Exploring Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park in Centre County

Exploring Penn's Cave Pennsylvania's only all-water cavern.

Penn’s Cave in Centre County offers the only cavern tour in the United States that is conducted completely by boat!

Getting ready to board one of the tour boats at Penn's Cave.
Getting ready to board one of the tour boats.

Discovered centuries ago by Native Americans, Penn’s Cave first opened to the public as a “show cave” in 1885.

Colored lights are part of the "show cave" heritage of Penn's Cave.
Colored lights are part of the “show cave” heritage.

In addition to the cavern tour, Penn’s Cave offers a wildlife tour that visits various large animal enclosures on their 1,600 acre property and working farm.

Doe and fawn whitetail deer on the wildlife tour at Penn's Cave.
Doe and fawn whitetail deer om the wildlife tour.

So follow along as I give you all the details about the best things to see and do at Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park in Centre County!

Exiting the back of Penn's Cave.
The “back door” to Penn’s Cave.

Touring Penn’s Cave by Boat

If you’ve spent even a single day driving the back roads of central PA, you’ve no doubt seen one of the countless Penn’s Cave billboards promoting it as “The Water Cavern” and encouraging you to “See It By Boat”.

Penn's Cave is the only cave in Pennsylvania that is toured entirely by boat.
Penn’s Cave is the only cave in Pennsylvania that is toured entirely by boat.

And indeed, the fact that “a river runs through it” is what sets Penn’s Cave apart from any other show cave in Pennsylvania.

A tour boat making its way through Penn's Cave.
A tour boat making its way through the cave.

Tours of the cave are conducted using flat-bottom boats, with a tour guide sitting at the front and using a spotlight to point out various features and formations of Penn’s Cave as your tour progresses through the cavern.

Some of the flat-bottom boats used to give tours of Penn's Cave.
Some of the flat-bottom boats used to give tours.

In true “show cave” fashion, colored lights are used to highlight and enhance various stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone features you encounter along the way.

Stalactites and stalagmites inside Penn's Cave.
Stalactites and stalagmites.

Near the midpoint of the tour, you’ll exit the back of Penn’s Cave onto man-made Lake Nitanee.

Cruising across Lake Nitanee is part of the boat tour of Penn's Cave.
Cruising across Lake Nitanee is part of the boat tour of the cave.

Lake Nitanee is named in honor of the legendary Native American maiden Nita-nee, whom you can read all about on a display near the Penn’s Cave entrance.

The legend of Penn's Cave, displayed near the cave entrance.
The legend of Penn’s Cave, displayed near the cave entrance.

The tour turns around on Lake Nitanee and reenters Penn’s Cave, backtracking towards the entrance where the tour started.

Entering Penn's Cave through the back entrance on Lake Nitanee.
Entering the cave through the back entrance on Lake Nitanee.

Along the way the guides points out more of the beautiful cave formations, which have formed over the course of many MILLIONS of years.

Stalactites inside Penn's Cave near Centre Hall, Pennsylvania.
Stalactites inside the cave.

The tour takes approximately 50 minutes, the ride is very smooth, and the whole experience is just fantastic!

Penn's Cave is Pennsylvania's only all-water cavern tour.
Penn’s Cave is Pennsylvania’s only all-water cavern tour.

Taking the Wildlife Park Tour

The Wildlife Park Tour at Penn’s Cave departs from the Visitor’s Center, and the entire tour lasts approximately 90 minutes.

The wildlife tour departs from the Penn's Cave Visitor's Center.
The wildlife tour departs from the visitor’s center.

Tours are given on modified school busses, with the windows removed to allow easier viewing of the animals.

One of the tour busses used to conduct he wildlife tours at Penn's Cave.
One of the tour busses used to conduct he wildlife tours.

Your tour guide/driver will transport you from enclosure to enclosure, scattered around this sprawling 1,600 acre farm and forest.

Penn's Cave Farms as seen on the farm-nature wildlife tour at Penn's Cave.
Penn’s Cave Farms as seen on the farm-nature wildlife tour.

All of the enclosures are fenced in, but MUCH larger than you would see at a typical zoo.

Bison on the wildlife tour at Penn's Cave.
Bison on the wildlife tour.

So while that’s great for the animals, it does mean that sometimes the animals can be difficult to see, especially mid-afternoon when many of them tend to nap in secluded parts of their enclosures.

Grey fox on the wildlife tour at Penn's Cave.
Grey fox on the wildlife tour.

The guide will do their best to coax the animals (using treats) out so that you can view them, as was the case on my most recent visit when the wolves were initially all bedded down, out of sight.

Wolf on the wildlife tour at Penn's Cave.
Wolf on the wildlife tour.

Using treats and calling them by name, our guide got the wolf pack to come close to the fence so that we could get a great view of them.

Wolf pack on the wildlife tour at Penn's Cave.
Wolf pack on the wildlife tour.

The Bighorn Sheep also seemed very receptive to bribery via treats.

Bighorn sheep on the wildlife tour at Penn's Cave.
Bighorn sheep.

Whereas the bobcat, much like my own cat, was operating on his own timetable.

Bobcat on the wildlife tour at Penn's Cave.
Bobcat napping.

The tour eventually returns you to the Visitor’s Center, passing the historic Penn’s Cave House, formerly a 30-room hotel, built in 1885.

Front of the former Penn's Cave Hotel in Centre County Pennsylvania.
Front of the former hotel.

In 1976, both Penn’s Cave and the Penn’s Cave House were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

History of the Penn's Cave Hotel near Centre Hall Pennsylvania.
History of the hotel.

The Visitor’s Center at Penn’s Cave

The Visitor’s Center is where all tours starts from.

The Visitor's Center at Penn's Cave in Centre County, Pennsylvania.
The Visitor’s Center.

Naturally there is a well-stocked gift shop, with just about everything imaginable emblazoned with the Penn’s Cave logo on it.

Penn's Cave t-shirts in the gift shop.
The gift shop.

The Cave Café offers an array of foods, including bison burgers, where hopefully your kids don’t put 2 and 2 together after taking the wildlife tour!

The Cave Cafe inside the Penn's Cave Visitor Center in Centre Hall Pennsylvania.
The Cave Café inside the Visitor’s Center.

No trip to a show cave would be complete without gem-mining, and as we have done at countless caves across the United States, my daughter and I helped further stimulate the local economy.

Panning for gemstones at Penn's Cave in Centre County.
Panning for gemstones.

You’ll also find Prospector Pete’s Miners Maze behind the Visitor’s Center, if mazes are your thing.

Prospector Pete's Miners Maze at Penn's Cave.
Prospector Pete’s Miners Maze.

This 4800 square foot labyrinth features plenty of twists and turns, an observation tower, and four checkpoint stations.

The Miner's Maze behind the Penn's Cave Visitor Center.
The Miners Maze as viewed from the observation tower.

Penn’s Cave Hours and Directions

Penns Cave is located at 222 Penn’s Cave Road, Centre Hall, PA 16828.

Entrance to Penn's Cave and Wildlife Park along Route 192.
Entrance along Route 192.

Or if you’ve never heard of Centre Hall, 18 miles east of State College and Penn State University.

Directions to Penn's Cave in Centre County Pennsylvania, near Centre Hall.
Map to the cave, just off Route 192 east of Centre Hall.

Penn’s Cave is open daily from March 1 – November 30, and open on weekends in December and February (closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day & January).

One of the countless Penn's Cave billboards in central Pennsylvania.
One of the countless Penn’s Cave billboards in central Pennsylvania.

For the most current hours, prices, and any closures or restrictions, please check the Penn’s Cave OFFICIAL WEBSITE BEFORE visiting!

Penn's Cave is open daily from March 1 - November 30.
Tours are offered daily from March 1 – November 30.

Woodward Cave in Centre County contains 5 large rooms, hundreds of yards of tunnels and passageways, and the largest stalagmite in Pennsylvania!

Exploring Woodward Cave in Centre County PA
Woodward Cave is home to the largest stalagmite in Pennsylvania.

Lincoln Caverns gives visitors the opportunity to explore an incredibly beautiful world far below the surface of neighboring Huntingdon County!

Exploring Lincoln Caverns and Whisper Rocks cavern in Huntingdon County Pennsylvania.
Lincoln Caverns in Huntingdon County.

Coral Caverns in Bedford County is home to a 420-million year old fossilized coral reef!

Exploring Coral Caverns in Bedford County Pennsylvania.
Coral Caverns in Bedford County.

Laurel Caverns is billed as “Pennsylvania’s Largest Cave”, and is a great way to spend an hour or two BENEATH the Laurel Highlands!

The overhead Grand Canyon of Laurel Caverns.
Laurel Caverns in Fayette County.

Tytoona Cave in Blair County  is owned by the National Speleological Society, and is maintained as a “natural cave”.

Exploring Tytoona Cave in Blair County Pennsylvania.
Tytoona Cave in Blair County.

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Rusty Glessner is a professional photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.