting to be explored!

Civilian Conservation Corps star inside what became the secret POW camp in Cumberland County during World War Two.
Civilian Conservation Corps star inside what became the secret POW camp in Cumberland County during World War Two.

How to Find the Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp in Cumberland County

The ruins of the Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp are located a mile north of present-day Route 233, approximately 2 miles northwest of Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

How to find the Camp Michaux POW Camp in Cumberland County Pennsylvania
A map to the ruins of abandoned Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp in Cumberland County.

If navigating by GPS, use coordinates 40.03717, -77.33851 to guide you to the gravel parking area at the intersection of Michaux Road and Bunker Hill Road.

The Camp Michaux parking lot along Bunker Hill Road in Cumberland County.
The Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp parking lot along Bunker Hill Road in Cumberland County.

Exploring the Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp Ruins

As mentioned previously, this area has been used during multiple eras for multiple purposes, so knowing what you’re looking at can be confusing.

Remnants of a foundation at the secret WW2 prisoner of war camp in the Michaux State Forest.
Remnants of a foundation at the abandoned WW2 prisoner of war camp in the Michaux State Forest.

Fortunately, the Cumberland County Historical Society has created a self-guided walking tour and accompanying map which you can pick up at the parking area.

Walking tour maps next to the Camp Michaux parking lot on Bunker Hill Road in Cumberland County
Walking tour maps next to the Camp Michaux parking lot on Bunker Hill Road in Cumberland County.

The map corresponds to numbered posts located near ruins around the former camp, allowing you to identify what you are looking at.

Marker along the Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp walking tour in Cumberland County Pennsylvania.
Marker along the Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp walking tour in Cumberland County.

There are ruins on both the east and west sides of Michaux Road, so there is really no right or wrong way to explore the site.

Entrance to the secret POW interrogation camp in the Michaux State Forest.
Entrance to the secret POW interrogation camp in the Michaux State Forest.

To me personally, the west side of the former POW camp was more interesting, and had an almost tropical jungle feel to it as I walked the trails on a steamy August morning.

Ruins of the secret POW interrogation camp in the MIchaux State Forest.
Ruins of the abandoned POW interrogation camp in the MIchaux State Forest.

There are ruins both above AND below ground.

Ruins of Camp Michaux in Cumberland County Pennsylvania.
Ruins of Camp Michaux in Cumberland County.

As you’ll learn from the map, some of the ruins predate the POW camp, while others were built during the church camp era.

Underground ruins at the abandoned POW camp in the Michaux State Forest.
Underground ruins at the abandoned POW camp in the Michaux State Forest.

This CCC camp fountain is one of the best preserved ruins at the former Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp.

Site of the POW camp flagpole in the Michaux State Forest.
Site of the CCC camp fountain in the Michaux State Forest.

The remnants of a reservoir are also remarkably intact.

Ruins of the reservoir at he abandoned POW camp in the Michaux State Forest.
Ruins of the reservoir at the abandoned POW camp in the Michaux State Forest.

In one of the swampier parts of the former Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp, a boardwalk aids your hiking efforts.

Boardwalk through part of the abandoned POW camp in the Michaux State Forest.
Boardwalk through part of the abandoned POW camp in the Michaux State Forest.

A recently fallen tree reveals ruins that appear to have been covered up for decades.

Recently uncovered ruins at Camp Michaux in Cumberland County Pennsylvania.
Recently uncovered ruins at Camp Michaux in Cumberland County.

On the east side of Michaux Road, the ruins of the Bunker Hill stone barn can still be seen, some of the oldest ruins at Camp Michaux.

Ruins of the Bunker Hill Farm in the Michaux State Forest.
Ruins of the Bunker Hill Farm in the Michaux State Forest.

Today, the ruins of the former Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp are literally being reabsorbed by the Earth.

Ruins of Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp in Cumberland County Pennsylvania.
Ruins of the Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp in Cumberland County.

My advice is to go explore this formerly secret POW camp in Cumberland County before the story and the site itself are erased by the sands of time!

Remnants of the Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp in the MIchaux State Forest.
Remnants of the former Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp in the Michaux State Forest.

The abandoned Sideling Hill POW Camp in Fulton County was used to house German prisoners of war after the Nazis surrendered in May, 1945.

Inside the General's quarters at the abandoned Sideling Hill POW Camp.
Inside the General’s quarters at the abandoned Sideling Hill POW Camp.

Like the Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp, the Sideling Hill POW Camp started out as a CCC camp in the 1930s.

The former officers quarters at the abandoned Sideling Hill POW Camp in Fulton County, PA.
The former officers quarters at the abandoned Sideling Hill POW Camp in Fulton County, PA.

The abandoned Alvira bunkers are remnants of the American WWII war effort, as well as reminders of what lengths the federal government will go to to seize private property for “the greater good”.

Inside one of the abandoned Alvira bunkers.
Remnants of the Alvira bunkers in Union Conty.

Today, 149 dome-shaped concrete bunkers that once housed explosives for the US military are gradually being reclaimed by nature on State Game Lands 252 in Union County.

Doorway to Alvira bunker number 2.
Doorway to Alvira bunker number 2 in Union County.

The abandoned nuclear jet engine testing bunkers in the Quehanna Wild Area are a fascinating Cold War-era remnant of Pennsylvania history, now slowly being reabsorbed by the surrounding forest of Cameron County.

Abandoned nuclear jet engine testing bunker entrance.
One of the abandoned nuclear jet engine testing bunkers in the Quehanna Wild Area.

The goal at this secretive base was to develop nuclear-powered jet engines for the United States Air Force, so that fighter planes and bombers could stay airborne indefinitely, without refueling.

Observation windows in the nuclear jet engine testing bunkers.
Observation windows in the nuclear jet engine testing bunkers in Cameron County.

Today, as with the former Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp, the Quehanna nuclear jet engine testing bunkers are slowly being swallowed up by the Earth.

Trees growing up around one of the abandoned nuclear jet engine testing bunkers in the Quehanna Wild Area.
Trees growing up around one of the abandoned nuclear jet engine testing bunkers in the Quehanna Wild Area.

If all things old and abandoned fascinate you, then you’ll want to check out my road trip to the best abandoned places in PA!

a road map to 9 of the best abandoned places in Pennsylvania.

This roadtrip highlights some of the best abandoned places in PA that are LEGAL TO VISIT, including the Abandoned PA Turnpike, Concrete City, and the abandoned Cresson State Prison.

Razorwire and Tudor-style architecture at the former Cresson STate Prison in Cambria County.
Razorwire and Tudor-style architecture at the former Cresson State Prison in Cambria County.

Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium just may be the best elephant-themed roadside attraction in Pennsylvania!

An elephant-themed water garden in front of Mister Ed's Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium.
Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium along Route 30 near Gettysburg.

Located just outside of Gettysburg, Mister Ed’s features a dizzying array of elephant figurines, circus souvenirs, toys, statues, gardens, and artwork as well as over a thousand kinds of candy!

Elephants and candy everywhere you look at MIster Ed's Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium.
Elephants and candy everywhere you look at MIster Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium.

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Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this great and informative article . One of the best ive read . Hope I can get to visit such interesting sights . Though 85 , I’m still learning , lol !!

    • It would be very challenging to explore these ruins with the use of a walker, as the dirt trails are narrow and uneven. A few of the ruins are right next to the parking are, but the ones deeper in the woods would be tough, I would think.

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